They say that imitation is the highest form of flattery.
And when it comes to a band like The Rolling Stones, given the distinct mannerisms, inflections, and style of each of their notorious members, it can also be the most difficult type of imitation to pull off.
Unless, of course, the members and musicians are seasoned and disciplined enough to go through the paces of learning a wide array of material spanning four-and-a-half decades, and street-wise enough to know that when it comes to replicating the 'Stones Experience', it definitely is the difference between 'the singer, not the song', to paraphrase Mick Jagger.
Enter Voodoo Lounge – the latest Rolling Stones Tribute Band to start surfacing on the circuit. With a 'core' group consisting of veteran mid-Michigan musicians Mick Furlo serving up serious slices of razor-sharp rhythm guitar in the swashbuckling style of the inimitable Keith Richards; Chris Mohn, trilling a tightrope of lead guitar and joviality in true Ronnie Wood fashion; Bill Silverthorn beating the 'pagan skins' in crisp innovative and precise flourishes honorable of the great Charlie Watts; and flanked center stage by his remarkably talented & effective son, Nigel Silverthorn, dancing & pirouetting in the spotlight as if he were channeling sympathy from that devil Mick Jagger himself, this collective understands the more talent that you invite to the party, the sweeter the satisfaction infused into each song.
Aided by the evocative keyboard work of Noel Howland, accented by the precision bass work of Jacy, and reinforced with the feminine tonal power of back-up vocalists Honesty Elliot, Chrissy Johnstone and Mel Curry, this conglomeration of talent spread upon one very large stage delivers all of the powerful nuance and musical texture that we have come to expect from the world's greatest rock 'n roll band.
And while it might be easy to dismiss such a blatant 'cover-band' approach as cheesy, the commitment and respect of each musician involved with Voodoo Lounge to the richness, texture, and depth of the Stones catalog of material is perhaps the main factor that distinguishes them from the desperation of crass commercialism.
"At first instance, you think of most Rolling Stones songs as being fairly simple," reflects group co-founder Bill Silverthorn. "But really, while they may be simple songs to play, they are difficult songs to play well."
"A song like Its Only Rock 'n Roll, for example, has so many different timing changes and fills that when you auger down in rehearsal, you walk away with a newfound respect for the band."
Such sentiments are echoed by keyboardist/vocalist Noel Howland. "I never realized how many keyboard parts permeated the Rolling Stones catalog of material," she notes. "Whether it's Sympathy for the Devil or something more Country aligned like Far Away Eyes, there is always more going on in the song than you immediately register. I think that's one of the values & standards that makes them an incredible band."
As for origins, Voodoo Lounge is a relatively new phenomenon, having performed at The Machine Shop and landed a couple of Casino gigs, the group recently sponsored & headlined the 1st annual Bay City Midland Street Block Party, where their musical frontline was reinforced even further by a horn section reminiscent of the early-70's line-up of Bobby Keys and Jim Horn - in this instance, assumed by the legendary Earl the Pearl Caviness and his daughters, Shonda, Leron, and Sherrol.
"Actually, I got the idea for this outfit when my son, Nigel, joined me on stage one night during a gig with Jedi Mind Trip,' explains Bill. "He tore the house up and his stage presence generated an energy that reminded me of Mick Jagger," laughs Bill. "I asked him about putting a Stones Tribute Band together for national touring, and he instantly hopped on for the ride."
Still in his early 20s, Nigel Silverthorn indeed does spark the mood, moves, and vocal acumen of the early Mick Jagger. When he explodes onstage to the opening strains of Start Me Up, or whether he's prancing at full throttle during the kick-out to Paint it Black, the energy, range, and pitch are all there.
"It amazes me, as a singer, how much stamina and energy Jagger pushes into his performances," explains Nigel (formally of the creatively forceful original project The Natalie Flight). "I have to be very careful not to shred my voice, yet even the ballads have a lot of breath and tonal control."
As for the 'axe-men' in the band, Mick Furlo and Chris Mohn concur that when it comes to performing Rolling Stones material, the guitar work is a totally collaborative effort.
"This is really fun for me to do at this point in my career," explains Mick, "although acting the role of Keith can be a bit difficult, seeing as I quit smoking a couple years ago," he smiles. "But it's good to work with this quality of musicianship and dig into songs and material that create so much energy, not just with the band, but mainly with the audience."
"Everything about this gig is enjoyable," comments Chris, "and you really do come away with an appreciation for how many different approaches can be taken musically with songs by the Stones. I've watched live tapes and many times they change different elements of the song, so you never hear it live the same way twice. But the core is always there."
Indeed, Keith Richards once noted that hundreds of guitarists are undoubtedly better than him and Ronnie Woods, but when you put the two of them together, few could match them; and in essence, that seems a fitting way to describe the interplay between Furlo and Mohn – conscious of making the guitars work together as one, rather than battling for the spotlight.
With a set-list that spans all generations of the band, from the early sixties classics to the 'golden age' of the 1970s, through the 1980s and '90s, leading up to today, the collective talent in Voodoo Lounge is able to cultivate everything from the 'hits' to even more obscure tracks that upon listening, are like digging up old gemstones.
Watch for more of this musical saga as it unfolds; and in the interim, check them out on myspace.com, along with new live video on you tube by typing in voodooloungelive.
16th November, 2023
7th November, 2023