What a perfect setting to watch a Saturday afternoon concert, in person, or online. Award-winning musician John Cruz performed an outdoor show last Saturday at the beautiful Mauna Kea Beach Hotel, only a short distance from the shoreline. The sold-out event was presented by the Kahilu Theatre and allowed nearly 100 attendees to sit socially distanced, sip a mai tai, and soak up some sun while Cruz and his six-piece band played a variety of his classics and latest material.
But the sold-out concert wasn’t limited to this intimate crowd. The theatre also live-streamed it on their new Kahilu TV platform. Box Office Manager Eric Kwan interacted with global viewers in the comment section of the video stream, while the tech crew captured the show.
The show started with a brief introduction from Sara Nealy, the Kahilu’s newly appointed Executive Director. Nealy’s impressive credentials extend from San Francisco to the Big Island. It was her first public appearance since taking the position a month ago.
Cruz seemed energized with a solid band of talented performers backing him up. His brother Tony, to his immediate left, sang backup vocals. It’s been almost seven years since John Cruz played the Kahilu with his three brothers: Tony, Ernie Cruz Jr., and Guy. Tony is his only surviving brother. In his intro for “Prayer For a Friend,” Cruz said, “You get to a point in your life when you realize that you keep losing people,” and dedicated the song to “all the people we’ve all lost.”
Cruz’s all-star band also included Estaire Godinez who has been featured on over 20 albums and has worked with Prince, Pete Escovedo, and the Brothers Johnson. Bassist Marcus Johnson has performed, recorded, and toured with countless jazz luminaries, including George Benson, Tom Scott, Larry Coryell, and many more. Drummer Michael Casil has played with Kalani Pe’a, Ekolu, and Amy Hanaiali’i. Jazz pianist Sal Godinez (and brother to Estaire) was wonderful on keyboards along with Steve Sarventi who added soulful harmonica on several songs. Many had flown in from Maui to perform with Cruz.
John’s setlist was filled with crowd favorites like “Sitting in Limbo” and “Island Style,” but ones like “Love Will Find a Way” and “Mamon” are filled with deep emotion.
Since the pandemic hit, the Hawaiian singer-songwriter has kept busy writing new material and doing the occasional Facebook live stream. In a recent podcast we did, he mentioned that he lost about 70% of his income from live shows, along with other opportunities. “It’s funny,” noted Cruz during the show, “as live musicians, we’ve been deemed not very essential and we’re going to be the last ones to get back to work. I think it should be the other way around, but…” The frank comment drew an around of applause from the audience.
After the show, I sat down with Cruz for an interview that can be found on Kahilu TV. Cruz revealed that he will be releasing a special 25th-anniversary edition of his album Acoustic Soul on CD and vinyl, and it will feature previously unreleased bonus tracks along with many personal photos.
Notes & Links
John Cruz Setlist: (75 minutes) | Nana | Love Will Find A Way | Island Style | I Wanna Be The One With You| Prayer For a Friend | Ka Ipo Lei Manu | Sitting in Limbo | Song For Sin | Mamon | Burning Bridges | Shine On |
Encore: Nana*| Love Will Find A Way* | Hilo Town |
Concert date: 30/JAN/ 2021
Musicians: John Cruz (lead vocals/guitar), Michael Casil (drums/vocals), Marcus Johnson (bass/vocals), Sal Godinez (keyboard/vocals), Estaire Godinez (percussion/vocals), Steve Sargenti (Harmonia/vocals), Tony Cruz (vocals).
To catch a show and stay up to date with the Kahilu Theatre’s new online platform Kahilu TV and connect with John Cruz, click on the links below.
*Due to technical difficulties with the remote live stream, the first two songs were not broadcast but were performed a second time during the encore.
Photos: Steve Roby