A movie star in real life, Kevin Costner lived his rock-star dream Saturday night at the Texas Club. It’s true that the actor is much less famous for his singing, but he does indeed perform with a real band that plays real songs written by him and members of his band.
Costner walked on stage just after 9 p.m. He sang lead for every song and strummed a Gibson acoustic throughout the 90-minute show. His six-man band Modern West included two lead guitarists, a fiddler and two members of Costner’s ’80s band Roving Boy, singer-guitarist John Coinman and bassist Blair Forward.
The Texas Club, a large music club by Baton Rouge standards, was less than full, but there was plenty of enthusiasm, especially among the ladies in the house.
When his band members played solos during the opening number “Red River,” a rock song in Tom Petty mode, the smiling Costner rolled his sleeves up for the work ahead.
“It’s really good to be here,” he said before launching the night’s second song. “Thank you for going to the movies all these years.”
Many of Costner and Modern West’s songs can pass for contemporary country music. Modern country owes much to the rock music of the ’80s, the era when Costner, Coinman and Forward first performed together.
The music Costner and Modern West make also aligns with Roving Boy’s ’80s music peers, especially Petty, John Mellencamp and the Eagles. The populist bent in the actor’s lyrics, too, as well as his music, parallel the working-class anthems of Mellencamp and Bruce Springsteen.
“I’m not afraid, I’m not afraid of anything now, baby,” Costner pledged in “Turn It On,” a country-rock song. “We’ve made it this far — so cross your heart with mine and let your light turn on.”
The actor’s singing, reflecting many of the movie roles he’s played, has an earnest, down-to-earth quality that fits the lyrics’ often common-man messages.
He doesn’t have a great singing voice or, for instance, the stadium-commanding delivery of that great communicator, Springsteen, but he carries a tune, sings with laid-back, comfortable style and gets the lyrics across.
Costner’s empathy-with-the-people songs include another of his Petty-sounding rockers, “Five Minutes from America.” Introducing the song, something he often did Saturday, he explained that it was written when he was shooting a movie in Shreveport with a crew that included many New Orleans residents displaced by Hurricane Katrina.
“Now I’m watching the world pass me by,” he sang. “Saw the roof of my house on the TV sitting in my motel room.”
Making another Louisiana connection, one that always gets a Baton Rouge crowd going, the actor-singer said he’s looking forward to attending an LSU game in Tiger Stadium. That spoken-aloud wish served as an intro to “Stand Strong,” a song at the Southern rock end of Modern West’s repertoire, composed by band member Teddy Morgan with John Oates of Hall & Oates fame.
Also on Saturday’s set list was the bluegrass-gone-gothic “Devil’s a Long Way from Home,” from the Costner-starring “Hatfields & McCoys” miniseries.
For an encore, the group played a much more rock than folk rendition of “Mr. Tambourine Man,” including verses from the Bob Dylan classic not included in the Byrds’ 1965 hit version.
The audience had a good time, but Costner, living a dream delayed for many years, may have had more fun than anyone.
In New Orleans for a five-week shoot for a film he is starring in and producing, “Black and White,” Costner will join Modern West again Saturday at the House of Blues in New Orleans.