On Stage: Howard Jones gets intimate at Sellersville

By Denny Dyroff, Entertainment Editor, The Times

Howard Jones

On February 26, the Sellersville Theater (24 West Temple Avenue, Sellersville, 215-257-5808, www.st94.com) will be the local stop for a tour that features two musicians who are very similar in some ways and very unlike in others.

Both acts are singer-songwriters who rock – or, if you prefer, rockers who are talented singer-songwriters. They craft catchy tunes that appeal to listeners on mental, visceral and physical levels. And, they are great stage performers.

On the other hand, one is a male musician from the U.K. while the other is a female entertainer from the U.S. One is a musician who began making hit records in the 1980s. The other is a fan who was listening to that music while in school during that same era.

Together, they make for a fun show that is packed with great songs and great moments.

The show’s headliner is Howard Jones, a British musician who had a Top 5 hit in the U.K. in September 1983 with his debut single. He had ten top 40 hit singles in the U.K. between 1983 and 1986. He also performed at Live Aid in 1985.

The opening act is Rachael Sage.

Sage is like a modern-day Renaissance woman — singer-songwriter, ballerina, pianist, poet, record label owner, actress, organist, writer and record producer. Currently, she is focused on being a performer.

Jones has performed in this area numerous times over the last few years. Sometimes, he is fronting a band of top-flight musicians with a full-on rock show. Sometimes, when Howard Jones tours in the states it is as part of the Retro Futura Tour – a summertime tour that features bands from the 1980s playing short sets of their hits.

This time, it is something entirely different.

Jones has returned to North America for an extensive U.S. Solo tour in 2018. The Howard Jones “Solo – The Songs and The Stories Tour” provides his fans with a great opportunity to see him perform in small intimate venues.

The last time Jones hit the area was with a completely electronic band – his Electric Band, which featured Emily Dolan Davies on electric percussion, Robin Boult on guitars, Robbie Bronnimann on keyboards and sequencing and Jonathan Atkinson on drums. Not surprisingly, they rocked the house wherever they played.

This time, the vibe will be carried by the songs and by Jones’ intimate rapport with the audience.

“I’m celebrating my birthday in the only way I know how – doing a show,” said Jones during a phone interview from Hartford, Connecticut Friday afternoon on his birthday.

“Solo tours are something I want to bundle into rhythm with touring. I can go deeper in the catalog. I can talk a lot and explain myself a bit. And, I can tell stories.

“Also, I keep developing my keyboard playing. It’s challenging. It’s not that easy to do.”

This show format us nothing new for Jones.
“I do it in a two-year rhythm in the U.K.,” said Jones. “It was back in 2015 when I did acoustic shows here in the states.

“The music is just piano and voice. I use an electric piano that sounds really good. I’m using the newest Roland RD-2000.”

Equipped with two independent sound engines, premium action, and advanced controller features, the Roland RD-2000 blends evolved piano technologies with extensive modern control.

Jones had his first Top Five hit in 1983 with the song “New Song.” Four more hits followed over the course of a year and his album “Human’s Lib” reached the top spot on the U.K. album charts.

Jones’ 1984 “Like to Get to Know You Well” was “dedicated to the original spirit of the Olympic Games” and became a worldwide hit. It also was used in the film “Better Off Dead” and the computer game “Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories.”

“Dream into Action,” which came out in 1985, quickly became a Top Ten Platinum album in the United States and was Jones’ most successful album. Four major hits were on that album — “Things Can Only Get Better,” “Life In One Day,” “No One Is To Blame,” and “Like To Get To Know You Well.”

Jones has stayed up-to-date with both music technology and musical styles, including EDM (Electronic dance music).

“I’ve done a new version of ‘Everlasting Love” and there is an EDM hit of ‘Things Can Only Get Better’ with (French DJ/producer) Cedric Gervais. All the hits have been updated and we do play a lot of dubstep.

“I’m also working on some songs for a couple of films. One is ‘Eddie the Eagle,’ which is a real-life story of a famous British skier. It is set in the 80s so there is a lot of 80s-style music in the show — new songs in the old style. I’m also writing songs for an American animated film called ‘Animal Crackers.’”

Jones also looks to the past spiritually. He is a devout follower of Nichiren Buddhism.

“A friend of mine who is a fashion designer got me interested in Buddhism,” said Jones. “I loved the way he worked with people and his positivity. So, I got him to teach me.

“I started straight out with Nichiren and I chant ‘Nam Myoho Renge Kyo’ (a mantra that dates back to 1253) every day — in the morning and again in the evening. Nichiren focuses on the belief in the positive power of human beings.”

