Billy McGuigan and the Downliners (From left to right: Tara Vaughan, Ryan McGuigan, Matthew McGuigan, Billy McGuigan, Adam Stoltenberg, and Max Meyer)
Take a tour through the history of classic rock and roll as Billy McGuigan and his band play the hits from the 50s through the 70s in Rock Legends. Last night Billy and his band, the Downliners, played a sold out, tour de force performance at the Davies Amphitheater in Glenwood, IA.
The show was actually billed as Rock Show, but was a variation of McGuigan’s Rock Legends production. Billy McGuigan once more demonstrated his seemingly limitless musical talent with a pulse pounding, non-stop 90 minute ride that displays an encyclopedic knowledge of classic rock. Billy and the Downliners played some of the biggest hits of the best known bands of the 50s-70s, but also included several one hit wonders and hits that simply don’t get much airplay nowadays. Imbued with that inimitable McGuigan energy, one would swear that Billy and the band wrote all of these tunes themselves as the music seems so fresh and extemporaneous.
The night’s entertainment opened up with Omaha singer/songwriter, Mark Irvin. Irvin has a voice reminiscent of Bryan Adams and a stage presence similar to Roy Orbison. It’s just a man, his guitar, and his music. Irvin is a powerhouse talent whose warm tenor haunted the audience with original numbers such as “I Will Surrender to You”, “I Finally Got it Right”, and “Fly With Me”. He also did an impressive cover of Kenny Loggins’ “Danny’s Song” that had the audience singing right along with him. If you want to get a taste of Irvin’s talent, his music is available on Spotify, iTunes, and Amazon.
Then it was time for the featured act and Billy and company hit the ground running and never let up.
Billy McGuigan drove the night with his trademark wit and indefatigable energy. He and his potent tenor went through an impressive range of high octane songs from “Bye, Bye Love” by the Everly Brothers to “Good Lovin’” by the Rascals to the first rock song, Bill Haley’s “Rock Around the Clock”. How he does this without wearing out, I’ll never know, but he did give himself a bit of a breather with a small set of slower songs capped with a particularly touching rendition of “Don’t Let the Sun Catch You Crying” by Gerry and the Pacemakers.
It’s as much fun to watch Tara Vaughan perform as it is to listen to her sing. Performance wise, she reminds me of Bob Marley in the sense that, like him, she is totally immersed in the music. She doesn’t just play the keyboards with her fingers, she plays with her whole body, heart, and soul. And that sultry alto had me looking for a cold drink after some of her numbers. Notable turns from her came with Lulu’s “To Sir, With Love”, a rocking rendition of the Gene Pitney penned Crystals hit, “He’s a Rebel”, and a dazzling take on “A Little Piece of My Heart” that would have made Janis Joplin proud.
Ryan & Matthew McGuigan
Ryan & Matthew McGuigan nailed it in their time in the spotlight. Ryan paid homage to John Lennon and the Beatles with his takes on “I Feel Fine” and the Lennon solo in “This Boy”. Matthew got a chance to show some impressive versatility as he did The Monkees’ “I’m a Believer” before segueing into Elvis soundalike Terry Stafford’s one hit wonder, “Suspicions”.
Adam Stoltenberg & Max Meyer
Solid support was provided in the forms of Max Meyer and Adam Stoltenberg. Meyer provided a series of superb solos on lead guitar while Stoltenberg’s drum work set a crucial backbeat. Both also got a moment to sing when they each took some verses in The Band’s “The Weight” which was sung by the entire band.
When people hear the name Billy McGuigan, some think Buddy Holly while others may think the Beatles. When I hear the name, I think he’s one of the best musicians Omaha has ever produced. Normally, this is the point where I encourage you to get a ticket. Sadly this was a one night only concert, but fear not. You have another chance to catch Bily and company in action when Billy McGuigan’s Rock Twist opens at the Omaha Playhouse on August 1. The show runs through August 12 with performances running Wed-Sat at 7:30pm and Sundays at 2pm. Contact OCP at 402-553-0800 or visit www.omahaplayhouse.com or www.ticketomaha.com for tickets.
But take my advice, when Rock Legends performs again, don’t miss it. It’s awesome!