Stage of Dreams: Kevin Costner & Modern West
By Stratton Lawrence | Thursday, March 29, 2012
If you go
What: Kevin Costner & Modern West
When: Sunday; doors open at 8 p.m.
Where: Music Farm, 32 Ann St.
Price: $30 in advance, $35 the day of the show
For more info: www.musicfarm.com or 577-6989
Back in 1992, it was “The Bodyguard” that catapulted Whitney Houston onto the silver screen, establishing the late singer as one of the most successful stars in history to balance music and acting careers.
Actors crossing the line to music are rarely met with such success. From Eddie Murphy’s oft-chided “Party All the Time” to Jeff Bridges’ debut last year, these efforts reach the public eye but rarely earn a lasting spot in their ears.
Houston’s “Bodyguard” co-star, Kevin Costner, is no exception.
For nearly five years, he’s focused much of his energy on his band, Kevin Costner & Modern West, beginning with the release of their 2008 debut, “Untold Truths.”
Amid the media buzz over that album four years ago, Costner happened to be in the Lowcountry filming the horror film “The New Daughter.” To unwind, he booked a gig at the Music Farm (at which, incidentally, current “American Idol” finalist Elise Testone opened for him).
“The biggest majority are there out of curiosity,” Costner admits about his crowds in an interview with Country Music Television last month.
Upon taking the stage, the bandleader typically thanks the audience “for going to the movies all these years,” adding that many of his original songs were written on the sets of films they may know and love.
With a number of new projects, Costner is hoping to turn that initial curiosity into repeat fans.
After “Untold Truths” failed to generate any hit songs, the band released 2010’s “Turn It On” and last year’s “From Where I Stand” solely in Europe, where they’ve consistently sold out major theaters to widely appreciative audiences.
Embarking on a 16-show national tour this spring, Charleston being the third stop, they aim to build that kind of backing on their home turf.
The shows come just before the release of a new History Channel miniseries “Hatfields & McCoys,” starring Costner and featuring music produced by Modern West.
The band also is finishing a concept record (for U.S. release) called “Famous for Killing Each Other” that’s based on the late-19th century era of the famous family feud.
Costner takes the same mellow, matter-of-fact approach to describing his music that he conveys in many of his film roles.
“I knew it was average, but I was happy,” he tells CMT of his first practice with the new band in 2007. “I felt really good about my life.”
Modern West formed when Costner reunited with old jamming buddy John Coinman, who had a recording contract in Europe and his own band. The players jumped at the offer to back a major movie star on his original country/rock tunes.
A sextet, the group filters through a trio of guest violinists on their tours, displaying a clear focus on song structure and multi-harmonies (Costner’s no Whitney Houston in the singing department, so the help is more than warranted).
All in all, the solid chops of the group and passable songwriting shake off the novelty act feel of going to “the Kevin Costner show.”
“Music was my first love,” expresses the actor, justifying the emphasis he’s placed on its pursuit in recent years.
That may be true, but it’s unlikely any of us would know his name if he’d pursued singing and playing guitar over donning his ball cap as a washed-up minor leaguer in “Bull Durham” or chasing the ghost of Shoeless Joe Jackson in “Field of Dreams.”
Still, thanks to those decisions a quarter-century ago, he’s got the modern luxury of knowing that if he plays it, people will come.