Civic Theatre alive with sound of music this weekend

By Malcolm X Abram
Beacon Journal pop music writer

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Helen Wlech. (Daniel Mainzer)

This weekend, the Akron Civic Theatre will be hopping with live music opportunities.

Performing will be a local singer who is always on her grind, a Christian alt-rocker who’s gone solo and a classic rocker revisiting one of his band’s classic albums and its follow-up — both in their entirety of course.

First up will be Cleveland jazz singer Helen Welch, a native of Norwich, England, and a naturalized American citizen since 2009 who has lived and worked in Northeast Ohio for several years with her husband, Doug, a Cleveland native.

Locally, Welch has produced several revues and performed with area big bands and orchestras. Her show at the Civic on Friday night will use the theater’s cabaret stage setup for an intimate tribute to the music of 1970s pop stars the Carpenters — which means an evening of catchy, pretty melodies.

Welch has appeared on Broadway in classic productions such as Hello, Dolly!, 42nd Street and Oliver Twist as well as the popular jukebox musical Smokey Joe’s Cafe. She’s sung with big bands in London, recorded some commercial jingles and performed and worked with the National Youth Jazz Orchestra.

Welch is a vested veteran in the game, so I’m sure she won’t make a mistake made by many young singers, who often don’t appear to be listening to the lyrics they’re singing: They smile goofily through songs such as Rainy Days & Mondays.

I know it’s kind of nitpicky, but years of watching American Idol have made that lyrical/performance disconnect a pet peeve of mine.

Moving on, the music will keep rolling Saturday night with Christian alt-rocker David Crowder. The David Crowder Band amicably disbanded this year after 12 years, nine albums and eight Gospel Music Association Dove Awards and a Grammy nomination.

Now, Crowder is alone with his lengthy beard and a new band and touring with no new music to shill, which should make for an interesting and wide-open set list.

The DCB was known for its big pop melodies and mix of unusual instrumentation such as banjos plucked over programmed grooves and invented instruments including a “drumming robot” named Steve 3PO. However, the Texas native has decided to eschew that sound for a more acoustic, back-porch-sounding setup featuring upright bass, banjo, mandolin, fiddle and cello.

On Sunday, the Civic will welcome Ian Anderson, lead singer and flutist of Jethro Tull, who is currently touring an elaborately staged show featuring Tull’s 1972 prog-rock classic concept album, Thick As a Brick, along with Anderson’s 2012 solo release, Thick As a Brick 2, aka. TAAB2: Whatever Happened to Gerald Bostock?

The new album continues the convoluted story of TAAB’s protagonist Gerald Bostock, who was only an 8-year-old boy on the original two-track epic album. Now Anderson presents Bostock’s tale in several scenarios spread across 13 tracks for the boy poet including being a banker and a preacher.

Yeah, it’s still pretty confusing conceptually, even with Anderson’s spoken interludes (it is a concept album after all). Musically, TAAB2 continues the complex twists and turns of its predecessor, but Anderson’s band is crazy tight and he can still blow a mean flute.

And finally ...

Now, I’d like to take a few inches of space for a couple of quick tangents unrelated to music.

First up, I hope you and yours wherever they may be are surviving Sandy, the friendliest named yet downright mean “superstorm” that has blanketed the East Coast.

It is times like these (and pretty much only times like these) that I don’t miss living next to the ocean, though Lake Erie can cop a bad attitude, too.

On a much lighter note, last weekend was a fantastic sports weekend for me with the Giants winning their second World Series in two years with an almost completely different team, my beloved Raiders beating the hated Chiefs, my slightly less beloved 49ers taking it to the Arizona Cardinals on Monday Night Football, no less, and my adopted Browns showing some moxie and winning two out of three games.

Go teams.

Malcolm X Abram can be reached at 330-996-3758 or by email at He’s also on Facebook as Malcolm X Abram. … Go figure.

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