You saw Kevin Bacon on the silver screen in the ‘80s in classics like "Friday the 13th," "Diner," "Quicksilver," "The Big Picture") and watched him rock the box office in the ‘90s and ‘00s ("Flatliners," "Apollo 13," "Stir of Echoes" and "Mystic River." He even won a Golden Globe for his turn in the HBO postwar drama "Taking Chance."
But did you know that Kyra Sedgwick’s beau is also an accomplished singer-songwriter?
Granted, the leading man gets a little help in the music department from his big brother: Michael Bacon is an accomplished composer with dozens of film scores and TV jingles (ABC’s Turning Point, The Century, PBS’s Jewish Americans, Bill Moyer’s Journal) to his credit. The Philadelphia-bred brothers have been strumming guitars together since their teens—and they’ve been recording and touring as a duo (or larger band) since the mid-1990s, lending their tight, fraternal harmonies to insightful verses that speak to one’s inner self as much as the human condition as a whole.
The siblings are on the road again this summer to promote their latest Forosco Records release, The Bacon Brothers.
“It took us years to come up with that title,” joked Kevin last night (July 11) at the Music Box Supper Club in Cleveland.
“Years and years, and like, seven CDs. They don’t even call them ‘CDs’ anymore, do they?” he mused. “It’s not like you can just go down to Tower Records or Blockbuster and buy it.”
Whatever you call it—a record, CD, stream, or download—Michael and Kevin offered up songs from that eponymous new effort Wednesday evening in the cozy confines of the hip, dinner-style venue overlooking the Cuyahoga River. Guitar/piano chanteuse Cindy Alexander opened (and joined the brothers late in their set, too).
We caught The Bacon Brothers’ impressive act and took a few notes: Here are five reasons you should go all in for extra Bacon this summer. You know, decrease your “Bacon Number” to just one degree of separation from the man himself.
1. The Bacon Brothers aren’t some parlor trick or dog-and-pony show.
Okay, so you know going in that Kevin Bacon is a Hollywood heartthrob with serious acting chops, and perhaps you’re even aware that older brother Michael is an accomplished television tune-smith. But if it’s your first Bacon Brothers show, you walk in wondering if the middle-aged mates can truly pull off the music thing live, on stage, in a relatively small club.
The Bacon Brothers are no novelty show, no mere vanity act or peripheral project whose sole purpose for being is to occupy the duo’s downtime from their day jobs. These cats can play (and sing) and command your undivided attention…even in restaurant-style environs with waiters walking the aisles, diners chatting with neighbors, and background noises (clinging glasses and silverware) threatening to disrupt the proceedings.
Michael wielded acoustic and electric guitars throughout the set, while Kevin shuffled between acoustic guitar, harmonica, and a bongo drum. Each handled his share of lead vocals—but they did lots of blending, too. “Driver” and “Don’t Lose Me, Boy” were rowdy warm-ups, “So Cal Smooth” a plucky paean to L.A. life, and “Tom Petty T-Shirt” a poignant power ballad (an homage to the late Heartbreakers rocker).
2. The stories and between-song banter are fun.
Michael shared a funny anecdote about a past show where Kevin bumped his head on a microphone. A woman in the audience kept trying to get his attention to tell him he was bleeding, but Kevin just kept ignoring her, having dismissed her as an overzealous fanatic.
“Our dad always seemed to have a head wound,” reflected Kevin. “He was a tall guy, always bumping things.”
“Broken Glass” was a nod to life as an impulsive, twenty-something hedonist. “Paris” was a surprisingly swinging, jazz-like number that featured Michael on cello—and showcased the backing band.
3. The Bacon Brothers aren’t just the brothers.
And how about that backing band?
