MSU Riley Center announces spring-summer series

It will be hummable. You will find yourself singing along. At times, it will tempt you to dance in your seat. Taking the stage in downtown Meridian, the MSU Riley Center’s spring/summer concert series is poised to delight ticketholders of all musical preferences when it kicks off April 12, with a performance by Aaron Neville and his brother, Charles.

The Grammy-award winner may treat the audience to selections from his recently released album, entitled “My True Story,” which will delight fans of doo-wop with Neville’s take on such classics as “Tears on My Pillow” and “Under the Boardwalk.” He’s also sure to please with some hits from his five decades of recording and performing.

“Every musical taste will find something to enjoy in this season’s offering,” said Dennis Sankovich, executive director of the MSU Riley Center. “The artists we are featuring have all made such an impact in their areas of expertise, and many will give ticketholders a fresh perspective on their musical styles in these shows.”

Also in the month of April are shows featuring Boz Scaggs and Jewel, two singers who aren’t afraid to experiment with musical styles. Both are releasing new albums this year—Scaggs’ album “Memphis” will release in March and Jewel will debut a greatest hits album in February. Jewel’s concert will feature an acoustic playlist.

Whether you’re a fan of the movie or just love an entertaining blues set, “The Official Blues Brothers® Revue” is must-see for you as it swings through Meridian in May. The characters of Jake Blues™ and brother Elwood Blues™ take the stage for singing, dancing, and comedy as they front an eight-piece band.

Soon after, a veritable country music Hall of Fame comes to town with The Time Jumpers, a supergroup consisting of Vince Gill and several other Nashville studio musicians who, collectively, have played with every hitmaker on the country scene.

Blues, R&B, folk—they’re all covered in June as Keb’ Mo’, Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds, and Don McLean bring their talents to the Riley Center. In his most recent album, “The Reflection,” singer/songwriter Keb’ Mo’ highlights his skills at blending blues, jazz, R&B, and soul through collaborations with such artists as India.Arie and Vince Gill. Edmonds is known for writing many iconic pop tunes as well as his impressive collection of Grammy awards. And Don McLean’s lengthy list of songs and albums can usually be summed up with the ultimately singable 1970s ballad “American Pie.”

July brings with it a special event highlighting some of the world’s best singers and songwriters. “The Heart Behind the Music” tour treats ticketholders to performances by talented musicians singing their own songs and talking about the stories behind them. This performance features Kim Carnes (“Bette Davis Eyes”), John Ford Coley (“I’d Really Love to See You Tonight”), Gene Cotton (“Before My Heart Finds Out”), and Lenny LeBlanc (“Falling”), as well as special guest Greg Barnhill, a distant relative of Mississippi’s “Singing Brakeman” Jimmie Rodgers.

The season will end with a bang, so to speak, as The Hit Men—the ORIGINAL Stars of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons—bring their combined talents to Meridian in August, singing their own hits from the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s.

“Our ticket packages this season are very flexible and great to give as gifts or keep for yourself,” Sankovich said.

Current season ticketholders must renew by Friday, February 15, to hold the same seats. New season ticket buyers can purchase their packages starting Wednesday, February 20. A “build your own package” option, which includes a discount and early seating, is available for those who wish to purchase tickets to three or more shows. Tickets for these packages can be purchased starting Monday, March 4. Tickets for individual shows go on sale Monday, March 11.

Performances start at 7:30 p.m. Select shows feature pre-show parties in the Grand Lobby, allowing patrons to socialize and enjoy refreshments as a prelude to the evening’s entertainment.

Tickets and information are available by phone or in person at the MSU Riley Center box office Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and one hour before showtime on the day of a show. The telephone number is 601-696-2200, and the address is 2200 Fifth Street in downtown Meridian.

Here is the complete Spring/Summer Series lineup, including ticket prices:
Aaron Neville
Friday, April 12, 2013 / 7:30 p.m. / $52, $46
Pre-Show 6:00 p.m.

From angelic falsetto to traditional Motown harmonizing, Aaron Neville’s voice is instantly recognizable. Equally impressive is his five-decades-plus career of hits and albums. With this Grammy-award winner’s astounding range and obvious star power, it should be no surprise that Neville has released yet another album—“My True Story,” which debuted January 2013. It features his distinctive interpretations of well-known doo-wop hits, such as “Tears on My Pillow” and “Under the Boardwalk.”

