To put it simply, attending a concert of a beloved entertainer is all about wanting and making memories to cherish forever.
This is a truism for Keali’l Reichel, the Maui singer-kumu hula, who took to the stage of Blue Note Hawaii at the Outrigger Waikiki resort last night (Nov. 17) for the first of six performances through Sunday. It was a sellout, with elbow-to-elbow fellowship among his fans, a form and celebration likely to be repeated, with wholly different nuances and joy, for the next gallery of fans.
The pandemic has made him edgy, but eager to please. His format is casual yet captivating, as if the stage is his living room in his isolated digs on Maui, in a gated community, as he joked. But the gates are cattle gates, since his lifestyle and turf now includes cows, pigs and goats.
He dutifully announces every title of songs in his 90 minute serenade, but frankly, I don’t know his repertoire by heart and can recognize the melodies if I scour my collection of Reichel CDs to try to match and recap the musical memories. I sought a crib sheet, with proper titles listed, but either he didn’t get the memo or didn’t deem it necessary, and if it’s OK with him, it’s OK with me to reflect on this stellar exercise in memory-making. You don’t need a steward to skipper the ship of titles, so consider this a recap of a night I’ll not easily forget.
One quick reason to adore this relatable show: it was full of surprises and antics.
His first song was “I’ll Be There,” in English, with a complementary Hawaiian mele, “E O Mai,” but apologies if I misstated the title. Stylistically, the separate melodies matched each other, a format he seemed to use a couple of times. But as stated, I’ve not been on top of his catalogue, so I’m writing this piece around the titles.
For one of two hana hous, Reichel did an a cappella rendering of “Wanting Memories,” from his debut “Kawaipanahele” CD, tapping one musical for the deep-voiced bass doom-doom tones, and two vocal associates to provide three-part harmonies with him.
You know this ditty, with these opening lyrics he composed:
“I am sitting here wanting memories to teach me,
“To see the beauty in the world through my own eyes.
“I am sitting here wanting memories to teach me,
“To see the beauty in the world through my own eyes.”
Minus amplification, it’s a perfect song for recollection, for flashbacking, for embracing.
“Wow, Thursday,” he commented upon taking the stage. “A packed house!”
It had been more than a year when he did the Blue Note, so he did the obvious: update his age (60), that his newly completed Maui home has a flush toilet and water catchment, even it is 90 minutes of drive time to Wailuku.
He’s a frisky 60, and dapper in a black T-shirt worn with tan trousers, with strands of earth-toned shells around his neck; he had diamond earrings on each lobe, and bracelets around both wrists. A gold ring was on his third finger left hand. And famously, he’s still performing barefooted.
As usual, he has the support of Halau Ke‘alaokamaile to animate his Hawaiian mele with hula, in alternating numbers, from 7 to 3 to 2 to 1, depending on need. The women are all immaculately dressed in hula outfits of brilliant hues, and he made a declaration at one point that if anyone who has the notion to dance without an invite, need only to show up, and one wahine did just that. Again, apologies; no name, but she created new memories for herself, for Reichel, and for the spectators, with such animated expression.
There were novelties, like Pua Nogelmeier’s “Nematoda,” about those unwanted critters in the garden, and that game-based mele about holding your breath as long as you can, as the setting sun kisses the ocean goodnight.
Atmospheric beauts written for his grandma or for Disney Aulani (“Hei Lei No ‘Aulani”) were other tunes in the hopper.
The bottom line: Reichel’s voice exudes tenderness, is comforting and expressive, and clearly is dusted with heartwarming sincerity.
Like his last show, he neglected to program “Kawaipunahele,” the singular tune that put him on the map, but who’s to quibble? We all can revert to the CD and give it a spin for old time’s sake.
Reichel performs again at 6:30 and 9 p.m. Friday Nov. 18 and Saturday Nov. 19 and 6:30 p.m. Sunday Nov. 20 at Blue Note.
Tickets: $85 and $125, costlier than his previous performances, but be aware of highly inflated prices at certain websites. Reservations: www.bluenotehawaii.com or (808) 777-4890. …
And that’s Show Biz. …
2 Replies to “KEALI‘I REICHEL: ‘WANTING MEMORIES’”
Nice write up for Keali;i at the Bluenote last night. Glad you had a good time. I don’t think I have ever seen him with shoes on-HA!
You’re right; most Hawaiian troupers and almost always hula dancers go shoeless. Barefoot works. Always had a kick when Willie K hit the stage in barefeet.