There’s a little theatre here in town that isn’t that big. It doesn’t have balconies or a fancy lobby, but the sound that comes from this charming venue is some of the best you’ll hear in Branson. I had the opportunity to go see Journey Branson and I’m so glad I did. As soon as the band took the stage, and the first rock-n-roll beats filled the house, I found that little piece of my heart that had been missing. My love of head banging, hip swinging, bass-thumping music.
Jon Sousan is the mastermind that brings something different to Branson with his vision to take a store front and turn it into a little rock-n-roll tribute theatre. In addition to the Journey tribute, Jon also offers tribute shows to the Eagles, Linda Ronstadt, Jackson Browne and Creedence Clearwater Revival. After listening to the guys do an amazing job with the Journey songs, I know I will be back for the rest of the shows. Jon Sousan is not only the driving force behind bringing classic rock to Branson, he also produces the shows, manages the theatre and either sings vocals or plays in each of these great shows.
Bucky Heard is the front man for the Journey tribute concert. I call it a concert rather than a show because that’s how Bucky referred to what they do. It’s a rock concert. And, it was the best rock concert I’ve ever attended. Yeah, I know that’s saying something, cause I’ve seen some of the best, but the difference is the intimate setting and the amazing talent that is on that little stage. While I loved Journey, I was never a big fan of Steve Perry. After hearing and seeing Bucky perform these memorable tunes, I decided that this local Branson musician should have been given the lead in the real Journey band.
Bucky belted out all the famous songs with heart and soul that Steve Perry could only pretend to have. Bucky shared a piece of himself with every note he sang. I loved him in this show and was so impressed by his strong vocal ability that it made me want to hear him sing Carmen. While Journey is nothing like opera, I believe that the guy headlining this show could do some Pavarotti covers with as much style as he did the Journey songs. It also doesn’t hurt that he’s such a likable guy. Whether he’s on stage or talking a mile a minute to one of his fans at intermission, you just can’t help but to like this affable man.
Joining Bucky on stage is one of the tightest bands I’ve ever heard. Tony Bones Irasson plays lead guitar and is quite possibly the best I’ve ever heard in this genre. He’s uber talented, feels the music and owns the guitar licks he puts down. He’s also one of the nicest, most humble guys I’ve ever met. I spoke with him during intermission and had to pry some facts from him concerning his background. He embarrassingly told me, “I just play the guitar.” Yep, it might be rock-n-roll, but this guy has the heart of a hillbilly for sure. There’s a reason guys like him come to Branson.
Doug Clifford is the guy driving the beat on drums. I’ve always thought that drummers have to be the hardest working part of any band, considering the energy it takes to make the rhythm happen. Doug certainly gave it his all and did it in perfect sync with Bryan Lawson.
Now, let me say one thing, when you think bass player for a hard-hitting rock band, a certain image comes to mind. Well, that image is really Bryan Lawson as he is the epitome of talent, long-hair, stage presence and looks. He looks like he eats and breathes Led Zepplin and Whitesnake tunes and has absorbed a little of Cliff Williams from the AC/DC band. He and lead singer, Bucky, are fun to watch on stage and you can tell that they have a real friendship off the stage.
One last guy I have to talk about. Richard Kittleman, also known as The Maestro, is the keyboardist for this tribute show. Once again, Jon Sousan made a perfect choice when putting this act together, he chose this local, but legendary, musician. When not playing at the Branson Tribute Theatre, Richard plays in a number of local bands and also plays for the great Roy Clark. No wonder this show is that good.
Branson is known for it’s hillbilly humor, back-woods humility and of course, country music. But there’s a little corner in town that offers up the most unique entertainment in Branson. You need to catch a couple of shows here and relive your high-school days with some old rock-n-roll. The shows are intimate enough to make you feel like you’re listening to your best friend’s “garage” band, but so high quality, that you find yourself thinking that you’ve traveled back in time and finally won that back-stage pass from the local radio station.
As I was leaving the show that day, I was reminded of a farmer’s market that my mom used to go to early on Saturday mornings. We would get to the home-made stands and my mom would buy tomatoes, cucumbers and squash. There were any number of fruits and vegetables and being a kid, those kind of things didn’t really excite me. However, always up by the cash register were the real goodies. Not fruits or veggies, but cakes and pies and homemade apple butter. That was my favorite part of the whole day and even my mom couldn’t resist picking up something delicious to have as a treat after all those healthy foods.
Well, Branson is the farmer’s market and it’s one of the best in the world. We offer top quality produce that is organic and tasty. You can go to a country show, The Titanic Exhibit or one of the excellent magic shows that we have in town. You can taste country, and gospel and funny. All the fare in this town is blue ribbon awarded and the bounty is beyond belief. But, it’s heavenly to find something sweet, something a little decadent at the end of the shopping trip. This Journey tribute band and the guys in it were like finally getting to the cash register and finding the goodies. In my mind, they were the cupcakes.