For Fans of: The Neville Brothers, Dr. John, Sam Cooke

What Critics Say: Neville shifted with ease from old-fashioned doo-wop to mainstream pop and, yes, even the delicate operatic heights of “Ave Maria.” His tremulous tenor sounded at home doing all of it.
— Jim Abbott, The Orlando Sentinel

Boz Scaggs
Friday, April 19, 2013 / 7:30 p.m. / $69, $63

Raised in Texas with an abiding respect for a wide spectrum of American roots music, Scaggs has used his unique and creative voice to create a trademark sound which combines R&B and blues with jazz and popular music. With an extensive and distinctive career that has expanded over time and garnered many accolades, Scaggs continues to explore new means of musical expression.

For Fans of: Michael McDonald, the Doobie Brothers, Dan Fogelberg

What Critics Say: Whether he was singing Muddy Waters’ “Same Thing” blues or his own “Lowdown,” Scaggs enraptured the crowd …. Overall, his steady voice has held up…and he let his rootsy musical
tastes do the talking. — Matt Fernandes, KDHX.

Friday, April 26, 2013 / 7:30 p.m. / $69, $63
Pre-Show 6:00 p.m.

Ten albums and 17 years after making her musical presence known, singer/songwriter Jewel has reached an important milestone—her first Greatest Hits album, released in February 2013. And she has certainly crafted some hits, with such favorites as “Who Will Save Your Soul” and “You Were Meant for Me” still enjoying radio airtime. Her versatility and thoughtful songwriting have garnered her recognition among indie rock, pop, and country fans alike.

For Fans of: Sheryl Crow, Lisa Loeb, Sarah McLachlan

What Critics Say: Jewel has many assets—an engaging personality, a large catalog of popular songs and
striking physical beauty among them—but her voice shines brightest at her performances.
— Bill Brownlee, The Kansas City Star

The Blues Brothers® Revue
Thursday, May 9, 2013 / 7:30 p.m. / $45, $39

They came to life in a 1970s Saturday Night Live skit, made the leap to the big screen with a cult classic movie, and even produced a sizable list of albums. The characters of Jake Blues™ and brother Elwood Blues™ live on through “The Official Blues Brothers® Revue,” a touring show which features dancing, comedy, and an eight-piece band. Wayne Catania and Kieron Lafferty assume the roles of the suit-clad, blues-singing brothers from Chicago, enjoying rave reviews.

For Fans of: John Popper, B.B. King, Matt “Guitar” Murphy

What Critics Say: Lafferty and Catania quickly proved that they weren’t just good impersonators, but in fact, very talented musicians. Lafferty’s harmonica solo at the end of “Gimme Some Lovin’” would
have made Brody Buster green with envy, while Catania showed off his soulful, honeydrenched
pipes during “Sweet Home Chicago.” — Shea Conner, St. Joseph News-Press

The Time Jumpers featuring Vince Gill, Dawn Sears, Kenny Sears, and Ranger Doug Green
Friday, May 17, 2013 / 7:30 p.m. / $69, $63

You may hear Vince Gill’s voice more than the others, but don’t be fooled—The Time Jumpers aren’t
your ordinary backup band. “Superpickers” is one word used to describe this extraordinarily talented group of Nashville studio musicians who began picking together in the 1990s. Three fiddlers, an accordion and piano player, an upright bass, numerous guitar players, several who sing—and every one is quite possibly the paramount expert on their instrument in their industry, playing at some time with most every hitmaker on the Billboard country chart.

For Fans of: Asleep at the Wheel, Diamond Rio, Willie Nelson

What Critics Say: As implied by their name, The Time Jumpers are a bit of a throwback to the classic sounds of a past era. The musicianship, approach, and yes—yodeling, on songs like “Yodel Blues,” come through with so much authenticity because these are many of the actual musicians responsible for those legendary sounds. With a style that’s unique in today’s country landscape, The Time Jumpers deliver a gem with their timeless collection. — Daryl Addison,

Keb’ Mo’
Saturday, June 1, 2013 / 7:30 p.m. / $42, $36
Pre-Show 6:00 p.m.

His first album debuted in 1980, but singer-songwriter and guitar player Kevin Moore was working the blues scene long before then. In the three decades since that first album, Kevin Moore became Keb’ Mo’, released 11 more albums (the most recent one in 2011), and won three Grammy awards. Born in South Los Angeles to parents from the South, Keb’ Mo’ produces music described as “a living link to the seminal Delta blues that traveled up the Mississippi River.”

For Fans of: Lyle Lovett, Robert Cray, Kelly Joe Phelps

What Critics Say: Rather than focus exclusively on the deep-down blues of, say, a Muddy Waters, Mo’ manages to tip his hat to the greats while bringing in his own funky style of upbeat, jazz/pop/rock-influenced blues to the party. — Roger Lelievre,

Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds
Friday, June 7, 2013 / 7:30 p.m. / $69, $63
Pre-Show 6:00 p.m.

