Photo by Mike O’Brien
The 802 Music Series held at Paramount gives props to the local music scene, offering intimate concerts right on the stage, with just a few seats available for the shows.
By DJ Dave Hoffenberg
One of my favorite albums of all time is coming to life this Thursday, Aug. 10 at 7:30 p.m. at the Paramount Theatre. An all-star band of over a dozen local musicians and singers will be there to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the release of U2’s “Joshua Tree” album. They will be performing it live and in total with a few choice extras. I saw the “Joshua Tree” tour back in 1986 and that concert is in my top 10 of all time so needless to say, I am very excited for this show. It’s part of the 802 Series and only costs $15 to get in. What’s cool about the seating is it will be on the stage with the curtain closed for a more intimate performance. It’s general admission seating with the doors opening at 7 p.m.
U2 released “Joshua Tree” in 1987 — 30 years ago, and it sold 25 million copies. The band has decided to tour this summer on the album for a second time. The album launched a string of hits, including “With or Without You,” “Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” and “Where The Streets Have No Name.”
Rutland musician and promoter George Nostrand has pulled together a house band to back a rotating cast of area favorite vocalists, who will sing the songs. The production is a new twist on the 802 Vermont Music Showcase, started in 2015 by Nostrand and the Paramount’s program director, Eric Mallette, with the goal of bringing more local musicians to the main stage. Included in the line-up are Killington regulars Jenny Porter and Tony Lee Thomas. Chris Pallutto, who opened the first Friday Night Live event of the year is also performing. Singer/ songwriter Kris Collet is singing, as are some names you might not know, but are prepared to surprise you.
I had the pleasure of speaking with Nostrand and Jonathan Czar, musical director and a part of the house band. Nostrand saw in the U.K’s Mojo magazine that U2 was touring this year, and since they were not coming to Rutland, he started to put this together a few months ago. He did try reaching out to U2’s people but had no success in a call back. He said, “I was a big fan of the ‘Joshua Tree’ album and as a musician I also learned a lot of those songs when I was first learning to play guitar because the root chords of those songs are fairly simple.” Nostrand wants to give kudos to Mallette and the Paramount for taking a risk on this show. It’s the fifth in the series and while it has not been a money maker so far, they are still willing to do it. Nostrand commented, “That is pretty cool and they let us rehearse on the stage which was awesome. They’re willing to support the local scene. It’s not all about the dollars to them.”
Nostrand knew of Czar through a mutual friend, Marcos Levy, who plays with Czar in The Plumb Bobs. Nostrand said, “I knew Czar was a huge U2 fan but didn’t know how huge until we started this project. He is the ‘Edge’ and that was very exciting to find out, complete with all the toys, bells and whistles.”
Czar said, “Originally George wanted The Plumb Bobs as the house band but when Marcos couldn’t do it, I practically begged George to still include me.” Levy also plays with the Irish band Extra Stout and that’s where Nostrand first learned of him. Levy said, “Even though I only played mandolin with them, I managed to sprinkle in a few U2 songs among all the traditional Irish tunes.”
The house band for this show will consist of Czar on guitar, Jared Johnson on bass and Ross Edmunds on drums. They will play the whole show with a rotating cast of singers doing different tunes. Nostrand said, “Tony Lee Thomas is one of those people, and he came to rehearsal the other night and was literally jumping up and down in excitement when he heard Jonathan playing guitar. He immediately ran through town telling people about it.”
Even though this show has the makings of this being a U2 tribute band, it’s more of a U2 all star band. I think it’s going to be unique because you don’t see these musicians performing U2 on a normal basis. Czar said, “Even though these are simple chords to play, there is a lot of complexity to bring out. Plus, a tribute band dresses the part and plays the parts exactly. This has been a lot of fun because even though we’re faithful to the music, it’s not exact, especially since we have female singers.”
My favorite song on the album is “No Tree Hill,” so I’m most looking forward to that and “Streets.” Czar said, “My daughter and I have a joke that if ‘Streets’ comes on the radio when we arrive at our destination, we don’t get out of the car until it’s over.” Nostrand added, “I would say ‘In God’s Country’ is one of mine, because I used to play that at open mics a lot when I was just starting out, and a buddy of mine would always push me to belt it out. In my Lou Reed low voice I would try.” The “Streets” performance Thursday will be with Mariah Freemole, and Nostrand said, “Wait until you hear it, because she nails it. She used to sing with Rip Jackson who is the former music director at Grace Church.”
Nostrand is excited about “Bullet the Blue Sky,” because it is one of the harder ones and singing it will be Winter Jackson who has never sung out professionally. He said, “She can belt it out and kind of does this bluesy rendition of it. I think that’s going to really catch people’s attention because it’s different than what’s on the album and the band really kills it.” Czar added, “That makes me feel good, George, because I thought I might have been weak on that one.” Nostrand laughed hearing that.
Czar is excited about a few songs that were pretty good right from the beginning of rehearsal. “‘In God’s Country’ was there right off. I’m really excited to play ‘Streets’ and very nervous about it, too, because it has that element that if we don’t hit a couple moments right, where will we be? We’ve played it a couple of times and it’s been dynamite. Also, ‘With or Without You’ — I had some trepidation about — but when we put it together with our singer, I got goose bumps.”
Nostrand wanted to emphasize that this is a professional production with professional musicians and singers who have rehearsed this. It’s not an open mic, karaoke or some kind of jamming out. He said, “It’s going to be tight and sound really good. Jonathan and I started out in my apartment so it has come a long way.”
I think this is going to be one of those shows that if you miss it, you will be bumming. This show will be talked about for a long time after. There are a lot of great musicians in this region and this all-star band is really going to shine as U2 and play the heck out of this “Joshua Tree” album.