Bolstering and beefing up the Bacon mixes was a four-man unit whose individual chops dropped a few jaws in Cleveland. Frank Vilardi was a versatile drummer, employing sticks, brushes, and mallets to create just the right textures on the soulful “Whole Lot of Shade,”railroad/wanderlust ballad “Road We Know Too Well,” and the dynamic, Zydeco-drenched (and Pogues-esque) “36 Cents.” Guitarist Tim Quick had a sharp, searing pick attack on his Gibson SG guitar. Bassist Paul Guzzone thumped a gold-top Epiphone four-string (and sang the higher, tenor notes). Keyboardist Joe Mennonna manhandled an electric organ and Roland synth, slathering the songs with pseudo-strings, ragtime piano, and swirling, church-like chords. He also busted out a shiny saxophone, too, and traded licks down the front (with Quick) on the bluesy closing number “You Live With the Lie.”
Kevin strummed both six and twelve-string guitars and performed traveling song “I Feel You” primarily as a solo acoustic piece. Then he took up a ukulele (with a dangling green glow-worm) for the Tin Pan Alley skiffle “Perfect Pitch.”
4. It’s Kevin Bacon, silly.
Casual fans might get a little star-struck seeing the Baconator up-close and in-person just a few feet in front of their faces. After a couple numbers, however, the spell dissipates, and you realize that the sometime-cinema villain ("Hollow Man," "River Wild," "X-Men: First Class") is just another dude, a regular guy who—like most of us—enjoys his music, and who just happens to possess the talent required to write and perform it with his brother.
But then Bacon (with his schoolboy grin) starts dancing to the rhythms, back turned, denim-clad derriere swaying to the beat. The females in the crowd respond vociferously (and perhaps amusingly inappropriately) and you’re reminded that yep, this is the original Ren McCormick—the uppity, Sammy Hagar-lovin’ outsider who thwarted John Lithgow’s uptight pastor in "Footloose."
Kevin didn’t allude to his movie stardom much, other than to reminisce about a picture he’d shot in Cleveland twenty-odd years ago ("Telling Lies in America"). But he did combine the two worlds by playing a song he’d written for the "Tremors" soundtrack (“Beneath Perfection”).
“I was feeling a little beneath perfect myself at the time,” he reported. “I figured the song would be a big hit and the movie would be a box office smash!”
“Neither thing happened! But I’ve still got the song!”
The romantic “Two Rivers” was another winner, as was Kevin’s ode-to-a-tour-bus, “Bus.”
K-Dog can’t drive 55, either…and he can’t not dance when that big beat drops.
5. Cindy Alexander is a stellar support act.
Los Angeles-based songbird Cindy Alexander opened the show at eight o’clock with a few gems gathered from throughout her twenty-year career, along with a brand new single (“My Favorite Artist”). Her latest album, Nowhere to Hide (Blue Elan Records), is available now on iTunes and Amazon.
Accompanied by friend Ali Handal on acoustic guitar and backing vocals, Alexander enchanted on both guitar (a Taylor acoustic) and piano (Yamaha electric)—and unleashed a soulful, spiritual voice whose power belied her petite frame.
“I’m your appetizer!” Alexander greeted early-arrivers before sliding behind her piano for the elegant “I See Stars” (from 1999’s See Red).
But Alexander’s set proved to be more satisfying and substantial than a batch of mere musical hors d’oeuvres: Cindy wailed on the title cut from 2016’s “Deep Waters” and pondered hieroglyphic love letters carved in cobalt mountains on new travelogue “Passenger.” She celebrated five years of being cancer-free with the feisty “Fireball” and sent out a salute to life’s little shake-ups with “Soul Quake” (from 2012’s Every Little Rise and Fall).
Rather than go big (or loud) for her encore, Alexander sat with Handal on the edge of the stage, where the two ladies went “campfire style” on Tom Petty’s “American Girl.” Their voices (and harmonies) projected throughout the room even sans microphones, and the audience enthusiastically chimed in on the oh, yeah, all right refrains, too.
Cindy and Ali came back out with Michael and Kevin for The Bacon Brothers encore—which was also a Petty cover. Unlike the coffeehouse version of “American Girl,” however, the ensemble take on “Don’t Do Me Like That” (from 1979’s Damn the Torpedoes) was a boisterous affair that showcased everyone’s voices and instrumental prowess.
It was a fun way to cap a fantastic night.