By the Way

Why Kevin Costner’s Poplarville show was a win for South Mississippi

jcfitzhugh@sunherald.com File

It was nothing like the Christopher Guest film “Waiting for Guffman,” which tells the tale of people from a small town waiting anxiously for someone from Broadway to attend their play.

Actor/director and musician Kevin Costner brought his band Modern West to the Brownstone Center for the Arts on the campus of Pearl River Community College in Poplarville on Friday.

How does a city with a population of about 2,600 people land someone like Costner? To use a quote from Costner’s film “Field of Dreams,” the very quote that started Friday’s show, “If you build it, they will come.

And build the Brownstone Center they did.

If you haven’t been to a show at the arts center, you should do so as there are events there every couple of weeks. The Mississippi Symphony Orchestra will be there on Sept. 12.

Kyle Hill and the others associated with the facility had a vision to bring “world class entertainment to South Mississippi” and that is exactly what is happening at the beautiful, state-of-the-art facility.

Costner played an almost two-hour set of original material, songs that many in the audience were hearing for the first time. But this mattered not. The audience was glad to have Costner in South Mississippi and there were big rounds of applause and standing ovations throughout the night.

An evening with Modern West

Modern West expertly performed its Americana rock set. Most of the time, Costner just seemed to be a guy in the band who was having a good time. He covered a lot of his material in the two hours, including a three-song set from “Famous for Killing Each Other,” a soundtrack he created while working on the “Hatfields and McCoys” series.

Throughout the night, I found myself wondering what cover song the band was going to drop in the set. I was thinking something along the lines of “Salt of The Earth” by The Stones. But when Kevin Costner & Modern West hit the jangly opening chords of The Byrds cover of Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man” to close the show, they had picked the perfect song. Costner’s music is an extension of what The Byrds perfected by mixing the sounds of California and the American South.

And as happy as the good people of Poplarville were to play host to Costner, he genuinely seemed glad to be there.

Costner has a long history with South Mississippi and the Gulf Coast. He has made numerous films in New Orleans and other parts of Louisiana.

He also has a relationship with Attorney General Jim Hood. Costner and his Louisiana business partner developed technology that could separate water from oil. He sold his Ocean Therapy equipment to use to remove oil from the Gulf after the BP Oil Spill. But BP used dispersants, which instead sank the oil. The equipment is still housed in a warehouse in Louisiana.

And on the weekend of the 11th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, it was nice for South Mississippi to have someone like Costner remind them how far the area has come in 11 years.

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