Arts Desk

Kevin Costner at Strathmore, Reviewed

I’ll admit: when I heard Kevin Costner’s band was coming to Strathmore, I volunteered for the assignment for the sole purpose of making fun of Kevin Costner. I had never actually heard Kevin Costner’s band. It’s unfair, I know. But neither had most of my fellow concertgoers. Based on a handful of conversations with them, it seems that lingering crushes from Bull Durham were the bigger draw.

Now that I’ve seen him perform, I can say with a clean conscience: He’s pretty bad. Not that the audience seemed to mind. Costner may be 57 and sporting a graying soul patch, but on Thursday, he proved he could still beguile the gaggle of women who flocked to the stage to throw him flowers and notes, some with their husbands in tow.

But let’s not get carried away. He’s not atrocious. As celebrity vanity bands go, the modestly named Kevin Costner and Modern West is about average (see below). He’s backed by some capable musicians, including guitarists John Coinman and Teddy Morgan. Modern West is billed as a country band, but it’s country only in the sense that they sing about being drunk and heartbroken a lot. Their music, written mostly by Coinman, is really just bland but inoffensive boomer rock. They owe a lot to Tom Petty, which is to say they have all of Petty’s cheesiness and none of his hooks.

Costner is nominally the lead vocalist, although he does a kind of half-singing, half-talking mumble, and when he really sings he’s not always in tune. It’s unclear at first why his band needs four guitarists (not including the bassist) until you notice Costner mostly uses his instrument as an armrest. When he does play, one of the other three guitarists is usually playing his part along with him, and louder. The rest of the time Costner’s either pointing and grinning, or doing a Jesus pose, arms outstretched.

“I can’t separate my music from my movies. A lot of these songs were written on the set of my movies or inspired by them,” said the two-time Oscar and six-time Razzie winner, leaving you wondering if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. But Costner’s heart is in the right place, notably an homage to Native Americans (“500 Nations”) and several songs paying tribute to veterans, even if he seemed to be confused as to what PTSD stands for (“post-disorder stress,” he called it, before asking fans to correct him). It doesn’t seem right to disparage a marginally talented but generally compassionate guy who just wants to sing about hard lovin’ women and America. It could be better. But it could also be worse.

BONUS: Celebrity vanity bands ranked by suckage

Juliette and the Licks

Celebrity: Juliette Lewis
Suck-o-meter: 2.5
Why does it suck: They were actually pretty good
Redeeming quality: Dave Grohl on Four on the Floor; Juliette’s a decent singer

Kevin Costner and Modern West

Celebrity: Kevin Costner
Suck-o-meter: 5.0
Why does it suck: Generic, boring boomer rock
Redeeming quality: Violinist Bobby Yang’s honky tonk strut

The Bacon Brothers

Celebrity: Kevin Bacon
Suck-o-meter: 6.0
Why does it suck: “Sha-la-la, sha-la-la-la-la I’m in love with a Jersey Girl”
Redeeming quality: This video

Dogstar

Celebrity: Keanu Reeves
Suck-o-meter: 6.5
Why does it suck: Everyone assumed it was terrible because of Keanu; it was only sort of terrible
Redeeming quality: Keanu was only the bassist

Bruce Willis Blues Band

Celebrity: Bruce Willis
Suck-o-meter: 7.5
Why does it suck: Smirking, harmonica, awful hats
Redeeming quality: Pretty sure he only plays at Planet Hollywood

Thunderbox

Celebrity: Steven Seagal
Suck-o-meter: 7.5
Why does it suck: Sounds like Bruce Willis’ band, but with synth
Redeeming quality: Seagal playing the blues dressed like a Tibetan monk

30 Seconds to Mars

Celebrity: Jared Leto
Suck-o-meter: 8.0
Why does it suck: Lost to Paramore in MTV’s Musical March Madness 2012
Redeeming quality: Jared rekindling romance with Ashley Olsen?

Wicked Wisdom

Celebrity: Jada Pinkett-Smith
Suck-o-meter: 9.5
Why does it suck: Nu-metal was never good to begin with; Pinkett-Smith does not save it
Redeeming quality: Might be an elaborate practical joke

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  • Connie

    I do not know what you were drinking last night. One woman put her number on a note to him. One woman handed him a rose. He plays guitar well, not as an armrest. He is very engaging. The band is great. I was in the front row, women did not "flock" to him, husbands weren't in tow. I do not know what concert you were at last night; the one I was at was very enjoyable, and I found Costner to be modest, funny, handsome, self-deprecating, and truly likable. You must be envious of his appeal.

  • Yep Uhuh

    Connie's comment is awesome.

  • Kim

    I'll never understand people that enjoy making fun of and belittling other people. It's clear Costner and company have much more class than Mike Paarlberg.

  • Ben Tribbett

    I agree with this. I was there last night and Mike Paarlberg is on point. Although, I have to say I kinda like Dogstar.

  • Connie

    To each his own, Ben, but since you're a guy, you just do not get Costner's appeal. That, coupled with the fact that you like Dogstar, well, speaks for itself. I do not know how Mike Paarlberg can be on point when he fabricated half of what he says happened last night. And I would not call someone who has 2 Academy Awards "marginally talented." As I wrote before, I was in the first row; there was no "flock" of women; there was one note, there was one flower. And I'm concerned about a man who uses the word "gaggle."

  • Connie

    And a P.S. to Ben -- if he was so awful, why did you go?

    signing off

  • Yep Uhuh

    Connie's last two comments are awesome.

  • I Concur

    I attended this concert with an open mind, but my mind was emphatically made up after the first two songs. Does Costner have appeal and charisma? Absolutely. Is he an equally talented musician? Definitely not. Mike's review is spot on based on what I heard and saw from Costner and Modern West.

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