On Stage (Extra): The Bodyguard comes to Philly

By Denny DyroffStaff Writer, The Times

The Bodyguard

It seems that almost everyone is familiar with the movie “The Bodyguard” and especially familiar with the music.

“The Bodyguard” is a 1992 American romantic thriller film directed by Mick Jackson, written by Lawrence Kasdan, and starring Kevin Costner and Whitney Houston. Costner stars as a former Secret Service agent-turned-bodyguard who is hired to protect Houston’s character, a music star, from an unknown stalker.

The story found new life a few years ago in another life form.

“The Bodyguard” is also a 2012 stage musical written by Alexander Dinelaris, based on the 1992 film with the score featuring songs recorded by Whitney Houston including “One Moment in Time,” “I Wanna Dance with Somebody” and “I Will Always Love You.”

As a  musical, “The Bodyguard” had its premiere production open in London’s West End in December 2012. It closed in August 2014 and then went on several tours throughout the U.K. and Europe. It also had a West End revival in London last summer.

The inaugural U.S. tour of “The Bodyguard” began a few months ago and is scheduled to visit Philly for a six-day run from February 21-26 as part of the Kimmel Center’s “Broadway Philadelphia” series at the Academy of Music (Broad and Locust streets, Philadelphia, 215-731-3333, www.kimmelcenter.org).

The smash musical will star Grammy Award-nominated and multi-platinum R&B/pop recording artist and film/TV actress Deborah Cox in the lead role as Rachel Marron.

The role of bodyguard Frank Farmer is played by television star Judson Mills.  In addition, Jasmin Richardson plays the role of Rachel’s sister Nicki Marron and is also the understudy for Deborah Cox in the lead role.

The stage musical, like the 1992 Oscar-nominated film, features an impressive line-up of classic songs including “So Emotional,” “I Want To Dance With Somebody” and one of the biggest selling songs of all time — “I Will Always Love You.”

Megan Elyse Fulmer

The talent-laden cast also features a young actress whose roots are in the Philadelphia area. Megan Elyse Fulmer, a native of Morrisville who graduated from Montclair State University with a BFA in Musical Theater, plays the role of “College Girl” and is also a member of the ensemble.

“I auditioned last May and found out I had the job in June,” said Fulmer, during a recent phone interview from a tour stop in Chicago.

“There was an audition and they were looking for versatile dancers who were individuals. They didn’t want a conformed ensemble. Because of my look – my mom is Puerto Rican and my dad is Irish/German/Dutch – and my athletic ability, they noticed me.”

Audiences also notice Fulmer because of her exotic look, her dancing ability and her obvious talent.

“I’m very busy in the first act,” said Fulmer, who graduated from Pennsbury High School in 2010. “We open with a big dance number – ‘Queen of the Night’ – and then shift into a rehearsal scene with ‘How Will I Know?’ Then, I play a drunk college girl in the number ‘Where Do Broken Hearts Go’ at the end of Act I.”

Fans of the movie will find plenty to like with the musical version.

“I think it’s pretty close to the movie,” said Fulmer. “They did a good job of bringing Rachel’s sister to life. And, they did a great job of using Whitney’s music. The story drives the show and the music keeps it alive.

“It’s not a jukebox musical. It’s a play with Whitney Houston’s music. The music is what keeps audiences captivated.”

Video link for “The Bodyguard” – https://youtu.be/AhQKbm9ESd0.

The show will run from February 21-16 at the Academy of Music. Ticket prices start at $20.


Although they may sound the same – especially to ears not accustomed to listening to the French language – Alsace and Alcest are very different.

Alsace is a region in eastern France that has been around since the time of the holy Roman Empire. Alcest is a Parisian post-metal duo that has been around since 2000.

Alcest — vocalist / multi-instrumentalist Neige and drummer Winterhalter — is touring North America in support of its new album “Kodama” (Prophecy Productions), an album hailed by NPR as “gracefully savage” music that exists “somewhere between glistening post-rock and glitzy arena-pop.” The tour touches down in Philly on February at the Foundry at Fillmore Philadelphia (1100 Canal Street, Philadelphia, 215-309-0150, www.thefillmorephilly.com).

