No separation of Kevin Bacon and Baltimore

It's been a while, but the `Diner' guy is back, and he's singing

September 16, 2005|By Rob Hiaasen | Rob Hiaasen,SUN STAFF

Been a long time, Fenwick.

Some of us last saw Kevin Bacon in Baltimore when he played a rich lost kid named Timothy Fenwick - drunk and away in a Christmas manger in Barry Levinson's 1982 Diner.

That very diner has long since moved to Saratoga Street - but still sells fries with gravy. Kevin Bacon has long since moved on to many movies - Footloose, A Few Good Men, JFK, Apollo 13 and Mystic River - but he returns to Maryland this weekend. He won't be acting but singing with his older brother Michael, as they bring the Bacon Brothers Band to Rams Head Live! in Baltimore tonight.

FOR THE RECORD - An article about the Bacon Brothers Band in the Today section yesterday stated the wrong date for the band's appearance at the Rams Head Tavern in Annapolis. The band appears there tomorrow, with shows at 5:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m.
The Sun regrets the error.

Singing actors. Fill in your own opinion.

"People generally roll their eyes when they hear about actors who sing," Bacon says. "I knew that would be the drill, so we just push through that."

The Bacon Brothers' tour is called the "No Food Jokes Tour" - referring to the startling fact their last name is a food product, and people, can we finally lay off the bacon jokes? Bacon Brothers Sizzle! many a newspaper writer has cooked up. The brothers have to push through that, too.

Although this is their first Baltimore gig, the Bacon brothers have been a band for a decade. The blue-eyed brothers share writing credits, trade off as lead singer, and both play Taylor six-string guitars. They are touring in support of their fourth studio album, White Knuckles. Its ballads and uptempo tunes are a mix of country, blues, folk and rock.

A year after Sept. 11, 2001, the New York residents paid tribute to their city by writing "Unhappy Birthday":

Light a candle, waking up in a cold sweat

You would think I'd just roll over

You would think that I'd forget

Unhappy birthday

But I ain't gonna cry today.

It's worth listening to several times. Then, it's worth casting about for other songs, such as Michael Bacon's "Hasn't Got a Heart," about a couple of friends whose hearts have been steamrolled. White Knuckles also features a cover of George Harrison's "If I Needed Someone." And on a jumpy fun thing called "Good News," Kevin Bacon himself sings: We play another round of six degrees.

Bacon's varied film career launched "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon" - a parlor game that connects almost every known actor to one of Bacon's films through six or fewer connections. He's appeared in a commercial about his own name game. Why not drop it into one of their songs?

And why not - here it comes - play "Footloose" in their shows? Cheap shot or good solid journalism? Like their music, you be the judge.

Two years after Diner, Bacon played a dancing outlaw in the hit movie Footloose, which begat a Kenny Loggins hit single and later an obvious encore for the Bacon Brothers band. It was either ignore the song or play it and make people smile, they figured years ago. "We embraced the beast," as Kevin says. Fans can hear a live version of "Footloose" on their Web site.

"I got to tell you, though," Kevin says, "I'm sick of doing it."

"I do think it's run its course," Michael says. "I never really liked the song that much."

Not to break news or hearts here, but the Bacon Brothers will probably not perform "Footloose" tonight, or on Sunday when they play the Rams Head Tavern in Annapolis. But fans will hear 70 minutes of new music off White Knuckles and old stuff, such as Kevin's "Woman's Got a Mind to Change" and a real oldie, "Strung Out."

Michael Bacon, who scores television and documentary films in New York, is a confessional singer-songwriter cut in the mold of Joni Mitchell, Jackson Browne and James Taylor. (Their voices sound similar, and both Bacon and Taylor happened to start out on cello.) Growing up in a creative Philadelphia family, Michael and Kevin were musically driven. Their collaboration appeared second nature.

"Melodies and lyrics came to me, but I didn't have an instrument except for the drums," Kevin says. "So, I would sing songs to my brother and he would structure them and put chords together on his guitar."

Michael, who taught Kevin to play "Hey, Jude" on guitar, pursued music as a livelihood. But Kevin pursued an acting career that has gone from Animal House in 1978 to last year's The Woodsman.

In 1995, the brothers just sort of started playing music together. "It wasn't like, `I'm a movie star. See if I can parlay this into a music career,'" Kevin says. In the beginning, the band was created more in Michael's image: coffeehouse acoustic ballads with no percussion.

Kevin then brought a rock and percussive sensibility to the band's sound, and he became a skilled and prolific songwriter, Michael says. "He can't stop writing. He's like an idiot savant," he says. "A lot of people think I carry him musically. It's not true in the slightest. The band now is more in his image."

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