Jonah Koslen has gone and found himself to be the Grandfather of Northcoast rock. He may not appreciate that I just said that out loud – but that doesn’t make it any less true. Actually – Northcoast rock has two artist that need to share that title– Michael Stanley also reigns supreme as an elder statesman of Cleveland rock but tonight we are going to focus on Mr. Koslen as he brought some old friends and an impressive catalogue of music to the Music Box Supper Club on a cold and windy Saturday on the beautiful North Coast.
I wanted to do something more than just a simple review, a mere recounting of moments shared by an audience – Jonah deserves more than that – his music deserves more than that – his legacy deserves more than that.
The Cleveland rock scene in the 70’s was a sight to behold. With the likes of Joe Walsh and Bruce Springsteen often in town – Jonah Koslen found himself smack in the middle of a turning point of rock music, homegrown -midwestern -blue-collar music, music with an edge, music with heart was coming of age, enter The Michael Stanley Band – in which Koslen and Stanley teamed up for a treasure trove of now-classic tunes. While his time with MSB was somewhat stinted – about 4 years total – the band did release three albums during that time period with the double live vinyl Stage pass becoming that of CLE legend.
After MSB came Breathless then Jonah Koslen and the Heroes. Both bands adding to his already impressive achievements, a reteaming with Michael Stanley for The Ghost Poets in the 90’s added to the legend of this local hero, so when the word came down that Koslen would be returning to Northeast Ohio for a series of shows – you bet your ass it immediately went on the “must attend list” for this NEO native and it must have rung true for many others from the era as Jonah and his band managed to basically sell out two shows at the Music Box.
With such a deep and expansive chest of music to choose from – it was hard to tell where Koslen might go with this special evening but all questions were quickly answered when Jonah hit the stage with the Breathless classic Walk Right In.
Joined on stage with a full band consisting of Bill March, Donny Thompson, Alan Greene, Van Eidom, Rik Williger, and Rodney Psyka – none strangers to playing with Koslen – things were off to a rocking start – and it just got better as the show progressed. Koslen and company pulled out the stops, hitting high points from all facets of his long and amazing musical journey but as one might expect – the old MSB stuff seemed to fuel the audience the most. Waste A Little Time On Me, Nothings Gonna Change My Mind and of course Strike Up The Band all had the crowd on their feet.
An exchange of appreciation between artist and fan is always a beautiful thing to behold and it doesn’t happen as often as one might think but, on this day – at this show – artist and fan shared a single mind and all were transported back to a simpler time, a time when music could solve problems and change the world.
Koslen and his band – a mini Breathless reunion for the most part – powered through an expansive set, firing on all cylinders and fully at home, Koslen, comfortable with his place in the musical landscape that he helped shape. His voice is as strong now as it ever was and the music has aged as well as those performing it. For those of a certain era – this will be remembered as a magical evening shared with friends and further cementing the fact that we are all products of the things we experience and if we are honest – our lives do come with a soundtrack that we choose and to have the ability to recount that soundtrack, in an intimate setting, with those that produced it is indeed a gift.
Jonah Koslen’s musical legacy is cemented in the streets of Cleveland and in the minds of a generation that proved we may all be a little older but you’re never too old to Strike Up The Band – one more time.