Archive for October, 2014

Review: Society of Seven boasts wow factor in Bella, Ruivivar

October 26th, 2014


Two reasons you should not miss the Society of Seven, if the group is performing in your city:

  • Lhey Bella.
  • Tony Ruivivar

In their mightiest yet return to their one-time Honolulu base, the Society of Seven group, led by Tony Ruivivar, gave two shows Saturday night (Oct. 25) at the Ala Moana Hotel’s Hibiscus Room.


By the end of the evening, two conclusions can be made:

  • Bella is the centerpiece of the reconstructed SOS combo, for more than four decades, a fixture on the Waikiki entertainment scene; the Ruivivar-led classic group (and its spin-off SOS LV, for Latest Version), prevailed at the Outrigger Hotel’s Main Showroom as one of the longest-running attraction in Waikiki history. It all came to an end last fall, when the hotel terminated the act and shut down the showroom.
  • Ruivivar is the master taskmaker of reinvention and rebuilding, enabling the SOS to evolve and impress despite changes and modifications in the lineup.

So SOS Fever prevailed, albeit briefly, for the hometown crowd as it returned with yet another cycle of growth and change.

With focus on voices instead of multiple costume changes, SOSers still rely on a savvy mix of music and comedy with ample sampling of impressions. But in reality the SOS now is  a touring act, since it no longer has a home base here or in Las Vegas, where the SOS has set anchor.  The decision to abandon high-overhead show costumes (and invest only in modest changes only when necessary) means a  meaner, cleaner brand of showmanship, with equal parts familiarity and freshness. And of course, Ruivivar is the rock of Gibraltar and the skipper of the ongoing voyage of vitality of the group.bella

In her Hawaii debut as the Philippines’ version of Whitney Houston, Bella immediately emerges as a talent to reckon with;  while she does her share of impersonations, like a leggy and bouncy Beyonce in tights and a somewhat caustic Cher beneath  a frizzy black wig, she is  utilized for her true worth: that soaring, searing and seductive voice that could melt both ice and butter; she brings thrills, as well as heat, as she works those vocal chords. In a game-changing a cappella moment, she is the centerpiece of a voice-only, no-instrument group rendering of “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,” which swings high with triumphant manipulation of notes and phrases by the entire combo. It’s clearly the show’s “wow” moment.

Michael Laygo, also a recent arrival, is the male lead singer now specializing in power rock ballads and a Michael Bolton impression accentuated with the appropriate curly-hair wig. He duets with Bella on “The Prayer,” rendering Italian and English lyrics, and they generate intense energy and emotion.

Co-founder and fellow original member Bert Sagum, of course, grabs his share of comedics, notably on his Little Richard impresh, his flirtation quickie as am aging Las Vegas showgirl and one-third from the catalogue of visual and vocal shticks parodying Diana Ross and the Supremes. Hoku Low, who still has pipes that can rattle the rafters, does the frontman duty as Franki Valli with the Four Seasons; Wayne Wakai, is the other SOS vet, still mingling amid the crowd as bewigged saxophonist  Kenny G.

Also aboard: musicians Roy Venturina and Jun Estanislao, who participate in group antics like oldtimers

The current Society of Seven: back row, Jun Estanislao, Wayne Wakai; middle row, Roy Venturina, Hoku Low, Michael Laygo; front row, Tony Ruivivar, Lhey Bella, Bert Sagum.

The current Society of Seven: back row, Jun Estanislao, Wayne Wakai; middle row, Roy Venturina, Hoku Low, Michael Laygo; front row, Tony Ruivivar, Lhey Bella, Bert Sagum.



The show shares popular medleys of Paul Simon’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water” and Basil Valdez’ “Lift Up Your Hands,” wringing out both sentimentalism and religious undercurrents, and the flag-waving (minus Ol’ Glory) “Proud To Be an American” and “God Bless America,” with a brief foray into “Hawaii Aloha,” boosts patriotism and salutes the men and women who have, or are still serving, America.

Surely, the crowd support of SOS likely will result in another homecoming visit sometime next year.

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Review: Memories aplenty in John Rowles' Honolulu homecoming

October 25th, 2014

Haumea Ho, widow of Don Ho, did a hula to “I’ll Remember You” while John Rowles sang the Kui Lee tune last night (Oct. 24) at Blaisdell Concert Hall. johnrowles

It was one of those special moments in Rowles’ first return engagement here in more than 30 years. He was in his 20s at the time.

Rowles, of course, performed at Ho’s hangout, Duke Kahanamoku’s, in the heyday of Waikiki celebrityhood.

Now 67, Rowles, the Maori sensation who also gigged at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel’s Monarch Room and the Outrigger Hotel Main Showroom,  has matured gracefully. He sports white hair now, just like the snows of Mauna Kea at wintertime; his baritone has the essence of aged wine at its best.

