When rain didn’t materialize, Ralston Bowles & Friends and the Elijah Russ Collective uncorked a lengthy, thoroughly entertaining night at Meijer Gardens. The recap, photo gallery and video highlights.
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The heat index in Grand Rapids hit triple-digits on Tuesday, with temps in the 90s and an uncomfortable dew point pushing beyond the mid-70s.
By late afternoon, the threat of summer thunderstorms was swirling across the region.
But that’s a trademark of August in West Michigan – and so is the Tuesday Evening Music Club at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park, a concert series that’s showcased local and regional artists for nearly two decades.
On Tuesday night, the original architect of that series, Grand Rapids singer-songwriter Ralston Bowles, hosted his traditional late-August “Ralston & Friends” show for an audience that always enthusiastically embraces the eclectic assemblage of talent that Bowles rounds up for his all-star display.
The challenge this time around: squeezing in the show when weather imperiled those best-laid plans.
But the show must go on. And on and on.
Starting more than an hour early in hopes of beating the storm, Bowles’ collection of all-stars ended up playing for 2-1/2 hours – well beyond the usual set length after the approaching rain swung south and missed the amphitheater.
And just as welcome: Temperatures dropped to a near-perfect mid-70s with a pleasant breeze wafting through the venue to cool off the crowd of about 300 or so who didn’t let the potential for rain keep them away.
FROM ‘VELVET ELVIS’ TO ‘COME TOGETHER’
On stage, with the sun peeking through, Bowles launched the evening by offering up some solo material, including a poignant rendition of “Son of Mine,” with pedal steel guitarist Justin Wierenga joining him for the upbeat “Velvet Elvis.”
After that, the evening rolled out as a fully entertaining, often-off-the-cuff affair with the six-piece Elijah Russ Collective performing two sets of horn-hued, soulful rock originals and covers, including a blistering take on Edgar Winter Group’s “Frankenstein.”
Bowles’ own super group, including Wierenga, guitarist Matt Young, pianist Nick Ayoub, bassist Patrick Handlin and drummer Chris Bookey, not only backed the singer on his own Americana-laced tunes (“What Kind of Friend,” “What About Me,” “James Dean”) but uncorked impressive, on-the-fly covers of Elton John classics and a searing rendition of “All Along the Watchtower,” led by Young.
When it all wrapped up with Bowles joining the Elijah Russ Collective for a rambunctious, perfectly apropos take on the Beatles’ “Come Together,” those lucky and stalwart enough to witness the celebration on Tuesday were, indeed, elated to come together for what turned out to be a surprising, rare treat.
The final Tuesday Evening Music Club concert of the season will be a tad different in 2021: Grand Rapids Ballet will take the Meijer Gardens stage at 7 p.m. next Tuesday (Aug. 31). Admission is free for Meijer Gardens members or the regular admission fee for entry to Meijer Gardens for non-members.
PHOTO GALLERY: Tuesday Evening Music Club at Meijer Gardens (8/24/21)
Photos by Derek Ketchum
VIDEO: Tuesday Evening Music Club Highlights (8/24/21)
Copyright 2021, Spins on Music LLC