Rock on the Rock: Chilly ‘Island Rocks’ concert features classic rock tribute band

Lance Shearer

By Marco Island standards, it was Arctic conditions on Saturday afternoon and evening, as a chilly wind whipped the tents of the vendors, and the hair of the lead singer, at the “Island Rocks” concert at Veterans Community Park.

Concert-goers huddled under coats, blankets and even sleeping bags, as they listened first to opening act the Sarah Hadeka Band, and then headliner Chain Reaction, a rock and roll tribute band channeling the music of classic rock bands Journey and Styx. Its’ worth remembering, though, that wind-chill factor aside, with the mercury in the low 60s, it was 40 degrees warmer at the show than for the fans who braved the northern weather to watch the NFL playoff games going on at the same time. And here, you could get up and dance.

The 'Island Rocks' concert Saturday night at Veterans' Community Park was cool, even chilly, as headliner Chain Reaction played a tribute set to rock bands Journey and Styx.

The free show was put on by the city’s Parks and Recreation Department, said Samantha Malloy, manager of cultural and recreation for the City of Marco Island, as a thank you to the island’s residents. In this case, that especially thanked some of the younger residents, who came of age after the glory days of the first wave of rock legends such as the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, in time to savor the music that Sirius XM Radio puts on their “classic rewind” channel, from the days when people bought music on cassette tapes or even 8-tracks. (If you’re under 40, ask your parents.)

Of course, all of the rock shows draw a younger crowd than the big band shows that play regularly during season under the Mackle Park ‘air-nasium.’ Hadeka opened the show with her big voice and her guitar, although her greatest proficiency instrumentally is on keyboards, with KT Tunstall’s “Black Horse and the Cherry Tree,” released in 2005, and followed up with tunes including the Janis Joplin/Big Brother hit “Piece of My Heart.

Chain Reaction bass player Rob Doyle, left, and lead singer John D'Agostino The 'Island Rocks' concert Saturday night at Veterans' Community Park was cool, even chilly, as headliner Chain Reaction played a tribute set to rock bands Journey and Styx.

After some announcements and giveaways by emcee Steve Reynolds, including a complimentary pass to the Xtreme Escape escape room, Chain Reaction took the stage. The band has a bit of an identity crisis, as they perform shows as “Forever Styx” when they cover that band, “Chain Reaction” as “the ultimate Journey tribute band,” or “The Majesty of Rock” when they combine the two for a dual extravaganza.

Saturday, although billed as Chain Reaction, they opened with Styx tunes, including “Lady,” perhaps the biggest Styx hit, and “Too Much Time on My Hands.” Thanks to music director and bandleader Rob Doyle, and the talented musicians on stage, the band did an admirable job channeling their heroes.

Lead vocalist John D’Agostino, dapper in a fedora and white dinner jacket complete with carnation, came across like a Dean Martin or Frank Sinatra crooner – until he doffed the hat, loosed his long ponytail, and let his “freak flag fly” in the stiff breeze. Laz Christofi on lead guitar was another standout.

“After years of playing in cover bands in bars, we wanted to put more into the music, get more involved with it,” said Doyle before the show. “It’s a lot more work to pull off a topnotch tribute band, when the fans know every note before you play it.”

While it definitely counts as work, “we all have day jobs,” added Doyle, who works in music at Sam Ash in Fort Lauderdale. “This is sort of our hobby.”

In the Journey portion of their show, the band played numerous selections from Journey’s 1981 “Escape” album, including the hits “Don’t Stop Believing” and “Who’s Crying Now.”

According to Malloy, Parks & Rec will probably sponsor another “Island Rocks” show in April, with the headliner tentatively being the Manipulators, although nothing is yet set in stone.

It should be warmer.