John Denver tribute band, Boulder Canyon, rolls into Park City
Chris Collins and Boulder Canyon will perform a tribute to John Denver at 8 p.m. from Thursday, June 28, through Saturday, June 30, at the Egyptian Theatre, 328 Main St. Thursday tickets range from $23-$35. Friday and Saturday tickets range from $29-$45. Tickets can be purchased by visiting www.parkcityshows.com.
Fans of John Denver won’t have to use their imagination too much to picture Chris Collins as their idol when he and his band Boulder Canyon pay tribute to the late singer and songwriter this week at the Egyptian Theatre.
“There is enough similarity to my appearance to John Denver naturally that people can draw that memory up for themselves,” Collins said. “As far as my voice goes, I’m sort of in his range and our tonalities aren’t different.”
The songs, Collins, said is where the audiences really make the connection.
“In terms of style, the key to singing John Denver is to sing purely,” he said. ‘You don’t have to stylize. You don’t have to do any vibrato. You just have to sing and the songs will do all the work.”
Some of the songs are just as pertinent as they were back when they were first released 40 years ago because of the country’s social and political environment, Collins said, because minorities are still fighting for rights and there is a divide regarding the country’s natural resources and parks.
“I think John, if he were alive today, would be addressing those social, political and environmental issues,” Collins said. “He never wavered from his views, and that may be part of the reason he lost some of his popularity. He ended up spending more time considering fighting for those causes instead of focusing on his career.”
When Collins and Boulder Canyon — guitarist Paul Swanton, fiddle and mandolin player Alexander Mitchell, bassist Kevin Delmolino and keyboardist Bill Powell — play Park City, they won’t talk too much about politics. Collins said.
“We will, however, address some of the environmental and social issues that are going on,” he said. “Some of the songs we do — like ‘Voice in the Country’ and ‘Rocky Mountain High’ — have great relevance to those topics.”
In addition to addressing issues, Denver’s songs deal with the human experience, Collins explained.
“John sang of wanting to be loved and longing for purpose,” he said. “Those things never change for us as humans no matter what decade or era we’re in, and I think all of the things that have made his musical lovable then make them lovable now.”
Collins takes many things in consideration when writing up a set list for his concerts.
“We obviously do the Top 10 and Top 40 songs, but we also throw in some stuff that is meaningful to the band in terms of our own experiences,” he said. “We do songs like ‘Boy from the Country’ or ‘My Sweet Lady’ and ‘Poems, Prayers and Promises,’ which weren’t huge hits, but songs that people could relate to on a heartfelt level.”
One of the most difficult songs for Collins to learn was “Rocky Mountain High.”
“It was partly because I was just learning how to play guitar and that’s a tough lick to play and sing over at the same time,” he said. “More recently, the hardest song to learn was ‘Eagles and Horses’ because of some funny rhythms and lyrics that just didn’t stick with me. But it’s a really cool song and we really enjoy playing it.”
Usually Collins keeps a professional front when performing live, but there are times when the beauty of a John Denver lyric will stop him in his tracks.
“I’m an emotional guy and every now and then I will find myself getting choked up,” he said. “‘Sunshine on My Shoulders’ and ‘This Old Guitar’ are a couple of songs that I will sometimes find hard to sing.”
That emotional connection is what attracted Collins to Denver’s songs in the first place.
“There is a depth to the lyrics that I think all of his fans recognize,” Collins said. “We sang ‘My Sweet Lady’ in Newfoundland, and we could hear someone sigh when we finished. They still touch people.”
Even people who never saw John Denver live are moved by Collins’ concerts.
“We have audience members ages 7 to 97, and I remember after one show, a young girl told us that she never saw John Denver live, but her mother used to sing his songs to her,” he said. “It showed us that John’s legacy lives on in intimate and personal ways.”
Collins said he never tires of performing Denver’s songs.
“You would think that playing these songs over and over would get old, but every time we play to a new audience, the songs become fresh again,” he said.
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