POP MUSIC REVIEW : Two New Blues Help Brothers Hit a Grace Note
Jim Belushi proved it once and for all Tuesday at the House of Blues: He’s not his late brother John.
He’s way too graceful.
Where John used to punctuate his Blues Brothers performances with clumsy cartwheels, Jim came on stage by executing a rather elegant back somersault to take his new role as Z Blues. In this revived version of the act, he teamed with Dan (Elwood Blues) Aykroyd and a new brother--the stone-faced John (Mighty Mack Blues) Goodman.
Jim is a more graceful vocalist too--although the Blues Brothers’ two short sets--bookending a long, multi-act night to benefit the Artists Rights Foundation and celebrate what would have been John’s 46th birthday--didn’t provide him much of a showcase for it.
And there’s the rub, bub. The Blues Brothers were never about grace. John Belushi, who died in 1982 just down the Sunset Strip at the Chateau Marmont, couldn’t sing and couldn’t really dance, but he was a ball of charisma and energy. There’s no way Jim can match that.
Well, he was graceful about that as well. The notion that he was stepping into his brother’s “shadow” was a favorite topic of the press interviewing him before the show. To one TV reporter who asked if that was a burden, Belushi jocularly replied, “Not to me. Maybe it’s a burden for you!”
Later, he told The Times, “I don’t look at this as filling in (for John). It’s continuing the spirit.”
Belushi, Aykroyd and Goodman did that just fine. Toss out the Ray-Bans, the fedoras and even the silly “Soul Man” choreography and you’ve still got a passionate love for the music and its originators.
To that end, Aykroyd remains a tireless advocate. He was instrumental in putting this show together, bringing in artists as diverse as original soul man Sam Moore, country star Clint Black, Italian star Zucchero, singer-actress Katey Sagal and Go-Go Kathy Valentine and a celebrity A-list that paid as much as $500 a ticket for what proved to be a consistently entertaining, fast-moving evening.
The money will go to support the Artists Rights Foundation’s campaign to prohibit such unauthorized alteration of original art as film colorization and time compression. In an interview before the show, Aykroyd explained that the issue is of equal concern to writers, filmmakers and musicians. “Forrest Gump” director Robert Zemeckis, an organizer of the event, added that the key issue is making sure “that for future generations the art exists in its original form.”
No one’s going to ever pretend that the Blues Brothers Mark II (or even Mark I) preserves the blues’ original form. It’s still basically a one-joke skit that got way out of control, what with the hit records and a movie and the House of Blues clubs themselves. And now there’s this revival, with plans in the works for more records, another movie and additional clubs.
You can debate whether the act--after thousands of frat-house talent-show imitations-- should be revived, but Tuesday it was plenty of spirited fun.
Whadyawant? R-r-r-rubber biscuits?