He still has vigor and versatility and he revisited his Waikiki days with a clutch of songs associated with his then-budding career. Of course, “Cheryl Moana Marie,” penned for the youngest of his five sisters, became his signature and the tune, with Rowles’ still-powerful pipes, earned hurrahs and cheers when he sang it.

Rowles, happily, has not forgotten his island ties. He credited composer-poet Jay Larrin for one of his other popular adopted tunes, “The Snows of Mauna Kea,” bringing his deep baritone notes to new altitudes of bliss.

Backed by the Elvis Presley TCB (Taking Care of Business) Band, much of Rowles’ repertoire included a string of Presley hits, but he often put his own vocal imprint on the tune. Like, “Love Me Tender” was perfectly delivered in a subdued, unflashy mode, with Rowles accompanying himself on guitar. With the right exposure at the right moment, it’s a version that could easily connect with today’s younger audience, who many not (yikes, there are many of ‘em) know the EP original.

The TCB Band  is comprised of James Burton, guitar; Ronnie Tutt, drums; Glen D. Hardin, piano; and Norbert “Put” Putnam; they backed The King in the historic “Aloha From Hawaii” concert at Blaisdell Arena (then the Hawaii International Center),  and they’ve been an essential and under-appreciated combo in the annals of rock music.

So it was a no-brainer that the group provided the Presley-quality backup on titles such as “Hound Dog,” “In the Ghetto,” “The Wonder of You,”  “That’s All Right” and “Heartbreak Hotel.”

In a touching moment, “How Great Thou Art,” a secular favorite from the Presley library, Rowles mixed in Maori lyrics without sacrificing sentiment, projecting the universality of the hymn.

No, his was not a tribute –to-Elvis show. It was accentuating the bandsmanship of a historic backup band, with the vocalry of a prevailing Kiwi star, in an out-of-town “opening” preceding a planned tour of New Zealand and Australia in the months ahead.

Rowles was relaxed and playful with the sparse  but loyal audience. And happily, he didn’t forget the fabulous formative years of his launch in the islands. He dropped a few names, like Coronado Aquino, who was the longtime maître d’ at the Monarch Room; he acknowledge his then-peers in the house, from Melveen Leed to Al Harrington; he even shared an original composition, “The Girl in White,” about a fan he regularly spotted in the Pink Palace showroom. And yes, he remembered Kimo McVay, the late entrepreneur who was a mover-and-shaker in Rowles’ Hawaii presence.

Of course, his homage to Ho was expected. After all, he guested in Ho’s palace in the International Market Place. The invitation for Haumea, the entertainer’s wife, was a natural link to the past — and a passage to the present.

He said he’ll never forget his Hawaii ties; he even did a quick haka move, complete with tongue action and staccato body moves.

Clearly, he and his fans mutually had a grand time. Rowles was sure to widen his appeal with potent ballads like “If I Only Had Time” and “My Way.”

It sounded like if he had his way, he’d return to his island paradise someday.

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Rowles presenting preview at Hard Rock Cafe Wednesday

October 22nd, 2014


johnrowlesNew Zealand singer John Rowles will give a free preview concert at 7:30 p.m. today (Wednesday, Oct. 22) at the Hard Rock Café, 28 Beach Walk, in Waikiki.

For inquiries, call 955-7383.

The sneak peak precedes his scheduled performance, with the Elvis Presley TCB Band,  at 7:30 p.m. this Friday (Oct. 24) at Blaisdell Concert Hall.

A free ticket offer also has been announced for all military and veterans in Hawaii for the Blaisdell show.  GIs should present their IDs at the box office, or at the door on the performance night, for free admission. Their spouses and family members will need to secure their own paid-admission tickets.

“We felt that nobody deserves to join us more than these amazing human beings (who) have done so much for the country,” said show presenter Simon Kemp-Roberts in a statement.


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Wednesday show set for canceled ‘Hairspray’

October 20th, 2014



Here’s a hair-raiser:

Because of the soggy rains of Hurricane Ana, the University of Hawaii canceled a Saturday night performance of the hit musical of “Hairspray” at Paliku Theatre on the Windward Community College campus, a sellout house that couldn’t see the show,

The Sunday performance — supposedly, the finale for the extended show — went on as scheduled.

So now theater manager Tom Holowach is frantically getting word out that the yanked performance, which will be the finale, has been rescheduled for 7:30 p.m. this Wednesday (Oct. 22) at Paliku.

If you have tickets to this performance, you can attend and sit in your same seats.

Some exchanges/refunds are expected, so perhaps 150 “good” seats will emerge from this rescheduling.

Further, each performance has had 36 temporary seats sold prior to curtain, so those who really want to see “Hairspray” should be accommodated.

