‘You can watch anywhere in the world’
John Cruz to play pay-per-view virtual concert Saturday
In a first for Maui, a pay-per-view virtual concert on Saturday will feature Grammy Award winner John Cruz backed by a band of leading Maui musicians, filmed at an estate in Haiku.
Performing in the afternoon at 3, followed by a sunset show at 6:30, both concerts will be livestreamed employing multi-cameras in high definition. The show will also feature Oahu musician Paul Izak joined by percussionist Sam Ites.
“I’m performing with my new, dynamite band at a beautiful, outdoor stage in Haiku,” said Cruz on Sunday. “I’ve been working on this one for almost two months. You can watch anywhere in the world.”
Cruz’s backing band includes a number of veteran jazz musicians. Keyboardist Sal Godinez’s credits include backing Amy Hanaiali’i for many years and playing with Hapa and Willie K. His sister, percussionist/vocalist Estaire Godinez, has toured with Prince and George Benson, while bassist Marcus Johnson has played with Benson, Willie Nelson and Michael Buble.
“They’re all great musicians and are really into the material,” Cruz said. “I play material all over the place, which has been a curse and a blessing commercially wise because people want to put you in a certain box. These musicians can give the material justice, and they all sing too, so we have four vocals, which is fabulous.”
A contributor to the “Playing For Change” video series in May, he released a “Live Outside” version of Jimmy Cliff’s classic “Sitting in Limbo.”
“I’ve been singing this song for many years and never really get tired of performing it,” he explained.
Other “Playing For Change” videos he’s featured on include covers of Bob Dylan’s “Jokerman” and “All Along the Watchtower”; the Hawaiian classic “Hi’ilawe”; and “The Weight” with drummer Ringo Starr, Lukas Nelson and ukulele virtuoso Taimane.
“It was awesome,” he said about having the Beatles’ drummer backing him on “The Weight,” which has amassed 10 million YouTube views. “Ringo wasn’t on it yet when we laid our track down, so when the video debuted I was as surprised as everyone else.”
Released last October, Cruz’s solo performance of Dylan’s “Jokerman” has received more than half a million views.
“I’ve been a Dylan fan for a long time,” he said. “Dylan fans from all over the world have been coming out of the woodwork commenting on YouTube and Facebook.”
Cruz has become a fan of virtual performing, and its ability to reach audiences globally.
“There’s nothing like being there live of course, but I’ve been trying to figure out how do you make the connection? My last livestream I’m seeing these comments coming in from all over the world — Lithuania and Sweden and Brazil — with people saying they have always wanted to see me live and now they have a chance.
“I had a little epiphany moment, you can reach way more people.”
A multi-Na Hoku Award winner, Cruz’s acclaimed albums include “Acoustic Soul,” which sold more than 150,000 copies in Hawaii alone and included the local anthem “Island Style,” and “One of These Days,” which Honolulu Magazine named as one of the Top 25 Greatest Hawaii Albums of the New Century.
A Grammy winner in 2005 for his contribution to the compilation CD, “Slack Key Guitar Volume 2,” Cruz was praised by Jackson Browne as “a great singer, one of the best.”
The Haiku event is produced by Mark Tarone, who manages Cruz and Taimane. Over 20 years of staging concerts in Hawaii, Tarone’s previous events have included the annual Hallowbaloo Music & Arts Festival in Honolulu and concerts with soul legend Booker T. Jones, Erykah Badu, Diplo, James Brown saxophonist Maceo Parker and the band Nahko and Medicine for the People.
The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted many artists to head online, posting free virtual performances and some arranging special pay-per-view events like Willie Nelson’s 4th of July Picnic, which featured pre-taped remote performances and livestreams from Nelson’s ranch in Luck, Texas.
“Full production, pay-per-view events are professional quality,” Tarone explained Friday. “The vision from the beginning with John was to have it at a special venue and offer a full Hawaii experience. There’s a beautiful ocean backdrop, and John is very excited about playing with the band. He’s inspired.”
The technical side will be handled by audio engineer Tom Fortier, who has previously livestreamed Cruz playing at his house, and Markus Kuenzel, the Maui Arts & Cultural Center’s video projectionist.
“We’ll have six cameras plus a drone,” Tarone said.
Ticket prices for the event are $10, $25 and VIP for $50, with all proceeds after expenses going to the musicians.
“Everyone gets full access, and there’s people who will probably want to support beyond $10,” he said. “The $50 offering comes with a signed CD by John.”
Tickets are available for purchase at http://bit.ly/mauilive. Concert viewing on a TV requires Roku, Google Chromecast, Apple TV or Amazon Fire service.