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The name itself spells legend: Kevin Costner & his Modern West Quintet touring Europe – and getting interested in Tuvan music and folklore

Photo by Polodrome (Juchen)Everyone in Europe and in almost all other parts of the world knows Kevin Costner, one of the few American top movie stars who is known to be interested not only in the American way of life but is equally attracted to foreign cultures and peoples. He had proven this in producing in 1994 an ethnologically valuable documentary about Rapa-Nui, a small volcanic island in the southern Pacific Ocean and the most eastern Polynesian settlement, which had been annexed by Chile in 1888 and named Isla de Pascua, Easter Island. Famous for its “moais”, monumental statues of volcanic rock and other natural materials depicting humans, such as the most famous seven of them called Ahu Akivi. Rapa-Nui is also famous for its unique hieroglyphic letters, in part deciphered by German ethnologist Thomas Barthel.

Mr. Costner financed “Rapa-Nui: Legends in Stone” himself, which was largely also the case with his yet unsurpassed, epic movie “Dances with Wolves” from 1990 and which brought him world fame, especially in Germany, Austria and Switzerland whose older populations are known for loving films about “Red-Indians” ever since German writer Karl May wrote uncountable books about them with largely fictitious stories and plots. But Europe was also attracted to many of his other films, such as “Waterworld” and more recent movies such as “Open Range”, “The Guardian”, and “Mr. Brooks” while his 2008 film “Swing Vote” has been only recently released outside of America – in this one he doesn’t only play Bud Johnson, but is also a producer and has been responsible for the soundtrack, for which he wrote the lyrics for the songs “Don’t Lock’em Away”, “Backyard” and “Gotta Get Away.”

While he already was attached to music 20 years ago, it was his second wife, German born Christine Baumgartner, who encouraged him to much more utilize his musical talent and his acoustic guitar. At first hesitating, he then teamed up with the Modern West Quintet four years ago and started a second career, pointing out, however, that he doesn’t want to be in the Charts but that he loves to play live before a live audience, to be close to his listeners and to let them be the judges – and it is the audience for whom he writes and performs his meaningful and strong songs.

Their present European tour of 12 immediately and entirely sold out concerts under the title “Untold Truths”, starting on October 3 in Romania and ending on October 25 in Switzerland, brought them also to Monaco, Belgium, Greece, Turkey and, of course, to Germany, where he said he wasn’t sure “that anyone would turn up at all” – but they did and how they did (!), especially at the very first German concert on October 12 in the small country town of Jüchen in North Rhine Westfalia, where he had chosen to book the “Red Hot” club of the famous Polodrome (headquarters for more than 100 specialized shops for motorcycle equipment and fashion and site of regular music world class events).

The October 12 event in Jüchen, with a second performance on October 18, before more than 700 spectators in the age group of 20 to 60 (and not only female ones), with another 100 waiting in vain to get in, must have been the most intimate of all their European concerts, exactly the almost private atmosphere that Mr. Costner and his band members had been looking forward to. The concerts started with a lovely “warm-up” by the internationally well-known Irish folk singer Jennifer Clarke from Cork, with songs she all wrote herself like “What’s This Whole Love Thing?”, “The Moon, Stars and Sun” or “Learning the Hard Way”. But then – He came, along with his band members. And everyone was just stunned by the mere presence of this giant.

With his intelligent and charmingly entertaining moderation and the great way he introduced the background and meaning of each of the 18+ solidly arranged songs, Kevin Costner and Modern West offered their enthusiastic audience a rainbow of wonderful American music, a mix of midwestern rock, country songs, and ballads with Mr. Costner’s voice at times resembling that rusty one of Joe Cocker, and with his lead guitarist’s daring tunes recalling those of Jimmy Hendrix. Among the songs were meanwhile well-known ones such as “90 Miles an Hour”, “Superman 14” and “Long Hot Nights”, but also “Five Minutes from America” (about the catastrophic consequences for the Gulf Coast people of furious hurricane Katrina), and, emphatically introduced by Mr. Costner, an emotionally charged ballad with the title “Where Do We Go from Here” about how the European settlers in the 18th and 19th century “rolled over” America’s First People (the Indians), which in the eyes and ears of many listeners may have well been his most liked song.

The group’s wide selection of music also included brandnew songs such as “Moon So High” and “Maria Nay”, which were well received, and Mr. Costner’s soft and sweet duet with guest singer Sarah Beck (wife of band guitarist Park Chisolm) with the title “Let Me Be the One” immediately touched the audience’s hearts.

All in all, it was a great concert by this group of thoroughbred musicians, closing off with the cover song “Mr. Tambourine Man”, all of which – and more – well worth to be repeated in spring of 2010, when Mr. Costner is likely to film in Italy and may, or may not, feel inclined to make his large German music audience happy again. It needs to be added that after his first concert in Jüchen came a much applauded charity concert in Berlin for the McDonald’s Children Fund, and after the second concert in Jüchen followed the further German ones in much larger concert halls in Bremen, Mannheim and Munich. The concert tour’s title is also the name of Kevin Costner and Modern West’ latest CD, available worldwide through

Last but not least we have – with the help of Polodrom’s Sabina Eickholz – also raised Mr. Costner’s awareness and interest in the culture and music folklore of Tuva, especially in its world-famous throatsinging tradition with the many great Khomeii groups, some of which are meanwhile well-known in America; after all throatsinging means the communication with nature. And our proposal to think about a Central Asian tour of Kevin Costner and Modern West may well sound attractive to them. We also made available to him a CD recorded by Sainkho Namtchylak in Italy for World Music, entitled “Stepmother City”, which he’ll listen to once he is back home. With Mr. Costner’s interest in foreign cultures and peoples, the day will come…

Jügen Boden, Germany, Photo by Polodrome (Jüchen)
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