Last Saturday night, Hawaiian Style Band returned to the Kahilu Theatre after a two-year pandemic pause while the venue reinvented itself with a livestream network called Kahilu TV. With a packed house, as much as the mayor will allow, HSB thrilled their Big Island fans with a solid show of classic hits and hula.
This was my third HSB concert, and I never grow tired of their signature three-way harmonies on the Crosby, Stills, & Nash classic “Helplessly Hoping,” or the emotionally rich “Heiau.”
HSB brought their regular backing band, Shawn Pimental on bass, Garin Poliahu (from Hawi) on drums, and Michael Grande on keyboards, who was in the original HSB line-up 25 years ago. Mahalo to Kahilu stage tech Ryan Hooley for supplying the band with two of his acoustic guitars minutes before showtime.
For “Wahine ʻIlikea” and “Love and Honesty,” Sistah Robi invited hula dancer Malia Mahi to join the six-piece band on stage. When Mahi is not performing with HSB, she’s a flight attendant for Hawaiian Airlines.
The audience was in great spirits with “chee-whoo!” bursts and clapped along to several songs. There were also loud cheers when Sistah Robi announced guitarist/co-founder Wade Cambern’s 64th birthday. Robi expressed her gratitude to the Kahilu for continuing to invite them to perform, especially last year when the venue was only doing outdoor concerts at the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel.
HSB’s lead guitarist and original member Bryan Kessler offered many brilliant solos throughout the show, including “Rhythm of the Ocean” and “Live a Little.”
When the pandemic cleared the band’s calendar of upcoming shows, Cambern and Kessler kept busy with solo projects. Kessler collaborated on Kauai guitarist Allan Thomas’ seventh album “The Journey” and an instrumental album titled “Feel Hawai’i.”
Cambern worked with the Central Union Church of Honolulu, performing for their online services, and writing and arranging for their musical needs. He also worked with local cinematographer Jesse Tunison on a movie called “Pride of Profit,” which is about the legalization of marijuana and is due for an April release.
Sistah Robi recorded with her nephew Caleb Camarillo on an EP and did a recent show with local bassist Emma Coloma-Nakano at the Royal Kona Resort. Robi is also planning to sell her house on Oahu and move to Waimea.
HSB fans can look forward to new material in the months ahead. “One song is called ‘We Stay Jamming,’ noted Cambern in our post-show interview. “It’s about getting back out there, playing music, and having some fun.” “The other is an upbeat tune called ‘Song of Hope.’ It’s basically about a bird, a metaphor for hope. We’re not sure yet about doing a new album. They’re kind of a thing of the past. We just want to see if we can attract some new listeners with these singles and see how far these songs will go.”
Notes & Links
Oli Kono | Let’s Talk Story | Happy Just to Be with You | Deeper In Love | No Ke Ano Ahiahi | The First Hawaiian | Maunaloa | Helplessly Hoping | Old Style Way | Wahine ʻIlikea | Living In a Sovereign Land | Love and Honesty | Kaimana Hila | Loving You | By The Rivers of Babylon | Rhythm of the Ocean | Live a Little |
Concert Date: 13/March/2022
Photos: Steve Roby
Steve Roby is the editor of Big Island Music Magazine.