Often described as a blackgaze band, Alcest makes music the has elements of both lush ethereal music and hard-edged black metal music.

“Blackgaze is just a way that people try to categorize us,” said Neige, during a phone interview Tuesday from a tour stop in Nashville, Tennessee. “I think we’re softer than most of the blackgaze bands.”

Alcest was founded around the turn-of-the-century by Neige (Stéphane Paut) and later joined by drummer Winterhalter (Jean Deflandre) in 2009. Labeled as post metal/shoegaze or “blackgaze”, Alcest were the pioneers within this genre, crafting a unique sound based on musical opposites from their very first EP “Le Secret” (2005), and through their full-length releases “Souvenirs D’Un Autre Monde” (2007), “Écailles De Lune” (2010) and “Les Voyages De L’Ame” (2012).

In 2014 their fourth album “Shelter” was released, marking the band’s departure from the more metal sound in favor of dream-pop aesthetics.

 “I discovered rock as a teenager and started playing guitar,” said Neige. “Discovering black metal was quite important for me. I wanted to discover a new genre so I formed Alcest.

“In the very beginning, I was imitating bands I was listening to – including a couple Norwegian black metal bands. Very quickly after that, I had a spiritual experience.”

As a youngster, Neige had dreams about a “Fairy Land” — a place with colors, forms and sounds that do not exist here. The music of Alcest has been highly influenced by these dream experiences.

Starting out playing raw black metal with a line-up including La Sale Famine de Valfunde with whom Neige played in Peste Noire until being fired in 2009, Alcest soon evolved into metal with strong post-rock and shoegaze influences.

“I wanted to bring different elements to metal,” said Neige. “Metal has dark subject matter. For me, I was interested in the opposite – a more luminous side to metal. I didn’t necessarily want to be another metal band.

“I discovered shoegaze later. I had already been making dreamy vocals without knowing about shoegaze. Then, I discovered bands like My Bloody Valentine. Bridging the gap between metal and shoegaze was really not intentional.

“In the beginning, everything was very natural. The sound came by itself. Some people really hated us for being untrue to metal. Now, people are respecting what we do. It’s quite cool to bring two diverse genres together.”

Alcest’s fifth album “Kodama” marks the French duo’s ferocious return to the stylistic maximalism of its early albums while continuing the band’s relentless pursuit for new sounds and fresh ideas.

Kodama, Japanese for “tree spirit”, also implies “echo” (through yamabiko – the process of sounds reverberating across mountains, valleys and forests, which is often attributed to these spirits). “Kodama” draws substantial inspiration from Japanese art and culture.

“We recorded the album in France from January to April in 2016,” said Neige. “We cut it at Jordan House in Brittany. I had started the songwriting right after the release of our last album three years ago.

“The new took some time because I was really selective with my songs. ‘Kodama’ is a lot different than our earlier albums. It deals with how nature and technology can live together – how we need to re-learn how to live in harmony with nature.”

Video link for Alcest — https://youtu.be/ADIEAW65H5o.

The show at the Foundry, which has Creepers as the opening act, will start at 8:40 p.m. Tickets are $18.


For metal fans who want their metal music hard and heavy without melancholy, moodiness or mellow vibes, there is a different show for them on the same night.

On February 18, DevilDriver will bring its “Bound By the Road” tour to Reverb (1402 North Ninth Street, Reading, 610-743-3069, www.reverbconcerts.com). The tour’s support bands are heavy metal bands Death Angel, Winds of Plague, The Agonist and Azreal.

The upcoming “Bound By The Road” tour follows the band’s most recent public performance at Ozzfest Meets Knotfest, where it shot the newest music video for the group’s latest album’s title track “Trust No One.”

DevilDriver — Dez Fafara – Vocals; – Mike Spreitzer – Guitar; Neal Tiemann – Guitar; ; Diego Ibarra – Bass; – Austin D’Amond – Drums — released its seventh studio album, “Trust No One,” in May 2016 via Napalm Records.

“We’re still in tour cycle for ‘Trust No One’ right now,” said Tiemann, during a phone interview Wednesday afternoon from a tour stop in Toronto, Canada.