Jones is at ease with himself – off the stage and on the stage with his canon of great songs.

“For my song selection, I go right back to my very first single and come forward to a brand-new song,” said Jones. “I look at my whole career. I play some of my favorite songs – probably a lot that the audience has never heard performed live. I go to deep tracks like ‘Even If I Don’t Say,’ ‘Tomorrow Is now’ and ‘Someone You Need.’

“I also do ‘Hide and Seek,’ which is the song I performed at Live Aid. I have a pool of 50 songs and I just choose what I want to do at the moment. I do most of my hits – but not all of them.

“And, I do a lot of talking. I tell the audience where the songs came from. I talk about my career – right back to the beginning before I made my first album. Every show is different. I don’t want a scripted performance. There is always is plenty of improvisation.”

Video link for Howard Jones – https://youtu.be/i5GbWkUmq3U.

Rachael Sage

Since founding her own label MPress Records two decades ago, NYC-based alt-pop artist Rachael Sage has steadily released a slew of vibrant, dynamic albums with poetic lyrics spanning subjects as wide as her inspirations. She has toured with an eclectic list of artists including Ani DiFranco, Beth Hart, Sarah McLachlan, Judy Collins and Howard Jones.

Sage also continues to significantly grow her visibility via her many song placements, having recently landed her 22nd song on top reality show “Dance Moms,” which translated into over 10 million YouTube hits.

Sage has often named Jones as a seminal influence on her music and previously supported him during the UK leg of his 2017 world tour.

In 2017, Sage was invited to open for Jones during the UK portion of his international tour, which delightfully resulted in a creative kinship between the two. Jones expressed that Sage possesses “wonderful songwriting, arrangements and lovely vocals” and again called upon her to join his upcoming 2018 performances in America.

“It’s so great to have Rachael on tour with me,” said Jones. “She’s so brilliant.”

Sage said, “It’s a wonderful experience to be able to tour with Howard. We even played together a little bit toward the end of the U.K. tour. He always made me feel welcome. I was excited and honored to be a part of it.

“His music was always one of my influences.  I grew up on his music and even had his poster on my wall. I never imagined that some day I would be sharing a stage with him.

“When he invited me to do this U.S. tour, I was thrilled. We have seven weeks of shows at pretty cool venues all over the country. We’re going to some of my favorite places. Then, I be doing my own tour after the Howard Jones tour is finished. I have a new release coming out after this tour.”

Her upcoming album “Myopia” (due Spring 2018) is a bold departure for Sage with a much stronger emphasis on her guitar playing over her signature piano palette. It’s also a new kind of album for Sage personally, as she sings about a “screen of judgement / in my face all the time” being lifted.

An edgy declaration of self-assurance and “vision” (Sage is legally blind without her glasses), “Myopia” focuses her passionately candid viewpoint into songs that range from the sociopolitical to the deeply romantic.

As an affectionate nod to both her tour mate and one of her musical inspirations, she included her own unique interpretation of Howard Jones’ #1 hit song “No One Is to Blame”

According to Sage, “This is a warm-weather record. These are songs about getting out there, thawing things out, and unearthing the truth. Sometimes you can’t do that in the dead of winter. But when the sun is shining, even the murkiest future appears hopeful.”

Produced by Sage and her longtime engineer, two-time Grammy Nominee John Shyloski, the album features drummer Doug Yowell (Joe Jackson, Duncan Sheik), keyboardist Rob Curto (Lila Downes), trumpeter Russ Johnson (Elvis Costello, Deborah Harry) and bassist Mike Visceglia (Suzanne Vega).

“The album officially comes out on February 27,” said Sage. “The first single is ‘Olivia,’ which was named after Olivia Benson from ‘Law and Order: SVU.’

“This music on this album is a lot more guitar-based than anything I’ve done before. I wrote all the songs on guitar and played electric guitar. There’s more on an edge instead of angsty ballad-pop. I’m also inspired by visual arts and that informs what I do

On her previous album “Choreography,” Sage reconnected to her dance roots. The album was an inspired set of piano-based chamber pop sounds merging orchestral elements with her signature blend of folk, pop and rock.

“I got the idea to do a dance-themed concept album,” said Sage, who studied and danced professionally with the New York City Ballet when she was younger and then went on to get a degree in theater at Stanford University.

“The TV show ‘Dance Moms’ had used a lot of my music with its choreography. Maddie Ziegler kept using more and more of my songs in her dance routines.

