January 24, 2013
Atlanta, GA USA
Review by Meg Kirsic
Photos by Chris Eason
After 28 years of hearing my father praise Canadian singer Gino Vannelli as one of the greatest musicians of all time, I was starting to think this man was a myth. Sure I'd heard his music, I'd stared at his hair in pictures, and I'd grown up hearing stories about the soulful singer. His absence from the American music scene had me somewhat doubting his existence. When word got out he would be performing a show at the Variety Playhouse in Atlanta, I almost fell over reading the announcement. I promptly bought a ticket to see what all the fuss was about.
I'm here to tell you folks that Gino Vannelli is alive and well. He has traded in his bell-bottoms and polyester shirts for more appropriate attire, but he's still got it. And by "it" I mean the voice, the moves, and especially the hair. Tonight, the 60-year old performer opened his show with "Storm at Sunup" and my personal favourite, "Fly into This Night". He was hitting notes I didn't even know existed. I may have been born 30 years too late to appreciate the hysteria a Gino Vannelli concert once created, but it was not too late to appreciate the truly magnificent voice this artist possesses. Several times throughout the night, I found myself unconsciously bobbing my head up and down to the music. And then there were those moments when my mouth was left open in awe as Gino effortlessly hit those impossible high notes.
The concert in its entirety - about an hour long in length- sounded better than the records I had grown up listening to. The veteran band assembled behind Gino was beyond top notch. These musicians not only understood the music they were playing, but the artist as well. Drummer Reinhardt Melz and bassist Damian Erskine established a groove at the start and stayed in it until the encore. Greg Goebel kept the excitement going on the keyboard while guitarist Jay "Bird" Koder's funky riffs perfectly shined through Gino's electrifying stage performance, which is no easy task. It takes a big and talented band like this to hold their own on the same stage with this powerhouse vocalist, and this group was more than up for the task.
Speaking of big bands, horn sections make everything better, and tonight's brass ring did not disappoint. Grammy nominated Patrick Lamb led the three-horn section playing tenor sax. The trombone and trumpet players were local hires. The only thing out-performing Vannelli's voice this evening was his dance moves. Think of it as a cross between a classic episode of American Bandstand and Elvis. Gino definitely exhibited some age-defying moves. Then again, no one in the audience could keep still during this show. I caught myself unconsciously moving to the beat several times, but then I'm up for any excuse to 'bust a move.'
An unexpected highlight of the show was the audience themselves. And let me tell you, there were definitely some crazy, Gino obsessed fans in this capacity crowd. I'm pretty sure there's a cult devoted to this artist somewhere out there in cyberspace that not only routinely converse about this remarkable singer, but fixate on the music and the hip movement that goes with it.
Besides chanting his name between songs, women donned t-shirts with Gino's face, held up custom license plates emblazoned with some variation of his name, and shouted their undying love for the singer. It was remarkable how all this pent up affection love for Gino Vannelli came to a dead silence when he decided to speak to the adoring crowd before particular numbers. In his a soft-spoken voice - a shocking revelation in comparison to his singing - the Canadian heartthrob would tell a deep, meaningful story that always ended up relevant to what came next on the set list. One very personal story was about his son, how much he loved him and the song he wrote with his child in mind, "Last Days of Summer."
Other notable songs performed this evening included "A Good Thing" from his 2009 album of the same name, "Living Inside Myself," "Wild Horses," "Persona Non Grata," "Brother to Brother," "People Gotta Move," and (of course) "I Just Wanna Stop." Vannelli performed 15 songs including the encore, and the fans went wild for each and every one of them.
It's a shame Gino Vannelli doesn't tour in this country more often. Without a doubt there's an audience out there for this special artist, who like my dad, are inspired when they fondly recall the magical voice and music from their youth. Tonight, I truly understood what it was about this performer that 38 years after he first came on the music scene, he's still an inspiration and joy to watch on stage.
Indeed, father knows best.