Archive for the ‘Entertainment’ Category

Review: A Jake of all trades

December 6th, 2014


Jake Shimabukuro’s sold-out ukulele extravaganza Friday night (Dec. 5) at Blaisdell Concert Hall clearly demonstrated the islander’s ascent to the top tier of live performing acts.

Surrounded by his career-specific musical buddies,  Shimabukuro performed for a solid 2 ½ hours without intermission. Unquestionably, it was an instance of a hometown somebody nervous about performing before his fellow residents, teachers, musical peers and family — a homecoming that was the nightcap for a 140-show tour the past few months.

Nobody puts out a 150-minute performance. Nobody.
But here’s this cute, even cuddly, local dude alternating frenetic strumming and ferocious prancing and dancing, gracious and grateful, doing fist-bumps with all his buddies after each tune. Oh yeah, and cheek hugs, too.

From the audience perspective, it was a test for the bladder but for Shimabukuro, it was a triumph of endurance, dedication, creativity, artistry and appreciation.

I mean, he ultimately staged a four-tier program sharing his stage with stellar musicians from his past. And perhaps a handful in the packed auditorium had to make a quick bathroom visit.

What Shimabukuro offered was  a kaleidoscopic panorama of his abilities and his performing peers were with him, note for note, beat to beat.

In the end, it was crystal clear; Shimabukuro is a Jake of all trades.


Part 1: The Side Order Band (Chris Kamaka,   Asa Young, Del Beazley and Brian Tolentino) performed a suite of Hawaiiana,  joined by Shimabukuro. These dudes traveled to Japan while Shimabukuro was a budding star, and he opened for them. With tables turned, you could feel the aloha and the bruddahood among the guys; and since Shimabukuro doesn’t sing, he nonetheless mouthed the lyrics whenever Beazley or Kamaka sang  tunes ranging from the evergreen "Green Rose Hula" to Malani Bilyeu’s “Molokai, Sweet Home.
Part 2: Shimabukuro reunited with Pure Heart, for the first time in 15 years. So Jon Yamasato on guitar and vocals and Lopaka Colon on percussion and bird calls and other sound effects, chime in, for old times sake. There’s genuine camaraderie and fellowship in the reunion, and if you remember uke whiz way back then, he wore eyeglasses and sported a somewhat shaved head hairstyle. Now, there’s a full crop of black hair and the specs are gone. And the precision of his artistry also has leaped to stratospheric levels — this is no ordinary ukulele trouper.

Yamasato, a realtor by day, wondered what’s next for Pure Heart. Colon has a gig at the “Legends” spectacle “Rock-a-Hula”  at the Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center, where his bird calls and versatility might not be appreciated as much as hometowners. No answers given, but Yamasato’s admission of his madness and disappointment when Shimabukuro decided to go solo at least removed the burden on his shoulders. Change is healthy, encourages growth and new journeys. The “How Can I Get Over” selection raised the issues but didn’t provide answers about closing one door and opening the next.

Part 3: Shimabukuro did a solo sequence, utilizing a beloved old 50-year-old Kamaka baritone ukulele acquisition. To share his adoration of the vintage instrument, he did a more gentle and romantic interlude including an affectionate “In My Life” from the Beatles catalogue, plus the emotional but soothing “Ave Maria.”

Part 4: A drum set and an electric bass sat on the otherwise vacant stage, so Neal Okimoto occupied the seat amid the drums and cymbals and Dean Taba navigated the bass. Of course, with that kind of backup, Shimabukuro sashayed into a jazz-framed set with fiery and flashy bursts on "Dragon." The savvy lighting effects enhanced the electricity and animation of the uke virtuoso, who continues to upgrade his profile and build on his legacy.

For the finale, Shimabukuro was back to his tenor ukulele, doing three or four more songs winding up with an energetic and expressive “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” the George Harrison composition that was a YouTube sensation that by now has earned pretty much a permanent spot on Shimabukuro’s playlist.

It was a night of pure magic ... with a lot  of heart.


Glen Larson dies; was creator of 'Magnum P.I."

November 15th, 2014

  Glen A. Larson, an iconic show biz figure whose love for Hawaii was overshadowed by his grand success in producing hit TV series, died Thursday of esophageal cancer at the UCLA Medical Center in Santa Monica. He was 77. I remember him from the era when he was a member of the Four Preps, a harmonic pop music ensemble of “26 Miles (Santa Catalina)” and “Down by the Station” fame, when the group appeared at the then-named Honolulu International Center Arena, now the Blaisdell Center Arena, in the late 1950s. Larson quickly became enamored of Hawaii and his producing credits included CBS’ hit series, “Magnum P.I.,” which he created with Donald Bellisario, with whom he had partnered in launching “Battlestar Galactica.” “Magnum” ­— following the success of the Jack Lord original “Hawaii Five-0” — gave Hawaii a major boost when Larson, who did the script, sought Tom Selleck to portray the titular Ferrari-driving mustachioed and aloha shirt-wearing crimefighter in the filmed-in-Hawaii CBS series that ran for 162 episodes from 1980 to 1988.

