Last Friday night, Hawaiian music icon Henry Kapono returned to the Kahilu Theatre for a two-hour and twenty-song show, along with a surprise guest appearance.
Kapono began his concert with a solo acoustic version of Van Morison’s “Crazy Love.” However, before the audience was lulled entirely into a mellow mood, percussionist extraordinaire Lopaka Colón entered the stage, djembe drum in tow. He started banging out an infectious Bo Didley beat while recreating exotic bird calls that could be heard in the lobby. Next, drummer Wendall Ching joined in, and then bassist Matt Krahula. Kapono then led his trio into an upbeat version of his classic “Home in the Islands.”
Henry paced the set perfectly with highs and lows, jokes, talk stories, and plenty of familiar songs for his faithful fans and new ones.
On a serious note, Kapono reflected on the beginning days of the pandemic when things seemed grim, and tours and shows were canceled. “I lost all of my gigs, and a year-and-a-half [of income]was gone,” Kapono recalled.
Quickly realizing the dire situation impacted all Hawaiian musicians, Kapono raised $200,000 through his charitable foundation and gave out $500 Foodland grocery gift cards to needy musicians and their families. “This helped them get their feet back on the ground and to start thinking about what’s next.” The crowd responded in approval of his generosity.
Kapono’s set provided plenty of opportunities for his backing band to shine. On the 7os hit “Black Magic Woman,” Ching and Colón locked in the groove – cymbals crashing, congas and timbales pounding, while Krahula held down the bottom end. Kapono gave us a Santana-like solo, although I would’ve liked to have heard more of his guitar in the mix, especially when he attempted to get some melodic feedback with his amp toward the end. Fans in the fourth row got first prize for showing best enthusiasm during this number.
The audience also enjoyed singing along to “Goodnight and Good Morning” and “Danny’s Song” and knew all the words. The couple seated in front of me held hands and stopped for a brief nostalgic kiss.
About midway in the show, Kapono brought out fellow musician and one-third of The Rough Riders, Brother Noland. Noland was in great spirits and took the spotlight for his hit “Coconut Girl.” Again, the crowd enjoyed their call-and-response part. Kapono saw the audience thriving and noted that the Zoom livestreams got us through the pandemic, but nothing replaces being part of a live in-person show.
Kapono ended his set with “Sailing,” a touching song written about his father.
The concert came to a triumphant close with the hana hou “Good Time Together,” and that we indeed had.
This year looks like a busy one for the award-winning musician. First, Kapono and his band will headline the 19-year strong Pure Aloha Festival in Las Vegas on April 23. Then, in June, he’s part of an all-star line-up featuring Hawai‘i’s most iconic musical artists at the Waikiki Shell. In addition, Kapono will be back in the studio working on his 22nd album and will release digital singles throughout 2022.
Notes & Links
Crazy Love | Home in the Islands | Friends | Railway Station | Gotta Get Away | Beautiful Day | Island Boy | Sunflower | Goodnight and Good Morning | Highway in the Sun | Sweet Life | Waimanalo Blues | Coconut Girl | Little Grass Shack | Black Magic Woman/Gypsy Queen | Night Music | Sunshine Rival | Dukes on Sunday | Danny’s Song |
Good Time Together
Concert Date: 03/04/2022
Read a review of his 2018 Kahilu Theatre concert here.
Steve Roby is a music journalist, best-selling author, and originally from San Francisco. He’s been featured in the NY Times, Rolling Stone, and Billboard Magazine. Roby is also the Editor of Big Island Music Magazine.
Photos: Steve Roby