By Brittany Redden, Contributor
The lofty auditorium of the Holland Performing Arts Center stirred with folks excited to take a trip down memory lane on Jan. 12. The audience was excited to take a trip through their glory days, back to the 80’s as world-class guitarist Daryl Stuermer prepared to take the stage for the second consecutive night.
The crowd gathered to listen to the stylings of the former guitarist for Phil Collins, best known for his 1979 chart topper “In the air tonight” and his Disney movie classic “You’ll be in my heart.” Stuermer’s musical career has been an evolution of life-changing and career-catapulting experiences, all of which led him to where he is today.
Stuermer was of the breed of young man who once dreamt of rock stardom and began pursuing this goal while in his teens. A self-taught guitarist, Stuermer and his older brother started their band, Sweetbottom, when he was 17 years old. Their modest rock group was a regular act at a Milwaukee nightclub, playing five nights a week. At one performance, the 60’s rock group Frank Zappas & The Mothers of Invention discovered Sweetbottom and took a special interest in Stuermer. This rendezvous led to Stuermer’s stint with French violinist Jean Luc Ponty, taking Stuermer all over the United States and Europe.
Three years later, an eternity for a backup guitarist to a major name in music like Ponty, Stuermer began with Genesis, an English band originally consisting of Phil Collins, Peter Gabriel and others, for which Stuermer played guitar. After continuing as Phil Collins’ guitarist when Collins launched his solo career and then launching a solo career of his own, Stuermer now tours performing hits from all chapters of his life. His double-feature evening with the Omaha Symphony was no exception.
A rock guitarist and a classical symphony is certainly an unusual pairing, but perhaps it was this spangled collision of these two unexpected genres that made the evening everything it was.
Each song on the nearly three hour set list was more ’80s than the last. The concert began with the full, proper orchestra decked in their black attire taking their seats, brass and string instruments in hand. The stage was set for a concert of classical proportions, but this is far from what was actually coming the audience’s way.
The auditorium lights dimmed. “One, two, three, four,” counted off the conductor, Mike Kamenski. Spotlights of brilliant purple, blue, red and green enveloped the room from the orchestra seats to the top tier and cast an LED glow over the Holland’s blond oak wood finishes. The opening song, “Throwing it all away,” is a number from Struemer’s Genesis days and an obvious favorite of the now head-banging (yet politely seated) audience. Stuermer’s fan base consisted mostly of middle-aged and older men, with their ladies listening intently by their side.
The set list continued, alternating rock ballads with rock anthems, most of which included vocals by Woody Mankowski with a sprinkling of instrumental only tracks. No tune was without two characteristics: an unmistakable 80’s feel fit for a John Hughes film soundtrack and a signature Stuermer guitar solo.
Stuermer and his team of talented musicians shared quick, personal moments on stage; the buddies glanced at each other and wailed on their instruments, inspiring the already buzzing energy in the room to soar to new heights. It was a little unexpected from a concert with a symphony involved and an admittedly older fan base, but was a welcome surprise nonetheless.
The show was so perfectly executed it might as well have been a CD piped in through the speakers and wafting through the rafters.
Stuermer seemed to fulfill the secret desire of every man in attendance to be David Bowie, but never picked up a guitar (or at most never left the garage).
Song after song they bobbed their heads to the beat. Some tracks evoked a feeling of classy sex music, such as the tenth number appropriately titled “In too deep” complete with soft falsetto vocals (meant in the best of ways, of course).
A fellow attendee liked the concert, but described it as “very eighties” and “what you’d hear in Von Maur on a ‘cool’ day.” A clearly premeditated encore rounded out the show and the ecstatic audience rose to their feet and cheered until Stuermer disappeared for good.
For one who enjoys a well done melding of two very opposite genres, this show was not one to miss. Stuermer’s glory days may have been when acid wash denim was cool the first time around, but after his stint with the Omaha Symphony Jan. 11 and 12, it is clear that his talents continue to delight audiences of all ages.