“I thought about how ballet and my experiences in ballet had informed my influences. I holed myself up in a hotel in London. Each day, I wouldn’t leave until I had at least one song written. It’s always exciting when it gets done as something different.

“When I was writing the songs in London, I watched the Glastonbury Festival on TV. I had a keyboard and also wrote some on guitar. It was mostly on piano because I was writing more with an orchestral sensibility.

“In general, I usually write the lyrics and the melody at the same time. There were certain musical themes that developed as I wrote. My process is very subconscious at that point. All my channels were open.”

While Jones is performing totally solo on this tour, Sage is performing almost solo.

“In my live shows, I have a wonderful accompanist – Kelly Halloran,” said Sage. “She is a very talented violin player who has been with me for about six years. About half my set will be material from ‘Myopia.’”

Video link for Rachael Sage – https://youtu.be/HPSvrD_nE8c.

The show at Sellersville will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $39.50 and $55.

Another show this week at the Sellersville Theater will be Cherish the Ladies on February 27.

Things will be rocking a lot harder at a show in downtown Philadelphia on February 26. On Monday night, The Voltage Lounge (421 North Seventh Street, Philadelphia, 215- 964-9602,www.voltagelounge.com) will host a show by Doyle.

Doyle Wolfgang Von Frankenstein

Misfits Legendary guitarist Doyle Wolfgang Von Frankenstein has just released his second solo album “As We Die” on EMP Label Group/Monsterman Records.

“I’m already working on new stuff,” said Doyle,” said Doyle, during a recent phone interview from his home in Montreal. “I’m working on new stuff every time I pick up the guitar. But, I haven’t been doing any recording.”

Both Doyle’s solo albums – “As We Die” and “Abominator” — are sonically-thick and lyrically-evil slabs of horror-punk metal that finds him expanding in a logical progression upon the genre of music he helped create.

Doyle’s first band, the infamous Glenn Danzig-fronted Misfits, helped create the genre of speed/thrash metal with their last album, 1983’s “Earth AD/Wolf’s Blood.”

“We cut the new album at House of Von Frankenstein,” said Doyle.

“We recorded all the guitars and bass for both albums in 2012. The only thing we did in a studio later was recording the drums because we got a new drummer. And, I did some vocals over when we remixed it in 2016.”

Recording both guitar and bass tracks for the albums, the unmistakable sound of Doyle’s signature Annihilator guitar cuts through on every tune.

“I have five Annihilators,” said Doyle. “I’ll bring there of four of them with me. I only play Annihilators – 100 per cent of the time. I made them for myself.”

While the horror punk vibe of The Misfits does permeate the album, the guitar work on “Abominator” and “As We Die” is more technical than your average punk rock record.

“To me, both albums were made at the same time so they’re the same album,” said Doyle. “In my live show, I’m doing stuff from both albums because they are the same.

“I’ve been working on new songs. I have about a dozen things – some new ideas for the next album. But, I’m not in any rush.”

According to Doyle, “Fans at his show should expect to get pummeled and then go home and ask themselves ‘What the f*** just happened to me?!?”

Doyle’s shows are not for the timid.

“The show always has a lot of intensity,” said Doyle. “I keep it at a very high level.

“Doing this is a job,” said Doyle. “It’s a hard job. We work really long, hard hours. I just keep writing and writing every time I pick up my guitar.

“I want to do 150 shows a year and do a new album. I want to take this thing as far as I can.”

Video link for Doyle – https://youtu.be/S5-j82QECj4.

The show at the Voltage Lounge, which also features Wolves Attack!!! and They Call Us Death, will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $15.

Other show this week at the Voltage Lounge are Aaron Carter on February 27 and Slaves on February 28.

The Kimmel Center’s Broadway Philadelphia Series is treating Philadelphia theater audiences to back-to-back presentations of touring Broadway shows playing Philly for the first time.

A few weeks ago, it was “Waitress” and now it is “Something Rotten!” The Academy of Music (Broad and Locust streets, Philadelphia, 215-731-3333, www.kimmelcenter.org) will host the very funny comedy “Something Rotten!” from February 27-March 4.

The 10-Time Tony Award-nominated “Something Rotten!”  was written by brothers Wayne and Karey Kirkpatrick. It was a situation where two brothers wrote a musical about two brothers writing a musical. And, it stars a Philadelphia couple who are not only married in real life, but in their stage roles as well (Rob McClure & Maggie Lakis).

Veteran Broadway actor Adam Pascal plays the role of “Shakespeare,” who is portrayed as a narcissistic rock star in the production, and Blake Hammond plays the scene-stealing role of Nostradamus.