Tickets are available at 235-7310 or

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Radio's Spam and eggs duo, of Hawaii morning drive

October 10th, 2014


Michael W. Perry and Larry Price have prevailed as the Spam and eggs combo of Hawaii’s wake-up radio audience for three decades — and counting.

Yet they are as different as guava and pineapple, an odd couple balancing each other’s strengths.

Perry on the left and Price on the right — their position when they’re broadcasting — inherited the morning radio slot, after Hal Lewis, whose broadcast handle was J. Akuhead Pupule, died. Aku was allegedly the highest paid deejay in the nation at the time and clearly the No. 1 powerhouse on KGMB radio.

How P&P approached the throne, maintained the reign, and talked and championed their way to radio history, is the subject of “Perry & Price — Voices of Hawaii,” premiering at 7 p.m. Oct. 12 on KHNL (repeating at 7 p.m. Oct. 26, KHNL). It’s one of those infrequent but relevant TV glimpses of island personalities, by the prolific and pioneering director Phil Arnone.

Originating in the glory days of KGMB-TV (now consolidated with KHNL as Hawaii News Now), Arnone — now a freelancer — has been the backbone of local specials on Hawaii newsmakers.   But for the first time ever, this one’s bypassing KGMB, the longtime CBS affiliate, and airing solely on sister station KHNL, the NBC outlet.

Two guys, 30 years, one helluva track record. That’s the best way to describe the legacy that is Perry & Price.

Their show has always been part talk, part music, part fun, part news — and wholly spontaneous whenever there’s a hurricane or tsunami brewing locally.  The  tragedy of  9/11, when terrorists attacked the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York, compelled Perry and Pric  to rise the occasion to cover, analyze and explore the tragic events of that day. While network TV offered video as well as audio, not all folks had access to the tube, so the jocks became news reporters  seeking reaction and information with a local slant with extended broadcast shifts beyond morning drive.

Since then, and even earlier, Perry and Price became the go-to dudes in media and often are known as the “Masters of Disasters” or “Deans of Doom.”

Narrated by Linda Coble, who once read the news on the P&P show, and scripted by Larry Fleece, an early and still chronicler of local specials produced by Arnone, “Voices of Hawaii” is a revealing and entertaining portrait of unshowbizzy guys who have become the envied and invincible one-two punch of morning radio.

It was an unexpected coupling; Perry had wanted to do radio since he was 10, served in the Navy, wound up in broadcasting on a local rock station; Price was a football coach, then worked security at a Waikiki hotel, and did a brief investigative reporter stint on TV before they were both summoned by then-manager Earl McDaniel (and station owner Cec Heftel) to form the morning team on KGMB radio (now KSSK) a month after the unexpected death of Lewis in July 1983.

Yes, they were green; but like a marriage, they soon anticipated the moves and manners of each other to maintain Aku’s No. 1 perch on the Arbitron radio ratings from the get-go, astounding the naysayers.

“Long hours but not hard work,” Price says of the gig.

“Grueling,” retorts  Perry.

Depends on the day and the events of the world, naturally.

While they dutifully maintained their positions at the microphone to cover such island catastrophes like Hurricane Iniki, it was 9/11 that changed their lives and methods. As Perry says, “We became brokers — brokering the news.”  They watched TV feeds along with the rest of the world, found local ties, added Hawaii sidebars to the reporting.

And folks responded, in great numbers. And the brand was solidified.

They had borrowed tricks from Aku, an innovator in his own right. He played old music of his own preference, interpreted the news but peppered it with  lots of opinion, and did something few competitors were doing at the time —  “he was the first guy to put phone calls on the radio,” says Perry.

It was the crude origin of social media at a time when cell phones and Twitter were not yet invented.

The call-ins also later established a Perry & Price tradition: the creation of a radio posse, which provided the eyes and voices particularly in reporting crimes or providing clues on prevailing incidents, like a stolen car spotted by a listener after the victim reported a license plate number. Thus was born the catch phrase, “Nevah feah, da posse’s heah.”

Other jocks, including Kamasami Kong, Dave Lancaster and Dan Cooke, were competitors — as well as fans — who praise P&P’s power and accomplishments.

And ex-Kalihi boy Price provided budding comic  and fellow Kalihian Augie T scholarship funding to finance college — one local supporting a needy local.
The special also notes another P&P phenom: the continuing popularity of a Saturday morning radio brunch show before a live audience enjoying a leisurely brunch.  The format was “invented” when the duo needed to pump up usually boring Saturday mornings, when folks aren’t driving to work. Akin to a TV talk and variety show but minus the precious visuals of the tube, P&P assemble live performances and guests peddling a book or a charity walk,  to fuel the imagination. The venues have changed over time; it started  at the Top of the Ilikai and now it’s Jade Dynasty at Ala Moana Center.

It all comes down to the power of patter and chatter — or what Aku used to call “the coconut wireless” — with Perry on the left, Price on the right.




7 p.m. Oct. 12 and 26





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