By Rick Polo (Editor-in-Chief)
An assortment of some of the area’s most well-known and eclectic talent will join forces this Friday at Suzie’s Dogs and Drafts for a career-spanning tribute to Prince. Since his passing on April 21 of this year, there has been a far-reaching cry across the musical landscape for the iconic multi-instrumental songwriter. A fact no different here in the Valley, as musicians from acts such as The Zou, The Vindys and Jude Benedict and The Last Drop, among many more, will take the stage to express their love, admiration and gratitude for the works of The Purple One.
The event was spear-headed by Kyle O’Donnell and John Anthony, both of whom will be taking part in the performance. O’Donnell said musicians from Youngstown, Warren, and Pittsburgh, as well other parts of Pennsylvania will be taking part, for a diverse representation of the region.
“I actually didn’t even meet some of the guys in the band, who are from PA, until 2 days before our first rehearsal, but I’m excited that they’re willing to bring their talents to Youngstown for a night,” said O’Donnell.
The initial bond that unites these musicians is, of course, the music of Prince. Anthony said that following his death, he decided to analyze himself as a musician and just how important of a role Prince played.
“With the passing of Prince, I felt as a guitar player I always wanted to dive more into his musical vocabulary but always pushed it aside because my focus was always working on different music. Myself and our drummer, Kelvin Newell, had spoke about doing a Prince tribute show for years however we were never able to make a particular date work with our schedules. Once Prince passed, I like everyone else, began to revisit a lot of the music and felt that it was time to really study his guitar playing,” explained Anthony.
There’s no denying the impact Prince made on the musical landscape. Khaled Tabbara of The Zou explained the significance of Prince’s discography and how it influenced the sound of artists to follow.
“Prince’s is one of the greatest artists and performers in the history of modern music. His impact on rock and popular music is unsurpassed. Equal (or greater than in some ways) to the Beatles or Dylan. Even if you think you don’t like Prince, he is probably your favorite artist’s favorite artist. If you like, Beyonce, Beck, Dave Grohl, Justin Timberlake, Stevie Wonder, Rhianna, Trent Reznor, or most things you hear on the radio, you are listening to music made by Prince fans,” said Tabbara.
O’Donnell said that his legacy is on par with that of greats like Michael Jackson.
“Some people might not believe it, but Prince was once talked about in the same breath as musicians such as Michael Jackson. Actually, the story goes that Michael Jackson asked Prince to sing on his song “Bad,” but Prince turned it down. Jackson is responsible for the best selling album of all time, so being considered to be on his level speaks to Prince’s talent,” said O’Donnell.
“He put out 1999, which is a totally cool, electronic synth-pop record, and about a year later, dropped Purple Rain, what many consider one of the greatest rock records ever made,” added Tabbara.
Anthony said that although he discovered Prince slightly later in the game, the impact was felt no less.
“Prince was an artist that I did not discover until high school. My parents did not play him in our house and it wasn’t until his performance at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction in 2004 that I found out who he was,” said Anthony.
O’Donnell, Tabbara and Anthony all agree that this tribute will give justice to Prince’s musical and cultural impact and turn casual or non-fans into believers.
“This show will obviously showcase the classics, but it will also showcase some of the lesser known tunes. I bet that we will have some audience members say to themselves, ‘Oh, I know this song,’ but they might never have realized that it was Prince. I think that this will really outline how even the non-fan was impacted by Prince’s music,” said O’Donnell.
“This show is full of musicians from across the musical spectrum; rock guys, pop girls, jazz and classical cats, funk and R&B fans. We all come from different musical influences, but we are all huge Prince fans,” added Tabbara.
All three musicians share an excitement and enthusiasm upon performing with one another, bringing out the best in one another and doing so in such an unconventional fashion.
“Many of the musicians who are playing this group were picked because of their love of his music. These individuals are some of the best musicians in the area who look at taking an artist’s work and playing it at the highest level of musicianship possible,” said Anthony.
“This is perhaps the most interesting part of this gig. I feel like the story behind the story is the band. In the past, myself and John Anthony have done a number of tribute shows with multiple groups of musicians,” added O’Donnell.
“I’ve known a lot of these musicians for a while, but I’m really excited to have a chance to finally play with them. It’s going to be a really dynamite show,” finished Tabbara.
O’Donnell said that although he doesn’t want to reveal too much, this tribute will be one to remember, with plenty of surprises in store.
“Well, I’m not going to give away too much about the set list, but Prince was very unique and eclectic, so the audience will experience a wide range of styles and themes. We will play music from four different decades, so we plan to cater to both the casual fan and the diehard one.
“Performance wise, we’re going to have a pretty good balance of group playing and solo jams. We have a huge amount of talent in the band and we want to showcase that as much as possible,” O’Donnell said.
“Like many of the other tribute shows that we have done, it’s always exciting to see the people who come to these shows because typically you see the excitement and nostalgia that a lot of this music is going to bring them,” added Anthony.
Lastly, O’Donnell commented that all of the greats to come before and after Prince, the timeless music will continue to inspire and intrigue generations to come.
“I think that Prince’s lasting influence was already being felt, even before his death. When you think about artists like Prince, David Bowie, Elton John, etc., it’s easy to go straight to the crazy outfits and the odd behavior. Beneath all of that, they are all incredible musicians who are very proficient at their craft. Moving forward, I think that future generations will have more awareness of who Prince was, the level of talent that he possessed, and just how prolific of a career he had,” O’Donnell said.
The Tribute will take place at Suzie’s Dogs and Drafts in downtown Youngstown on Friday, June 10. Here is the complete lineup of musicians involved:
Vocals: Khaled Tabbara – Youngstown, OH (Band leader for The Zou)
Guitar: John Anthony – Youngstown, OH (Guitarist for The Vindys)
Keyboard: Doug Finley – Pittsburgh, PA (Guitarist for Jude Benedict and The Last Drop)
Bass: Dave Traugh – Kiski Area, PA (Bassist for Jude Benedict and The Last Drop)
Drums: Kelvin Newell – Warren, OH
Backing Vocals: Katianne Timko – Youngstown, OH (K808)
Aux. Percussion: Jon Pincek – Pittsburgh, PA
Trumpet 1: Tim Tuite – Youngstown, OH
Trumpet 2: Kyle O’Donnell – Youngstown, OH
Trombone 1: Brian Mayle – Youngstown, OH
Trombone 2: Sean Durkin – Youngstown, OH
Saxophones: Stephen Harvey – Rochester, PA