“We’re about halfway through the cycle. We plan to tour for the rest of the year. We’ve already started to write a little for our next album. Mike and I are always working on riffs.

“We recorded ‘Trust No One’ in California last year. It was the first album with the band for me and drummer Austin D’Amond. We both joined DevilDriver in 2015. I had been friends with Dez for a while before I joined the group.

“We first hooked up through our wives. They met on Instagram because they’re both into Harlequin Great Danes. That was the connection. The first time we all got together, Dez and I hung out listening to Pantera albums.

“Fortunately for me, DevilDriver’s old guitarist quit and I jumped right in. Austin came on a little later. Producer Mark Lewis told us – you’ve got to use Austin.

“An interesting thing about making the album was the circumstances. Usually, a band has time to rehearse and play. This time, we wrote the songs before we even played together. It really just started with writing. Mike and I and Austin write all the music and Dez does the lyrics.

“At the beginning, we’d write a little on our own and then get together at Mike’s. As the songs developed, some were collaborations and some we wrote on our own. It was a lot more democratic than I expected.

“Our very first show together was in Las Vegas last year. We were heading out with Hatebreed and that was our first time touring this album. We were completely fresh.

“I had to learn a lot of earlier DevilDriver stuff. We didn’t want to steer anything in a different direction.  I listened to all of the band’s back catalogue and learned half of it. We still play songs from every album.

“The older material was a little more straight-forward and that left space for me and Austin. With the new album, I think we have something special. It’s fresh but it doesn’t change the band’s sound too drastically.”

Video link for DevilDriver — https://youtu.be/XuVibnWHoLA.

The all-ages show at Reverb, which starts at 2 p.m., is the Pagoda Metalfest. The line-up also features H(ed) PE, Death Angel, Motograter, The Agonist, It Is Written, Scarlet Moon, Burnicide, Sluagh, Shrouded In Neglect, With No Regard, and Until We Fall. Tickets are $20 in advance and $23 at the door.

On February 19, Pop Evil will bring its hard rock sound to the area when its “Rock ’N’ Roll Now Tour: Right Now” tour visits the Theatre of the Living Arts (334 South Street, Philadelphia, 215-222-1011, http://www.lnphilly.com).

Pop Evil is described as “a larger-than-life true rock-and-roll band blending the earnestness of Pearl Jam and Soundgarden with the celebratory showmanship of Motley Crue and KISS, capable of empathizing with the daily struggles of their fans while simultaneously offering the escapism a truly bombastic concert provides. Pop Evil conjures aggressive riffs and hard charging sing-a-longs with emotional heft and melodic power in equal measure. It’s music by the people, for the people.”

Pop Evil – Leigh Kakaty, lead vocals; Dave Grahs, rhythm guitar, backing vocals; Matt DiRito, bass, backing vocals; Nick Fuelling, lead guitar, backing vocals; Hayley Cramer, drums — released its most recent album “Up” in 2015.

The album hit Number 1 on the Billboard Indie Chart in the week of its release. The newest single “If Only for Now” is in the Top 20 on Billboard’s Mainstream Rock Songs chart.

The three previous singles from “Up” — “Footsteps,” “Take It All” and “Ways to Get High” — all hit the top three of the list. The album, which was released through eOne Music, has sold almost 60,000 copies, according to Nielsen Music.

“We’re still touring heavily on ‘Up’ but this will be the last tour for the album,” said DiRito, during a phone interview Wednesday from a tour stop in Cleveland, Ohio.

“After we finish, we’ll go back in the studio and start working on our next album. We haven’t written any songs for it yet but we’ve been dabbling in sound check riffs. The bulk of our writing will wait until we get in the studio.”

Pop Evil is a Michigan band that was formed by Kakaty just over 15 years ago. Since then, the band has released four albums – “Lipstick on the Mirror” (2008), “War of Angels” (2011), “Onyx” (2013) and “Up”(2015).

“The difference between the older albums and ‘Up’ is that there is more continuity on the new album,” said DiRito. “Before, each song felt like it was its own piece. This time, we made an album instead of a collection of songs.

