Ottawa Blues Fest
For the massive and multi-generational female contingent in cowboy boots, jean skirts and straw hats, dreams don’t come much sweeter than that. “You think you’re surprised,” Costner mused as he surveyed a large crowd. “I don’t know what I was expecting, but my heart feels really big to see y’all out here.” The feeling was mutual and fans warmed up quickly, maybe not expecting Costner and his band, Modern West, to be as good as they were. As an actor, there were few bigger than Costner at his prime. As a director, he presided over some of the most spectaular disasters in Hollywood history. This wasn’t one of them. Costner turned on the charm early, blowing kisses and opening his arms wide to a welcoming crowd, dressed in blue jeans, checkered shirt and suede boots, sporting a grey soul patch. He’s always had charisma to go with those chiselled, California-cool looks, but he proved his pleasant country charm works under the lights of any stage. And while his weather-worn voice was far from perfect pitch, it carried a lot of mileage, and that counts for something. He ramped up a soulful, throaty growl on the opener, a barn-burning Red River, followed by an equally hot Long, Hot Night, and showed a gruff tenderness on Nogales, a stark piece of of balladry bordering on brilliance. By the halfway mark of his hour-long set, it was clear this was no fluke. His songwriting was more than capable, arrangements tight, his lyrics sincere, the delivery pure and impassioned. And he can spin a good yarn, too, charming fans with well-spun between-song banter. The best was a story that served as the intro to 90 Miles, about his less-than-approving father who frowned upon his early career choices, first as a struggling actor and then as a hit-and-miss director. “The ones that love you the most tend to worry, they can sometimes hold you back with their love,” he said. “But sometimes the things you want to do, you just go and do it, and by the time people catch up with you you’re already 90 miles down the road.” That pretty much sums up the sharp left turn his career path has taken.