Most of the time Don Was is a music producer, with Grammy Award-winning credits that include Bonnie Raitt, the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Bob Seger, the B-52’s, Willie Nelson and many more.
But one night a year — when he rolls out his Detroit All-Star Revue for the annual Concert of Colors — he considers himself a variety show host.
“I always try to make it like the Ed Sullivan show and make it cover as broad a spectrum as possible with this unifying thread of the indefinable Detroit spirit,” explains Was (ne Fagenson), 58, an Oak Park High School graduate who also co-founded the band Was (Not Was) and is working on albums for John Mayer and Kris Kristofferson.
The lineup for Was’ Revue is typically eclectic, from the blues-rock of the Muggs, Jimmy McCarty and Black Irish to the funky sounds of the Brothers Groove and Melvin Davis to jazz master Wendell Harrison. Mitch Ryder will team with the Detroit Cobras, whose next album Was is producing, while Ivan Kral of the Patti Smith Group, who now resides in Ann Arbor, will also perform.
And Motown great Martha Reeves will celebrate her 70th birthday on stage at the Revue.
But no matter how diverse its seems, Was — who will lead an all-star house band — contends that “there’s a unity that’s going to hold it together, regardless of what scales people are playing or singing in, or what beat is under the music. There’s not that much difference between Mitch Ryder and Wendell Harrison.
“I think this show would make total sense anywhere in the world, and they’d probably understand that better than we even do because we get a little close to it. But there’s definitely a sensibility running through it.”
As in previous years, the Revue performances will be filmed and broadcast via Was’ section at the web site www.mydamnchannel.com.
The Don Was Detroit All-Star Revue at the 19th Annual Concert of Colors takes place at 8:30 p.m. Saturday, July 16, at Orchestra Hall, 3711 Woodward Ave., Detroit. Admission is free but subject to capacity. The Concert of Colors runs through Sunday, July 17. For schedules and information visit www.concertofcolors.com.
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