Something Rotten!

“Something Rotten!” is an original musical comedy with a book by John O’Farrell and Karey Kirkpatrick and music and lyrics by Karey and Wayne Kirkpatrick. Set in 1595, the story follows the Bottom brothers, Nick and Nigel, who struggle to find success in the theatrical world, as they compete with the wild popularity of their contemporary William Shakespeare.

“We left New York on January 2, 2017 and we’re now in our 13th month,” said Hammond, during a phone interview last week from a tour stop in Washington, D.C.

“We’ve done more than 400 performances. More importantly, after the original contracts expired, all eight principals re-signed to finish the tour.

“I saw the show on Broadway twice. The first time I saw it, I fell in love with it. I wrote the director Casey (Nicholaw) that I wanted the part (Nostradamus). The second time I saw it was in September 2016 and we started rehearsals three months later. The show closed on Broadway on January 1, 2017 and three of the principals moved right to the National Tour.”

Hammond explained why it was love at first sight.

“I had never seen something that was so fresh and original – not on Broadway or anywhere else,” said Hammond in an ironic description of a show called “Something Rotten!”

“It’s rare to see something not based on a movie or a book. I laughed uproariously. Audiences feel the same way. The script is really hilarious, and we don’t deviate from the script. The show is two-and-half hours and is very fast-paced.”

The ultra-humorous comedy tells the story of Nick and Nigel Bottom — two brothers who are desperate to write their own hit play while the “rock star” Shakespeare keeps getting all the hits. When a local soothsayer foretells that the future of theatre involves singing, dancing and acting at the same time, Nick and Nigel set out to write the world’s very first musical.

“I’m a soothsayer. I see the future – but not correctly,” said Hammond, whose Broadway credits include “The Lion King,” “The Music Man,’ “Kiss Me Kate, “On The Town,” “Sister Act,” “Elf,” “Billy Elliot,” “First Date,” “Hairspray,” and “Living on Love.”

“Nostradamus sees all these big musicals as the next big thing. He’s seeing ‘Phantom of the Opera’ and ‘Cats’ but he’s putting then all into one show.

“Shakespeare isn’t really the villain. He’s presented as a rock star and everybody is in love with him. People scream for him. Brother Jeremiah is the villain. He’s a Puritan and he wants to shut down theater.”

Nostradamus had great appeal for Hammond.

“It’s such a great role to play,” said Hammond, a native of Glen Rose, Texas who was a natural in the role of Fester in the Off-Broadway production of “The Addams Family.”

“As Nostradamus, I’m in my own world. I’m an outsider who lives in a dark world on Soothsayers Alley. I look a little insane with crazy hair and beard – and that allows me to be more insane. It’s so fun to do.

“And, I get time off. I don’t have to carry the show. I come in, get a couple laughs and then go off. The biggest challenge is singing the number ‘A Musical.’ It’s challenging because it’s eight-and-a-half minutes long and I have to do tap dancing and go down on my knees.”

Video link for “Something Rotten” – https://youtu.be/1KFNcy9VjQI.

The show will run at the Academy of Music from February 27-March 4. Ticket prices range from $25-$145.

On February 27, Union Transfer (1026 Spring Garden Street, Philadelphia, 215-232-2100, www.utphilly.com) will host Rhye.


Rhye is musical project of Canadian singer Michael Milosh. It originally consisted of him and Danish instrumentalist Robin Hannibal. They released singles “Open” and “The Fall” online without much detail that led to speculation about the band.

In 2017, it was reported that Robin Hannibal was no longer a member of Rhye and that the project had evolved in to a music collective led by Milosh and focused around the project’s live band.

On February 2, Rhye released its highly anticipated sophomore album “Blood” via Loma Vista Recordings. Rhye’s debut album “Woman” was released in 2013 to wide critical acclaim. The new album was mostly written, produced and performed by Milosh.

“A lot of the new album was recorded at The Revival in L.A.,” said Milosh, during a recent phone interview from a tour stop in Los Angeles.

“Some was done at The Dwelling in New York. And, some was done in Berlin and Toronto – probably because I traveled so much. My family lives in Toronto but I’ve never been glued to one place.”

“I made this record over a period of five-and-a-half years. The final mixing wasn’t hard because I always use the same microphone and the same compressor. I use very similar techniques wherever I am.

Milosh was born in Toronto, Canada and is an electronic musician and vocalist. He was a classically trained cellist and later moved to Berlin, Germany to pursue music as a vocalist and a producer.