“We recorded ‘Up’ with producer Adam Kasser and used three different studios in Seattle. His style was totally different than anyone we worked with before. Our previous album was produced by Johnny K. This time, we wanted a different take. We wanted to push it in a new direction.

“Adam is a very laid-back guy. He goes more by feel. Adam is more like a jam band guy. We experimented more when we were working with him – and we had great vintage gear to use. It was a really good experience working with both Johnny K and Adam.

“Deciding on a producer for our next album is still up in the air. We won’t use Adam or Johnny K again. We’re going to do a lot of writing in our hometown – Grand Rapids, Michigan. We’ll also be making lot of demos on our own.”

In the meantime, Pop Evil is hammering away with live performances of tunes from the latest disc.

“Right now, we’re playing at least half the songs from ‘Up’ – if not more,” said DiRito. “We still play songs from every album. We have a lot of fans who are diehards – fans who have been there since the beginning – so we play something from every time period.”

Video link for Pop Evil — https://youtu.be/TGqfB4ZMqLY.

The show at the TLA, which has Red Sun Rising and Badflower as the opening acts, will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $23.

If you like your music with a southern vibe – especially music with its roots in the myriad of styles found in New Orleans – then you have a tough decision to make if you want to attend a live show on February 22.

Marcia Ball

Marcia Ball is playing the World Café Live (3025 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, 215-222-1400, www.worldcafelive.com) and the duo of Fred Tackett and Paul Barrere is performing at the Ardmore Music Hall (23 East Lancaster Avenue, Ardmore, 610-649-8389, www.ardmoremusic.com).

Back in September, Ball rocked the house at the World Café Live at the Queen in Wilmington with her New Orleans-influenced piano sound. The following night the same thing happened when she headlined a show at the Sellersville Theater.

“I’ve been pretty busy over the last six months – a lot of work, a lot of travel,” said Ball, during a phone interview Monday from her home in Austin, Texas. “I had two trips to Europe to do shows. And, I just did Delbert McClinton’s ‘Sandy Beaches’ cruise in January.”

Over the years, there have been a number of stellar piano players from Louisiana who have made the region’s blend of blues, soul and swamp boogie famous around the world. The list is mostly male-dominated — Fats Domino, Huey “Piano” Smith, Dr. John, Allen Toussaint, Professor Longhair — but also includes Marcia Ball.

Ball is touring in support of her latest album “The Tattooed Lady And The Alligator Man.” The album is her sixth release for Alligator Records. Four of her previous five releases received Grammy Award nominations.

The release mixes Ball’s Gulf Coast blues, New Orleans R&B, swampy Louisiana ballads, and jumping, Tex-­‐Mex flavored zydeco into a one­‐of­‐a­‐kind musical gumbo — a sound she has been perfecting over the course of her legendary career.

Ball received the 2014 Blues Music Award (BMA) for the Pinetop Perkins Piano Player of the Year. She has now won a total of 10 BMAs and has received a whopping 44 nominations. Ball recently received a 2015 Living Blues Readers’ Poll Award for Most Outstanding Musician (Keyboard) and now holds nine Living Blues Awards in all. She was inducted into the Gulf Coast Hall of Fame in 2010 and into the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame in 2012.

“I haven’t been in the studio for a while,” said Ball. “Ever since I released the last album, I’ve been touring and traveling and playing these songs.

“There’s no new album soon but I have been doing some writing. I have seven or eight originals. And, I have a couple covers that I’d like to record — obscure covers of old New Orleans stuff. Obviously, I’m not in a rush – but I am moving in that direction.

“I’ve been helping my friend Shelly King to do an album and that has been fun. It’s getting me inspired to make a new album. But, I’ve got a lot of work through the summer so I’m looking at recording in the fall and a spring release.”

Ball released her first album in 1972. Her career is still going full-tilt 46 years later and her popularity continues to grow.

It was back in the early 1970s when she immersed herself in the music of the great New Orleans piano players — especially Professor Longhair. Her solo album debut was a country-rock album called “Circuit Queen” that was released in 1978 on Capitol Records.

Before long, Ball developed her own sound which was much more in line with the sweat-drenched music played in clubs in the Texas-Louisiana border region than with traditional country music. She released six critically-acclaimed albums on the Rounder label during the 1980s and 1990s.

