Constantine Maroulis earned a Tony Award nomination playing a rock star on Broadway. He had another role on Wednesday in Savannah Center – the god of rock resurrecting the 80s.
It was Classic Rock nirvana and we’re not talking about Kurt Cobain’s old band. Maroulis threw his body, heart, mind, and musical soul on a sweaty, heartbreaking, heart-pounding journey into the 80s.
On stage, he acted like a cross between Axl Rose and Bono, with a little Robert Plant added in for good measure. Maroulis was jumping, running and screaming with joy and abandonment. He grabs his mic stand like a spear. He also bolted to the stage a few times, for trips to the audience and even made his way to the bleachers to lead a chant.
Maroulis, 47, is best known for his Broadway performance in “Rock of Ages” and his appearance on “American Idol” in 2005.
But on Wednesday, he was firing off one musical sonic explosion after another with his “Foreigners Journey” concert to a packed house at the Savannah Center.
It was classic rock as it was, in the good old days of big hair, mules and MTV. No one could match the voices of Steve Perry and Lou Gramm – the lead singers of Journey and Foreigner – but that wasn’t the point of this show.
Maroulis’ acting skills, vocal dexterity and magnetic stage presence have somehow brought old songs back to life, while remaining true to their origins. More importantly, he captured the rock and roll spirit with unbridled zest.
He had plenty of help from an impressive band that featured the smoldering guitar thumps of Kevin Alexander Herrera. The group also included Adam Tese, saxophone; Paul Kochanski, keyboards; Joe Pettengill, bass and Arthur Mambuca, drums.
“Me and the boys got together to make music and have fun – welcome to the rock show,” Maroulis said. “This is our first trip to The Villages, and we hear you all like to party. Hope you locked up your golf carts.
It didn’t take long for the house to start rocking. Maroulis, with long black curly hair, wore a black leather jacket, sunglasses and tight white jeans. He ripped “Double Vision”, a staple of Foreigner. He prowled the stage, greeted the fans and sometimes threw punches at an imaginary enemy to wake up the crowd.
Maroulis offered more hypertheatrics on “Urgent,” another heart-pounding number, as did “Feels Like the First Time.”
Things slowed down with Journey’s power ballad, “Who’s Crying Now.” Maroulis and the boys got back to performing on “Be Good to Yourself” and “As Cold As Ice.”
The mood changed again when Maroulis took a seat near the front of the stage for his rendition of Journey’s soulful ballad, “Faithfully.”
“I want to dedicate this to the men and women who serve in armed forces around the world, protecting us,” he said. He added that the song was also aimed at first responders and teachers.
Midway through the song, Maroulis jumped off the stage and walked down the aisle, as white-lit cellphones waved through the air.
He kept walking until he reached the elevated section of the Savannah Center and climbed the steps halfway to lead the audience into the chant. It was a powerful moment, and Maroulis’ acting chops added to the emotion.
Then came another musical surprise. Maroulis paid tribute to Toto, with catchy versions of “Rosanna”, “Africa” and “Hold the Line”.
Next comes a searing mix of Foreigner’s “Juke Box Hero”, combined with Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love”. You could feel the goosebumps rising, when Herrera did like Jimmy Page on lead guitar while Maroulis took center stage and shouted his way through Led Zeppelin’s all-time standard.
It was all part of Constantine Maroulis’ rock and roll fantasy. “I will never forget that night in The Villages,” he said.
Neither do seated people.
Tony Violanti covers arts and music for Villages-News.com. He was inducted into the Buffalo NY Music Hall of Fame as a music journalist.