Blues Brothers tribute artist Wayne Catania is pretty anxious to visit the West Coast later this month, not only to share music with like-minded rythym and blues fans, but to visit the numerous wineries in and around Langley.
Catania (as Jake) and Kieron Lafferty (Elwood) make up the Official Blue Brothers Revue, a duo that a decade ago was handpicked by original Blues Brother Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi’s widow, Judy, to keep the characters of Jake and Elwood alive on stage.
The official revue pair – the Blues Brothers 2.0, if you will – is based out of Ontario. While they have travelled much of the world paying homage to Chicago’s rich history of blues, gospel, and soul music and to the Blues Brothers themselves, this is one of the first times they’ve brought the show to the farthest western borders of Canada, Catania said.
With shows also planned in New Westminster and Nanaimo, the most exciting part of the excursion for these two wine lovers is a visit to Langley – hopefully a day or more ahead of their show at Cascades Casino on Wednesday, Oct. 21.
Catania is hoping for at least a few extra hours – preferably more – to tour the local vineyards.
In actuality, he blames his growing obsession for wines on Lafferty.
“Kieron loves good wine and he’s been training my palette,” Catania said. “If we can get in a day early and enjoy some wine tasting, that would be ideal.”
Catania and Lafferty front this live concert/show that combines the comedy and hits from the original 1980 Blues Brothers blockbuster film and subsequent albums with a multi-media presentation that blends the music with an audio/video introduction putting the original concept of Jake and Elwood as frontmen for a fictitious American blues and soul band into historical perspective.
“Kieron and Wayne are not imitators, they live the music and embody those characters. They understand the spirit of the Blues Brothers and revel in the joy of being Jake and Elwood,” said Judy, who now helps produce the revue, in conjunction with Aykroyd, and Judy’s husband Victor Pisano, and under the musical direction of Paul Shaffer.
“It’s no accident that they’ve succeeded in bringing the irreverent characters that have resonated with people around the world back to life, reminding everyone why Jake and Elwood catapulted into a cultural phenomenon – a musical, comedic and cinematic legend,” Judy added.
The Blues Brothers first came to life in 1978 on the stage of the television comedy show Saturday Night Live. The fictional characters subsequently garnered almost a cult-following that peaked with the release of a movie of the same name. Their popularity continues today, despite the overdose death of actor, comedian, and musician Belushi in 1982.
Today, Jake, Elwood, and the high-energy Intercontinental Rhythm & Blues Revue Band deliver a big sound, apparently performed with the passion and precision of the original Blues Brothers band.
But Catania said his role in reviving the Blues Brothers world came about rather unexpectedly.
He and former musical partner Chris Kennedy performed a Blues Brothers segment in a Legends in Concert show in Vegas for a while. When the show was brought north of the 49th Parallel – to Toronto – the duo were again asked to participate, and said “sure, why not.”
During the Canadian run of Legends, the pair was approached by a director from A&E to take part in a documentary film called Lost in Las Vegas, which would depict the story of these two Canucks playing fictitious characters, and moving to Vegas to pursue their dreams and raise their families.
Having seen the film, Aykroyd, himself, and Belushi’s widow, approached the pair with the idea of producing a six- to eight-month long Blues Brothers Revival in Chicago. After the revival shut down, the decision was made to keep the Blues Brothers alive, and the revue was born. That was more than 10 years ago.
“We’ve been working together ever since,” Catania explained, noting how Kennedy left three months into a one-year run of the Toronto show and was replaced by Lafferty – again, another fluke situation.
Turns out that during auditions for a new Elwood, Lafferty came by to meet up and have lunch with one of the production staff. Lafferty was introduced to Catania and told about the auditions. Lafferty – a “mean” harmonica player and singer/songwriter – didn’t show any really interested in auditioning. He assumed it was little more than a tribute show revolving around lip sync and acting.
But attendance at an upcoming show changed his perception. Lafferty auditioned, and the “energy was so good” the duo have been inseperable ever since, Catania said.
“Everywhere we go, we always receive great support from the audiences. They always join in and have fun,” Catania said, adding that is the case whether it’s a show in Australia, New Zealand, or one of the hundreds of locations they’ve stopped in while travelling coast-to-coast across the U.S.
So, what should the audience expect when the show comes to Langley later this month?
Having developed an interactive show, they expect the crowd to be up on their feet grooving to the Blues Brothers favourites like Shout, Gimme Some Lovin, Sweet Home Chicago and the signature classic, Soul Man.
“You’re going to see the antics of Jake and Elwood. These dues are pretty funny… the whole idea is having a party with the audience, and that we do,” Catania elaborated.
The show will feature Catania and Lafferty, as well as a a six-piece band and two crew members who help bring a multi-media presentation of the show to life.
The show begins at 7 p.m. in the Summit Theatre, and tickets are $52.50 in advance by phone at 604-530-2211 or online at www.ticketweb.ca.
The official Blues Brothers Revue has done more than 200 shows so far this year, and will be in B.C. for just a few days before jetting off to Alberta, followed by Missouri, Iowa and California.
If performing so many live shows isn’t enough, the team – headed up by Belushi’s widow – has also been working on a pilot for a TV show about Jake and Elwood, which they’re hoping will be snatched up soon by a network.
“It would be nice to see these characters come to life on the television,” Catania said. “I don’t want to do another movie. That’s already been done.”
He predicts it’s just going to be a waiting game now.
“Every day, whether it happens or not, this process has been amazing,” he said.
• Never dreamed he’d depict such a blues icon
“I can’t remember not having a passion for music,” Catania said, sharing a little more of his own personal story with the Langley Advance.
He recalled being “really young” and admiring a set of drums in his uncles home, and likewise, watching longingly as guitar and according players came door-to-door selling their wares – all the time wishing they sold drums instead.
“I was wowed by them,” he recalled, noting how his attempts to recreate the percussion sounds of the Beatles, Monkeys, and Led Zeppelin using his mother’s pots and pans was never truly appreciated by their neighbours.
Finally, at age 13, he received his first set of drums and was given one hour daily – between arriving home from school and his dad’s arrival home from work – to “bang away” on those drums in their basement. He noted the police were called to the house a few times due to the noise, but all these and other attempts to stifle his musical aspirations would never proven successful.
Canatia might not be well remembered from his days of living in Calgary where he was working as a drummer with the band Quest, or an even shorter run with the Stampeders, let alone his work as a drummer with an Elton John tribute band.
But he admitted he’s found his niche now, laying down a playlist that’s a virtual encyclopedia of American music with the official Blues Brothers Revue.
They strike what he calls the right balance of humour, music, and mayhem, and he can’t wait to share that magic with the audience in Langley.
Langley Advance ticket contest
Two lucky Langley Advance readers will each pair of tickets to The Official Blues Brothers Revue on Oct. 21.
How do you win?
• Click on the live link in the story about the Official Blues Brothers Revue at www.langleyadvance.com, and tell us why you want to attend this show. You will be entered into the draw.
Preference will be given to Langley residents.
Postings must be received prior to 10 a.m. on Monday, Oct. 19, and the winner will be notified by email. No staff or family of the Langley Advance or Black Press are eligible. This giveaway is restricted to online participants, 19 years or older only. Must include name and phone number.