By John Benson
There’s something about New Year’s Eve shows and Michael Stanley that go together.
Not only did the Michael Stanley Band perform a 1981 New Year’s Eve concert before 21,000 fans at the old Richfield Coliseum, but for the better half of the past decade, Stanley has been playing holiday shows at the House of Blues.
“New Year’s Eve shows are either really good or the audience is already passed out when you get there,” said Stanley, who can be heard weekdays as the afternoon disc jockey on WNCX-FM. “I remember when we used to do them at The Coliseum. You have to start later, and you’d hit the stage and half the people in the first row would already be passed out. It’s kind of weird, but when it works the right way, it’s the ultimate party. Hopefully, that’s what will happen this time.”
This time is Monday at the House of Blues. Actually, Stanley said normally he plays a holiday show, but it’s been a few years since he did the New Year’s Eve House of Blues gig.
However, this year the Live Nation folks called him up and suggested a soiree with his backing band The Resonators — Tommy Dobeck (drums), Bob Pelander (piano, vocals), Danny Powers (guitar, vocals), Jennifer Lee (vocals, percussion), Rodney Psyka (percussion, vocals), Marc Lee Shannon (guitar), Eroc Sosinski (bass, vocals) and Paul Christensen (sax) — to bring in 2013.
Stanley agreed, looking forward to another moment where optimism about the upcoming year rings loudly. You see, it’s been a rough couple of years for the Cleveland icon. In 2010, Stanley lost his mother, father, stepfather, ex-wife and two members of his road crew.
Naturally, he sought catharsis through his music, which eventually became his recently released 12th studio album “The Hang.” The CD includes the upbeat title track and the orchestral “Another New Year’s Eve.”
“It was sort of a darker album, not that my albums are party albums,” Stanley said. “The last 18 months before that had been fraught with all sorts of people passing on, so it was kind of a product of that. The next album we start mixing in January has a concerted effort to be a little more smiling.”
Though Stanley said the new unreleased material won’t be played at the upcoming New Year’s Eve show, there will be material from “The Hang” and other gems from his MSB past in the set.
“One of the blessings and curses this far down the line is there’s so much stuff to choose from,” Stanley said. “There are obviously a certain amount of things that have to show up at every show, and I’ve been lucky enough to have a fan base that allows me to have a certain amount of freedom still to do new things.”
Speaking of new things, this year Stanley is following suit from other classic-rock artists who make special VIP packages available — at a steep cost — to die-hard fans. For $200, Stanley fans get an intimate pre-show acoustic set with wine, an exclusive meet-and-greet and an autographed limited edition show poster.
It’s pointed out to Stanley that going the VIP route is a slippery slope. Soon, Live Nation will be hawking VIP passes to drive him to the gig or perhaps watch him get dressed backstage.
Stanley said, lauging, “Yeah, that’ll probably be next year.”