He’s an actor, as well as a singer, songwriter, and musician.
As the audience waited for Kevin Costner and his band, Modern West, to take the stage, the house lights inside the historic Ryman Auditorium went dark. Suddenly, scenes from the Oscar-winning Costner’s many movies began flashing across the big screen one. Silverado, The Untouchables, Bull Durham, Wyatt Earp, JFK, and more. Cheers went up as the crowd caught the titles of Dances with Wolves, and Field of Dreams, then a clip of Whitney Houston running toward Costner in The Bodyguard. He’s been in so many movies, the clips ran for more than five minutes.
Then, the screen faded to black, the lights came up, and the six members of Costner’s band were in place on the stage, as he made his entrance from the right side, and the place erupted in thunderous applause.
Early on, he explained that some actors who sing like to keep the movies and the music together, but for Costner, it all blends together.
For nearly 90 minutes he entertained the crowd with original music, stopping in-between songs to talk, make jokes, share stories, and explain the meaning behind some of the lyrics.
As an explanation for a song called “90 Miles an Hour” he recalled his father’s reaction when Costner told him he wanted to be an actor. His dad was concerned and responded with, “How are you going to do that? Who do you know? Don’t tell anybody this is what you want to do.”
Costner got a similar reaction years later when he told his dad he wanted to become a director.
“He said, Kevin, this acting thing is going really good. I don’t know why you want to mess it up.” Costner laughed, then said, “So, when I decided I wanted to go back to music, I just didn’t tell him.”
The actor/musician discovered discovered sometimes you have to follow your heart and take action, and by the time everybody else catches up, you’re “90 miles down the road.”
Costner and his band, which plays Americana, rock, and shades of country, have been together 16 years. They released their first album in 2008, then a second in 2012. After he took the role of “John Dutton” on the TV series “Yellowstone” they released a third album called Tales from Yellowstone, with songs written from the perspective of his character. He plays a powerful sixth-generation father and widower, extremely devoted to his family as he battles the corrupt forces trying to take his land.
He explained how one song, “Won’t Ever Stop Loving You” from the Yellowstone album describes how Dutton feels about his late wife who is never seen on screen, but would have provided such a source of strength for that family. Costner says he listens to it every day before he goes to work on the show.
The set list included music from their previous albums and six new songs, then Costner thanked the crowd and said goodnight. He was called back for an encore and performed two songs, one a band original called “The Angels Came Down,” then a rousing cover of Bob Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man,” the only cover of the night.
At the end, as the band left the stage, Costner stayed for a few minutes. He popped a bottle of champagne and poured it into the cups of a handful of people close to the stage, as he sang Bruce Cockburn’s “Last Night of the World.” There’s a line in the song that says, “What would I do that was different, unless it was champagne with you.”
It was an appropriate ending to a show that, thanks to Costner’s interaction with the audience, felt warmer and more intimate than simply that of an artist performing to some 2200 people in a concert venue. This night was special.
Costner & Modern West continue their tour, and the new season of his popular “Yellowstone” TV show starts November 7th.
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