There’s hardly a facet of the music industry where Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds has not found success. His ten Grammys highlight Edmonds’ years of work not only as a singer but as a songwriter and a producer as well. “Every Time I Close My Eyes” is one of his own chart-toppers. The hits he’s written for others are instantly recognizable, including Boyz II Men’s “End of the Road” and Whitney Houston’s “I’m Your Baby Tonight.”

For Fans of: Brian McKnight, Boyz II Men, Luther Vandross

What Critics Say: Babyface … was just as personable and polished, walking out to a standing ovation in a crisp silk suit and launching into his bottomless catalog of hits with “For the Cool In You,” “Every Time I Close My Eyes” and “Never Keeping Secrets,” all of which were accompanied by loudly enthusiastic sing-a-longs. His impassioned delivery, in fact, sent him into a soul-clapping, pinwheeling-across-the-stage frenzy. — Melody Charles,

Don McLean
Saturday, June 22, 2013 / 7:30 p.m. / $45, $39
Pre-Show 6:00 p.m.

There are plenty of iconic songs connected to folk singer/songwriter Don McLean, but two stand out. “American Pie”—the ballad telling of “the day the music died”—may well be the song he is most known for penning and performing. Another hit follows his name as well, but he didn’t write it and never performed it. “Killing Me Softly with His Song” was written about him and eventually sung by Roberta Flack as well as The Fugees. He was prolific during the 1970s but has recorded consistently for three decades, producing more than 30 albums.

For Fans of: Jim Croce, Simon & Garfunkel, James Taylor

What Critics Say: “American Pie,” when it came, was a surprise. Midway through the set he suddenly issued that immortal line “A long, long time ago...” and for 10 beautiful minutes it was 1971 again.
— Mike Keegan,

The Heart Behind the Music featuring Kim Carnes, John Ford Coley, Gene Cotton, Lenny LeBlanc, with special guest Greg Barnhill
Tuesday, July 16, 2013 / 7:30 p.m. / $35, $29

Showcasing some of the world’s best singers and songwriters, “The Heart Behind the Music” tour offers a chance to hear talented musicians talk about the meaning behind their hit songs while also treating ticketholders to outstanding performances. The tour’s Meridian stop includes Kim Carnes, who won a Grammy in the 1980s for singing “Bette Davis Eyes.” She has also written numerous hits for Barbra Streisand, Kenny Rogers, and many other well-known singers. Joining Carnes is John Ford Coley, half the Grammy-nominated duo England Dan & John Ford Coley and best known for the hit “I’d Really Love to See You Tonight.” The concert also highlights Gene Cotton, who has 15 albums to his credit and counts “Before My Heart Finds Out” and “Like a Sunday in Salem” among his top-rated singles. Versatile pop and country songwriter Lenny LeBlanc joins the group as well, known for his 1970s hit ballad, “Falling.” Since a dramatic religious conversion, LeBlanc has become a popular Christian artist, his credits including “Above All” and “There Is None Like You.” Special guest Greg Barnhill is also featured during the Meridian show. A distant relative of Mississippi’s “Singing Brakeman” Jimmie Rodgers, Barnhill has penned such hits as “House of Love” for Amy Grant and Vince Gill as well as “Walkaway Joe,” a duet by Trisha Yearwood and Don Henley. The Emmy nominee can also be heard on the recordings of Tim McGraw, Faith Hill, and Lee Ann Womack.

For Fans of: country, rock, blue-eyed soul

What Critics Say: [Gene Cotton is] one of the best writers in the business. — Hollywood Reporter

No question about the voice [of Kim Carnes]: it’s worn, aged, soulful, defiant, utterly lacking smooth edges—an enormously compelling instrument to anyone enamored of blue-eyed soul. — David McGee, Rolling Stone Record Guide

The Hit Men: The ORIGINAL Stars of Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons
Friday, August 2, 2013 / 7:30 p.m. / $28, $22

Ever heard of Lee Shapiro or Gerry Polci? How about Jimmy Ryan, Larry Gates, or Russ Velazquez? Perhaps, but you certainly know the groups and artists they’ve sung with: Carly Simon, Jim Croce, Tommy James & The Shondells, Barry Manilow, and Elton John, to name a few. After being part of the mega-hit acts of the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s, they combined their talents in 2010, and now they tour the country, singing many of the hits that launched their careers. If you liked the hit play Jersey Boys, then this concert is a must-see for you.

For Fans of: Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons, Tommy James & The Shondells

What Critics Say: When The Hit Men play anywhere near you, go see them! They were incredibly tight and polished... It was a fabulous show, and I enjoyed every minute of it. — Charles Alexander, The Huffington Post

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