“He had beach homes in Portlock and near Waimanalo and he loved the Kahala (Hilton),” said entrepreneur Tom Moffatt, who had secured the Four Preps early on for a live concert. That initial gig became a life-long friendship between Moffatt and Larson.

Moffatt flew to California a few days ago  before Larson passed on.

Audy Kimura, the prolific island singer, guitarist, and composer, performed at Larson’s wedding celebration in Hawaii in 2009. He said they became fast friends and “he used to come, directly from his light with suitcases, to see me at Hy’s,” said Kimura. “Just before his death, he had called and asked if I could perform ‘Lovers & Friends’ on the phone, for the last time.” Larson had a hand in number of hit dramas all over the TV dial, in a wildly challenging range of genres, including the CSI-style “Quincy, M.E.,”  the sci-fi fave “Battleship Gallactica,” the crime drama “It Takes a Thief,” the tongue-in-cheek “Knight Rider,” the adventurous “Fall Guy” about a bounty hunter, the caper about “The Six Million Dollar Man,”  two diverse westerns, “B.J. and the Bear” and “Alias Smith and Jones,” and more. Survivors include his wife Jeannie, brother Kenneth, and nine children from former wives Carol Gourley and Janet Curtis. A son, James, said a memorial service is pending.       Photo credit: REX USA   larson

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'Five-0' at its 100th milestone: Future is right on the fence

November 8th, 2014



“Hawaii Five-0,” which just showed its milestone 100th episode Friday night (Nov. 7), deserves congratulations for the Big 1-0-0 achievement.


Yep, it’s been a ride.

The island-filmed show, in its repositioned Friday night slot on CBS  (8 p.m. here, 9 p.m. Mainland), has been a blessing in disguise. This is where fading shows are traditionally sent, but this is also where “Five-0” has earned its survival stripes and a new lease on life.

If the show remained in its Monday night nook, it would have been disasterville with stiff competition. Its challenge this season, for instance, would have been opposite NBC’s “The Black List” and ABC’s “Castle,” darlings among viewers.  CBS put “NCIS: Los Angeles” in the previous “Five-0” spot. And remember, the Monday airtime was at 9 p.m. (10 p.m. Mainland).

In Season 5, however, “Five-0” — with reruns already in syndication on TNT — still is in jeopardy of cancellation. But it is good company, since among the  CBS shows in the same boat are  “Blue Bloods,” “The Good Wife,” “CSI” and “Madam Secretary,” according to TV by the Numbers.

According to analysts, the aforementioned shows are right on the fence of renewals or cancellations by next May 15, when networks shine the green-for-go light, or red-for-retirement signals.

The likeliest to get another green light: “Blue Bloods,” because of its rating power on Friday night, following “Five-0.” And “Elementary,” “NCIS,” “NCIS: Los Angeles”  and
“NCIS: New Orleans” are among the dramas certainties to be renewed.

“Five-0” this season is drawing the most viewers in its time slot, but it has been second in the preferred barometer of adults 18 to 14, generally behind ABC’s “Shark Tank.” This is the category, not the viewer numbers,  that determine ad revenues for the network.

According to the Nielsen ratings, here’s how “Five-0” has performed this season:


Air date                18 to 49 demos           Viewer in millions

9/26                            1.20                                  8.99

10/3                            1.30                                  8.33

10/10                          1.20                                 9.19

10/17                          1.20                                 9.17

10/24                          1.10                                 8.92

10/31                          1.10                                 9.47

11/7                             1.20                                 8.91


Fridays have been generally steady, with CBS attracting the most viewers (8.81 million this week) and ABC posting the best adult 18 to 49 demo numbers (1.6 this week).

Friday’s most-viewed series generally is “Blue Bloods”  (11.41 million this week) and the top adult demo leader has been “Shark Tank” (1.9 this week).

Certainly, a procedural in its fifth season maintains a loyal following, but if you’ve not yet become part of the viewing ohana, it’s a bit late to join in. Numbers often fade, rather than grow, over time.

Regarding “Ina Puha (If Perhaps),” the 100th episode, it was an invention/reflection of things and themes past and present, with McGarrett and Company in dual/alternate reality/fantasy sequences.  Wo Fat kidnaps and tortures McG. Dad McG is alive;  and other key players are assembled in before/now mode.

If you’ve been a follower, it’s flashback with a twist; if you’re a newbie, it’s formidable overload. Yes? No?
One great element: “All for One,” the special original tune composed expressly for “Five-0” by John Ondrasik, the leader of  the group Five for Fighting who yielded such hit tunes as “Superman (It’s Not Easy),” “100 Years” and “Riddle (You and I).”  It was a splendid idea pitched by “Five-0” producer Peter Lenkov to the composer — and show aired the entire tune, which characterized the flavor of the special episode.

Yet the show has had its moment of glory, in Season 1, when “Five-0” made the Guinesss World Records in 2012 for the “Highest-Rated New Show in the U.S.,” with a record 19.34 million viewers for “Kai e’e,” its Jan. 23 2011 episode.

Hana hou?

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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