Tribute acts! For dedicated music fans of the baby-boomer era, the alarming loss of one AM/FM legend after another is tempered only the demand for a newer, bigger breed of hard-touring sonic soundalikes. It’s an experience that’s shockingly “Even Better Than the Real Thing” in many cases, when stacked up against the stooping shoulders and flattening voices of those aging 60s-70s-80s survivors — and for venues like our Count Basie Theatre, it’s a crowd-pleasing and seat-filling brand of fun fantasy that manifests itself three ways from here to next Sunday.
From Broadway to birthday parties, the epochal 1970s hits of international pop sensations ABBA have never even come close to going out of style – and with the savvy Swedes having stuck Beatle-like to their guns regarding any prospect of reunion, the market for maximum mamma-mia has been the province of acts like Abba Mania, the theater-scale tribute show that takes the Basie stage this Saturday, February 20, for what promises to be a “respectful and enjoyable” sound-and-fashion sojourn through such polyester pacesetters as “Voulez Vous,” “Dancing Queen,” “Winner Takes It All,” “Super Trouper” and then some. Take it here for tickets ($25 – $39) to the 8 pm show — and take it to the other side of the record for more.
Tuesday night, February 23 marks the recurrence of another in what appears to be an annual happening on the Basie boards: a visit by the four “MockTops” of Rain, the acclaimed and internationally touring Beatles tribute that “has mastered every song, gesture and nuance of the legendary foursome,” in the course of going places the Liverpuddlian Lads never dared (such as a respectable run on Broadway). It’s a regular stop on the road, and a comfort-zone showcase for the act about which the Huffington Post said, “Rain is about the closest you’ll come to seeing The Beatles live ever.” It’s also a multimedia experience that employs costumes and projections in the course of presenting a gamut of classics that range from the chirpy early hits (“I Want To Hold Your Hand,” “A Hard Day’s Night”) to the studio sturm-und-drang of the later masterworks (“Come Together,” “Hey Jude”) that they never managed to take out on the road. Tickets ($35 – $69) can be reserved right here.
Which brings us to Thursday, February 28, and a visit by a touring show that pays homage to a figure whose legend and legacy can scarcely be corralled within a single powerhouse performance. With showtimes at both 3 and 7:30 pm, A Night with Janis Joplin presents actress-singer Mary Bridget Davies in her Tony-nominated star turn as the blues/booze-basted belter who blazed out of Texas in the latter part of the 60s; burning all too briefly (but oh so brightly) along a trail that took her from the Haight-Ashbury to Woodstock, and to superstar status via her recordings of “Me and Bobby McGee,” “Move Over” and “Kozmic Blues,” plus (with Big Brother and the Holding Company) “Piece of My Heart” and “Down On Me.” It’s a sound and a level of intensity that’s seemingly impossible to equal, but with the blessing of Joplin’s estate (and the guiding hand of writer-director Randy Johnson), Davies and company have taken Janis to places she never went in her lifetime; from a celebrated (but notoriously troubled) Broadway run in 2013-14, to small towns like little old Hip City. It’s also a musical bio that shares its spotlight with some of the ladies who influenced Joplin’s sound, style and stage presence, like Aretha Franklin and Bessie Smith. Take it here for tickets ($39 – $69) to the 3 pm matinee — and here for the 7:30 show.