I know, I know – who sends a film critic to cover a rock concert?
Well, when the rock concert features Kevin Costner, and Costner himself invites the film critic to attend after an interview earlier that morning ... you know, let’s just say these things happen.
And let’s also say that Costner’s reasonably good at the rock thing. Accompanied by his solid six-piece band, Modern West – assembled by and featuring longtime pal and collaborator John Coinman, his music supervisor on Dances with Wolves – Costner took the stage at the Phoenix before some 300 screaming fans, and gave them a show.
The music wasn’t exactly revolutionary; Modern West plays solid country-flavoured rockers about women, cars, growing up in small towns and dreaming big dreams about getting out. The obvious reference points are early Springsteen and John Cougar, before their respective social consciousnesses kicked in, and Costner’s Postman co-star Tom Petty; I also caught some Bryan Adams in there, too, though thankfully it was the Adams of Reckless, rather than the older, suckier Adams Costner tapped for that horrible Robin Hood ballad about how everything he does, he does for Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio.
Modern West doesn’t do ballads. They do straight-up rock ’n roll, and if the lyrics aren’t exactly revelatory – “I never asked for a million bucks / Just paid overtime and some gas in my truck” – they’re enthusiastic and energetic. Also, they do a stellar cover of Mr. Tambourine Man, a song any actor should think twice about covering after William Shatner’s infamous version.
But that’s Costner’s charm. He knows he’s skirting cheesiness; he knows he’ll be perceived as a vanity project. Like a few other actors who broke big in the 1980s – Dennis Quaid, Bruce Willis, even Steven frickin’ Seagal – he’s been able to indulge his love of music in public, for good or ill.
He doesn’t apologize for it, and he doesn’t have to. He’s having a great time, his voice is reedy but game, and he’s self-effacing enough to be able to plug his upcoming movie right in the middle of the set, and when his middle-aged lady fans bellow the titles of his older films at him like requests – “Dances with Woooooooolves!” – the half-stifled laugh seems awfully genuine.
Oh, and Swing Vote opens August 1st. Tell your folks.