There was a sense of awe that washed over Robert Cazimero’s faithful fans as the theatre’s red curtains began to slowly rise, and an elaborate set of fresh ferns and tropical flowers suspended from the ceiling was revealed. Seated at the Steinway, the multi-talented kumu hula, singer, songwriter, and world-class entertainer launched his 34th appearance at the Kahilu with a medley of heart-felt songs. His Waimea concerts have become a post-May/Lei Day tradition here on the Big Island.
Cazimero, now 70, took time to reminisce with the audience about his pre-Kahilu Theatre performances. “It was more like a gym back then,” recalled the singer about its original location across town. “If you remba’ then you local.”
After welcoming the sold-out crowd, Cazimero said he had two things he wanted to announce – “I’m so frickin’ happy to be here, and my voice is in great shape tonight!” He also acknowledged local piano tuner Darby Thompson who gave special care to the Kahilu’s prized Steinway just before the show. “It makes me sound like an orchestra… I’m so good, I can’t stand it!.” With that, he paid tribute to one of Hawaii’s best-known composers R. Alex Anderson and featured some his popular tunes like “Lovely Hula Hands,” and “The Cockeyed Mayor of Kaunakakai.” Hula dancer Sky augmented the music beautifully.
Cazimero was amazed at the attention given to the stage decorations for Saturday’s performance. Waimea floral artist Buzzy Histo painstakingly displayed arrangements of birds of paradise, hibiscus, and plumerias at the foot of the stage, around the piano, and hanging from the rafters. There was also a large fragrant gardenia lei (the size of an inflated life vest) presented to the singer by one of the concert sponsors. Cazimero nicknamed the stage “Manoaakalani.”
Four of Cazimero’s all-male hula dancers from his Hālau Na Kamalei o Lililehua randomly joined him on stage for a series of numbers. Keeping with his custom of calling out mistakes that dancers make, and making them pay with drinks, Cazimero stopped mid-song, wagged his finger, and said to one of the dancers, “I’ve been watching you, and you’re up to a twelve-pack!”
After a 15-minute intermission, Cazimero and his dancers returned to the stage for the second half of the show. Cazimero invited his cousin and the Kahilu’s former Operations Director Alva Kamalani up to the stage to dance hula and join in on chants.
Cazimero wrapped up his two-hour show with what he called the theme of show, “Home and Family,” which seemed appropriate since the following day was Mother’s Day. After performing “The One They’d Call Hawaii,” Cazimero cued up a prerecorded version “Manoaakalani” with all of the dancers joining in, and bursts of cheers filled the auditorium. As the last notes faded, the crowd gave Cazimero a well-deserved standing ovation.
Wear a Lei | Ua Braek ‘Oe My Heart | Ahulili | My Wahine and Me /Hali’ilua | Haole Hula/I Wanna Love Her and Leave Her on the Lava | My Sweet Gardenia Lei | Hawaiian Lullaby | Rainbow Me Home at the End of the Day |The Sound of the Sea Surrounds Me | Haleakala | Maui: Hawaiian Superman | Halakala Hula|
Waimea Lullaby | Pua ‘Ahihi | Makee ‘Ailana | Ole: Alva Kamalani | Hole Waimea | Noluna I Ka Halekai O | Olie: Boong | Kala Kaua | Medley: When I Think of Home/Waimea Lullaby/ Feels Like Home/ Home in the Islands/ The One They’d Call Hawaii | Manoaakalani |
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 Managing Editor of Big Island Music Magazine.
Photos: Steve Roby