IN TRIBUTE - Paying tribute to the music of Roy Orbison

The Lonely pay tribute to legendary Roy Orbison

The Lonely – A Tribute to Roy Orbison arrives in Red Deer Thursday evening for a performance packed with timeless hits from the legendary artist.

Showtime is 8 p.m. at the Memorial Centre.

As the web site notes, Orbison’s music, “Defined a world unto itself, a true master of the romantic apocalypse we all dread.

“Although Roy is counted as a rock ‘n roll pioneer, the structure and theme of his songs defy convention. Roy didn’t just sing beautifully, he sang broken-heartedly.”

The Lonely are a group of experienced musicians and performers who share a deep love and appreciation for the songs of Orbison.

“I started to incorporate more Orbison into my set over on Salt Spring Island,” explained Mike Demers, lead vocalist. “People responded very favourably so a couple of years ago I pulled together some players in Victoria and put The Lonely together.” It’s been a blast ever since, and they’ve certainly struck a chord with audiences.

“Our first show in Sydney (near Victoria) was sold out,” he recalls. “And we just went on from there.”

Orbison’s music, for the most part, indeed remains timeless. Although he passed away in 1988, plenty of his hits can be heard regularly in all types of venues – on a number of artists’ covers set lists. From the instantly recognizable tones of Pretty Woman, to Crying to Only the Lonely.

In fact, between 1960 and 1965, 22 of his songs placed on the Billboard Top 40.

“This guy was huge – he was The Beatles of the day,” he said, adding that Orbison also took his music far and wide. That includes a number of local places like here in Red Deer and Edmonton.

“He really was an ordinary guy, too – he didn’t have any ‘airs’ – he wasn’t a star. He was an ordinary guy who knew how to sing about heartache. He would sing about dreaming and about trying to find some hope. I think that people have just always responded to such strong songwriting. Every night I’m blown away by his songwriting, and what those songs can do for people.”

According to Wikipedia, Orbison grew up in Texas and began singing in a rockabilly and country and western band in high school.

He grew up immersed in musical styles ranging from rockabilly and country to zydeco, Tex-Mex and the blues, according to www.biography.com. “His dad gave him a guitar for his sixth birthday and he wrote his first song, A Vow of Love, when he was eight.

“In high school, Orbison played the local circuit with a group called the Teen Kings. When their song Ooby Dooby came to the attention of Sam Phillips, the legendary producer at Sun Records, Orbison was invited to cut a few tracks. In addition to a highly collectible album called Roy Orbison at the Rockhouse, their collaboration yielded a re-recording of Ooby Dooby that became Orbison’s first minor hit.”

Wikipedia notes that, “He was signed by Sun Records in 1956, but his greatest success came with Monument Records in the early 1960s. His career stagnated in the 1970s, but was revived by several cover versions of his songs and the use of In Dreams in David Lynch’s film Blue Velvet (1986).”

Known for his tremendous range as well, Orbison also fueled his appeal by standing still and solitary during his show, and for wearing black clothes and dark sunglasses – all of which lent an air of mystery to his persona as well.

His honours include inductions into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987, the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in the same year, and the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1989, again according to Wikipedia.

Meanwhile, Demers said the response to the show has been typically effusive. “Again the material we are playing is just amazing.

“It’s just so consistently powerful and strong for people. A lot of people know Crying and Pretty Woman, but there are tunes like In Dreams which was used in the movie Blue Velvet, too.” Incidentally, Demers said Orbison wasn’t in favour of that, but when he saw the film he realized it was part of his comeback.

“He represented, in the early 1960s, the man that could cry, that was vulnerable. The man that felt pain,” he explained. “And I’ve been lucky enough to start meeting people who knew him and had spent time with him. And from what I can tell, he was an unassuming, rather quiet man. He didn’t have airs at all – and I think people could see that.

“For a lot of people, they may know the top half dozen tunes but we play two hours of his material,” he said. “I think it ends up – for a lot of people – being quite evocative.”

For Demers, he acknowledges that the band can’t reproduce completely the unique energy that exuded from Orbison.

“That was Roy Orbison – he had a magic, he had a special thing. What we can do is to play his songs, and we’re certainly attempting to capture the nature of the tunes with the same arrangements and all of that.

“We are as big of fans of Orbison as the audience – we are there to celebrate his music. It’s very dramatic and very exciting to play – with almost a predictable crescendo. That’s very exciting for the band to play and also for the audience.”

Meanwhile, the band does about 24 tunes over two sets, and they span the highlights of Orbison’s career.

“Brilliant, brilliant songwriting.”

For tickets, check out www.blackknightinn.ca.

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