Published on April 25th, 2014 | by Jon Santiago0
Dances with Daughter: Bandleader Kevin Costner
Kevin Costner and Modern West
North Charleston Performing Arts Center
The last time I saw Kevin Costner and his band Modern West was at the Music Farm, way back in 2008. That night was a party. Loud. Less elbow room than the inside of a sardine tin. Women in the audience outnumbering the men about two-to one. (Go figure.)
The personnel roster for Modern West hasn’t changed much since that time: band co-founder John Coinman, along with Teddy Morgan, and Park Chisolm, all on guitars. Drummer Larry Cobb. Hovering nearby the drum kit, Blair Forward on bass. And from Costner’s corral of fiddlers, Jason Mowery on violin and dobro. Over the years, the band has absorbed and refined Costner’s brand of rock and roll. They play together like family. And Costner’s show at the PAC was, indeed, a real family affair.
Costner’s 27 year old daughter, Lily Costner, kicked off the evening with much the same self-deprecating humor her Dad’s known for: “Dad had to hire somebody to open up for them!”
A Nashville resident, Lily’s played at the Grand Ole Opry, shared the stage with Trace Adkins, and appeared on her father’s albums. At the PAC, she became one half of a folk-ish duo along with her guitarist. Her sound is delicate, thoughtful and all troubadour. In fact, the 30-minute set of mostly original tunes would not have been out of place in a Greenwich Village coffeehouse a few Bob Dylans ago.
For his part, Lily’s dad and his band proved to be the Newport Folk Festival iteration of Dylan: electrified, amplified and proud of it. However tempting it might be to pigeonhole Costner and crew as a vanity band, they have been and remain, committed. They’ve always been solid as a bar-style band out to get their audience on their feet and dancing. Four album releases into this “side project,” they still deliver that sound. They’ve just gotten better at it.
A few brand new original tunes got sprinkled into Costner’s 90-minute set of rockers and ballads. Not every tune could be called memorable, and on this night, Costner’s voice was not as strong as I recall it having been. That said, the duet he sang with his daughter off his album Famous for Killing Each Other: Music from and Hatfields & McCoys was one of the highlights of the show. So too, was the bandleader’s stage patter. Costner’s talent for connecting with his audience, giving them a laugh, often at his own expense (“Ladies, thanks for bringing your guys along tonight. I’m sure it wasn’t easy!”), just adds another dimension to the show, right in line with with KC’s trademark grin. Costner’s a tough guy to dislike.
Costner’s audience may divide itself too easily among those who are there to see him and those who are there to hear his music. But even that’s not a great divide and one that most people will be willing to leap over if for no other reason than Costner’s easy affability. Even the audience members Costner apologized to – the ones dragged along by their spouses or girlfriends – could find themselves having a better time than they might have imagined.
Most touching of all in this show was the ample evidence of pride, respect and affection between father and daughter. There may have actually been puddles left behind at the PAC from hearts melting at the sight.
Costner ended his show with a rollicking take on “Mr. Tambourine Man.” After the encore, it was pop-the-champagne time. Bottle in hand, wide grin on his face, he strode back and forth along the stage, shaking as many of the hands reaching up to him as he could. In a word: Classy.
Photos by Jon Santiago.
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