Professionally using the name Milosh, he signed to Plug Research record label and released two albums – “You Make Me Feel” (2004) and “Meme” (2006). He also contributed the track “Then It Happened” to the Ghostly International/Williams Street album “Ghostly Swim,” which was released in 2008.

A mosaic of emotive piano keys, physical percussion, buzzing analog synths, and expansive vocals, Rhye find humanity in musicality.

“My songwriting happens in different ways. It could start with a piano line of a synth line. Or, I might mumble the lyrics into a recorder.

“I’ll take a break and then I’ll come back and listen. I try to keep things fresh. I don’t overthink it too much. And, there are ceratin things I avoid.”

While Rhye in the studio is basically a recording project by Milosh, Rhye on stage is a totally different animal.

“When Rhye performs live, it’s a seven-piece band,” said Milosh. “We have cello and strings in addition to guitar, keyboards and bass.”

According to Milosh, “We spent a few years on the road translating the ‘Woman’ album from a bedroom project into a full live experience. With ‘Blood,’ it’s been the opposite process.

“The music and sounds were really born out of the live environment and are built for performance. It takes a lot of courage to be vulnerable in front of an audience night after night. I use the same courage on every song on this record.”

Milosh and his players have found a winning formula.

“I’m blessed that I’ve found incredible musicians,” said Milosh. “Everyone resonates with the music. They found how to make it their music. It takes a lot of rehearsal – but it’s not that complex. It just takes time with the musicians.

“I don’t do anything live with backing tracks. So, it’s different every night. I don’t want to play a song the same way every night. With these musician, I never have to.”

Video link for Rhye – https://youtu.be/No9CLpAI1aI.

The show at Union Transfer, which has Boulevards as the opener, will start at 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $

Hudson Taylor

More music with an international flavor will be presented live on February 27 when Hudson Taylor share the bill with Gabrielle Aplin at The Foundry at Fillmore Philadelphia (1100 Canal Street, Philadelphia, 215-309-0150, www.thefillmorephilly.com).

Hudson Taylor is a two-man band featuring Harry and Alfie Hudson-Taylor, brothers from Dublin, Ireland, while Alpin is a talented singer-songwriter from Bath, England.

The Irish Americana-pop duo Hudson Taylor will release its new EP “Feel It Again” on March 23 on Rubyworks. The EP gives listeners a taste of Hudson Taylor’s fresh sound, including the singles, “Feel It Again” and “Run with Me,” along with three other tracks – all produced by Ryan Hadlock, who has worked with The Lumineers and Vance Joy.

The sweet-voiced brothers grew up in Dublin, where their father was a musician and their mother was a dancer.

“We were 16 and 15 when we started making music – accidentally,” said Harry (who is 18 months older), during a phone interview Thursday afternoon from a tour stop in Toronto, Ontario.

“We were away on holiday with our family in Italy near Venice in 2008. I had my guitar and we played around a beach campfire. We were playing covers. The first night we played there, there were about 10 people. We came back the next few nights and the crowd got bigger each time.

“There were a lot of Germans there and they liked how we played. The Germans suggested that we go on YouTube. That set us off. We were really young at the time.”

Alfie said, “Shortly after that, we started busking in Dublin. Harry was away at school. He’d come back on weekends and we’d busk at places like Grafton Street and Temple Bar. It was great.

“Because we were in Dublin, a lot of international people were coming through. So, we were able to build a global audience. A lovely way to experience any city is to busk.”

That was just the start.

“Once we graduated from busking and putting videos on YouTube, we moved to London and put our first EP,” said Harry. “That’s when we took it serious.’

Prior to being signed they released their début EP, “Battles,” in August 2012, which peaked at #1 on the Irish version of iTunes and at #14 on UK version of iTunes. In November 2012, they followed with a second EP, “Cinematic Lifestyle” and a third, “Osea”, in October 2013. It was around this time that the band signed to Polydor Records in the UK.

The brothers released their debut album, “Singing for Strangers” in 2015. Most recently, the band enjoyed a very successful 2017, playing to one of the biggest crowds of the weekend at the Electric Picnic festival in September. “Feel It Again,” the lead-off Irish single from the new album, was one of the biggest national airplay hits of 2017.

“I’d describe our music as pop-rock with a folky feel – and a Celtic influence,” said Alfie. “It has songs with an awful lot of harmonies.”

Video link for Hudson Taylor – https://youtu.be/nn2RJdBRCsc.

The show at The Foundry, which also features Gabrielle Aplin and John Splithoff, will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $15.

Another upcoming show this week at The Foundry is the Mowgli’s on February 28.

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