The Louisiana vibe became more pronounced when she moved to Alligator Records in 2001. She has recorded seven albums for Alligator, including “Roadside Attractions”, which received a 2011 Grammy Award nomination in the Best Blues Album category.

“I’m still a little studio shy — and I don’t write that much,” said Ball. “I make a lot of notes, hum songs into my cell phone and then finally sit at a piano at home. I’m busy and it’s hard to find time to write with so much going on.”

Even though Ball has been recording and touring for more than four decades, the spirited veteran is showing no signs of slowing down.

“I’m still doing more than 100 shows a year and that’s fine,” said Ball. “I play clubs and theaters and do a few festivals each year.

“I never get tired of being on the road because home is where the homework is. My band is what it is — a five-piece with bass, drums, guitar, sax and me on keyboards and vocals.”

Ball and her band members all have roots in the Louisiana/Texas music scene.

“I grew up in Louisiana,” said Ball. “I was listening to New Orleans music, Fats Domino, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis. I also listened to a lot of blues musicians who did gigs in Baton Rouge. I have a lot of R&B in my background along with the great legacy of Delta music.”

Video link for Marcia Ball — https://youtu.be/J5-2WDzJTvo.

The show at the World Café Live will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $25 floor and $35 mezzanine.

Tackett & Barrere

Tackett & Barrere is a duo – and acoustic guitar duo featuring two musicians with a long history or performing together.

Tackett and Barrere have been touring as an acoustic duo since 1999 and have released two live records – “Live From The North Café” on Relix Records and “Live In The UK 2008” on Stonehenge Records. Together and as solo artists they have worked and recorded with hundreds of artists, including folks such as Bob Dylan, Bonnie Raitt, Taj Mahal, Jack Bruce, and Phil Lesh.

It may seem that 18 years of playing together as a duo is a long time. But, that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Tackett and Barrere have also been rocking together since 1972 as core members of the classic southern boogie band Little Feat. When Little Feat is on break, the duo just keeps rolling along — touring almost year-round.

“We usually do a few weekend gigs a month,” said Barrere, during a phone interview last week from his home in Los Angeles. “We tend to jam a bunch of gigs in at the beginning of the year and then take the summer off.

“We also still play a bunch of shows with Little Feat. We just finished doing our ‘Little Feat Ramble on the Island’ getaway in Jamaica. This was our 15th year and we had great guests like Larry Campbell and Theresa Williams, Jackson Browne and Amy Helm. Toward the fall, we usually do a Northeast run with Little Feat.”

The Barrere-Tackett story began in 1972 during the recording of the classic Little Feat album, “Dixie Chicken.” Barerre was the guitarist for the band at that time. Lowell George, the leader of Little Feat, was a close friend of multi-instrumentalist and songwriter Fred Tackett. 

George wanted to record Tackett’s song “Fool Yourself,” so it was there at Clover Studios in Hollywood that they began playing music together.   Many years and many sessions later, Fred became a member of Little Feat when the band reformed in 1987.

“The first album I was on with Little Feat was ‘Dixie Chicken’ and it was the first album with the band as a six-piece,” said Barrere. “It’s been quite a run – a lot of years. Our last album was ‘Rooster Rag’ in 2012. That was a lot of fun.”

Little Feat has released 16 studio albums and 16 live albums. Tackett & Barrere, meanwhile, have released only two albums – both of which are recordings of live shows.

“We’ve been talking about doing a studio album forever,” said Barrere. “Then, when we get home from touring, we start puttering around and we forget about the album. We will record a studio album sometime in the not too distant future. I’m constantly playing guitar – and I’m writing all the time.

“When Fred and I play as an acoustic duo, we do a lot of Little Feat stuff. It’s neat because we get to put a different spin on the songs. ‘Dixie Chicken’ sounds a lot different. And, we do ‘Rocket in My Pocket’ with guitar and mandolin. The songs are so descriptive.”

Video link for Tackett & Barrere — https://youtu.be/g1lr95GsOZg.

The show at the Ardmore Music Hall, which has Lupe Gare as the opener, will start at 7:03 p.m. Tickets are $20 in advance and $25 day of show.

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