Music lovers are gathered this August 2, 2022 evening at Kennedy Plaza on the Atlantic City, NJ boardwalk for a free Wednesday night Mardi Gras AC concert starring blues-rock musician Dana Fuchs. Known for her distinctively soulful voice, Fuchs made a name for herself playing Janis Joplin in the off-Broadway musical, Love, Janis, and also appeared as Sadie in the 2007 film, Across the Universe. As a recording artist, Fuchs has released a number of well-received albums including 2003’s Lonely for a Lifetime, 2011’s Love to Beg, and 2013’s Bliss Avenue. Her latest recording is 2022’s Borrowed Time.
Concert producer Carmen Marotta greets the crowd by tossing green, purple, and gold Mardi Gras beads out to members of the audience. After reminding everyone about future free Mardi Gras AC concerts — including jazz guitarist Stanley Jordon on August 17, Inca: A Tribute to Carlos Santana on August 24, and John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band on August 31 — Marotta introduces the audience to Dana Fuchs, describing her as a “phenom,” “a serious dedicated artist,” and “one of the roots-rock divas in the world.”
The members of Fuchs’ band — guitarist Jon Diamond, bassist Kevin Mackall, and drummer Richie Monica — take the stage and launch into “Ready to Rise.” Opening with a distorted guitar riff with shimmering drums and booming bass, the musicians whip up a funky groove that immediately captures the audience’s attention.
With her long curls flowing and sporting amber shades, Dana Fuchs enters, announcing, “Hello, New Jersey — my home state! This is our seaside Woodstock! Can we get together in the name of love and music tonight?”
Singing with passion, her soulful and bluesy voice rings out, “I won’t cry any more with the sun in my eyes/I’m tired of losin’ and I’m ready to rise,” before Jon Diamond shreds a guitar solo and the audience reacts with avid cheers and applause.
After thanking the crowd, Fuchs exclaims, “Let’s rock it out! Come on!” as she segues into “Double Down on Wrong,” a cut from her new album, Borrowed Time.
Booming bass and driving drums underscore her smooth, passionate vocal on this electric rocker before the band decrescendos and Fuchs says, “I’ve been fighting with everyone I love. We are what matters, person to person.” The crowd responds with enthusiastic whistles and cheers.
After revealing, “I wrote this next song way before the pandemic. Do you have a pain in the ass who you love? If you are still with them, that is true love!” Fuchs sits on a box drum playing percussive rhythms on “Handful Too Many.”
Her smoky vocal adds dimension to the country-boogie feel of the song and Jon Diamond sparkles on a guitar solo on this percussive and rhythmic tune.
Following the bluesy and upbeat rocker, “Hard Road,” the crowd cheers and Fuchs says, “Thank you. I wrote this next song when I had lost a lot of people. I lost my mom, my dad, a brother, and a sister. Then, I heard this Tibetan monk talk and he said, ‘We are sitting on gratitude.’”
Here, she and the band perform “Sittin’ On,” a tune with an island groove that has audience members moving at their seats as the ocean breeze wafts the salty air and the sun begins to set in the west.
Fuchs talks about her relationship with her father before announcing, “This song is for the ‘faithful sinners’ we have in our lives and in our hearts.” She takes a seat downstage as she croons “Faithful Sinner,” a power ballad on which her soulful voice cries out, “If you could see through my sad eyes/This pool of tears that I’ve cried/Would you see a villain for all time/Or a sinner with a faithful mind?”
The crowd applauds, and Fuchs responds by performing an Otis Redding song, “Nobody’s Fault But Mine,” an upbeat tune which features rhythmic guitar, driving drums, and a funky bass which accompany Fuchs’ irresistibly bluesy vocal filled with feeling and grit.
Singing on her knees on stage, Fuchs says, “I’m gonna add a little Ike and Tina Turner,” as she segues into the funky “I Smell Trouble,” impressing with her complete vocal range as the band cooks.
Strapping on an acoustic guitar, Fuchs performs “the first country song I ever wrote — about two messed-up people who will never be on the same page.” Showing her versatility, she spins a yarn with her voice on “I’m Thinking ‘Bout You (But I Got Nothing on My Mind),” a number which has Jon Diamond playing an inspired electric guitar solo.
Fulfilling an audience request, Fuchs and Co. perform “Battle Lines,” a song which Fuchs says is “based on a Socrates quote: ‘Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.’” On this appealing country-rocker, Fuchs accompanies herself on acoustic guitar crying, “I see high tides and river flow/Always drift back to sea/Can’t hold em close/Can’t hold anything/Pullin’ away from me,” as the sky darkens and stage lights glow.
The crowd cheers, and Fuchs declares, “I want to thank you so much, New Jersey! I’m proud to say I was born here!” before performing her final number, a cover version of David Bowie and Queen’s “Under Pressure.” Kevin Mackall lays down the song’s famous ostinato bass line while Fuchs gets the audience on its feet clapping along to the rhythm. Having fun, Fuchs has the crowd — and, then, concert producer Carmen Marotta — echo-sing with her before a member of the audience, Pete, takes the stage and the pair vocally riffs together. The crowd loves the spontaneity of the performance and responds with animated whistles, cheers, and applause.
“Thank you!” exclaims Fuchs as she raises her microphone stand above her head a la Queen’s Freddie Mercury before exiting with the band.
As audience members get ready for a second set of tunes by the New Orleans ensemble, Flow Tribe, we chat with several music lovers in the crowd who share their thoughts on tonight’s performance by Dana Fuchs. Declares Daniel from Atlantic City, “Dana was really good! Before tonight, I wasn’t familiar with her or her music, but I loved her soulfulness, and the band was really crisp, too.” Larry from Ventnor agrees, exclaiming, “She was superb!” before adding, “We come to all of the Wednesday Mardi Gras AC concerts,” explaining, “You just can’t beat a concert on the beach!”
Susan from Margate maintains, “I loved the bluesy edge to Dana’s voice! It really drew me in,” adding, “I also liked that she told us the stories behind her songs — she made the music so personal that I feel I almost know her now.” George from Margate concurs, insisting, “Dana Fuchs’ voice is so powerful — plus, I really liked the variety of her music which ran the spectrum from country to blues to rock and to soul.”
Lastly, we chat with Frank from Absecon who acknowledges, “I’m here tonight because I know Dana Fuchs from the movie, Across the Universe. Now I’ve learned that she not only sings Beatles’ songs with a soulful twist, but she injects that trademark bluesy sound of hers into her own quality material,” before concluding, “I could listen to her all night long!”
To learn more about Dana Fuchs, please go to danafuchs.com. For information on future free Mardi Gras AC concerts on the Atlantic City Boardwalk at Kennedy Plaza — including guitarist Stanley Jordan on August 17, Inca: A Tribute to Carlos Santana on August 24, and John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band on August 31 — please click on tonymart.com.
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