Heidi Zemach for SCN –
An electrifying, virtuosic one-man performance Sunday night at the Resurrect Arts Coffee House and Gallery of the rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar. EJ Simpson of Philadelphia delivered, as promised, every single song from the musical on his own, accompanying himself on those 21 songs with a pink-stringed bass, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, mandolin, an electronic loop machine and those in the audience who cold’t resist the urge to sing along.
It was an exhausting for the performer, and the modest audience most of who appeared to be fans of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s 70’s-era rock musical, remained riveted throughout the hour and a half show.
The high point was his frightening recreation of the frantic, ugly crucifixion scene. Simpson yelled out the numbers of each of Jesus’ whippings as he grabbed up each instrument, creating increasingly layered sound loops. At one point he almost dropped his guitar as he grabbed drumsticks and drum to pound on, after which he flipped open the piano and pounded on it too.
Simpson says he had been a big fan of the rock opera’s soundtrack practically all his life. But about eight years ago, while he was in the shower, his sister turned up the volume to 11. That’s when it came to him that he needed a new distraction in his life, and decided to teach himself to play the whole thing. He performs it every spring in coffee shops, bars, and even a few churches.
Those who may have missed this amazing show will get another chance to at least see it at AJs Steakhouse in Homer May 9th at 8:00 pm; and twice more at the Tap Root, in Anchorage May 10 th at 7:30 pm, and again at 10:00 p.m. Simpson is returning to the “Rez Arts” for a show of his original work, along with Laura Oden on Monday, May 12, at 7 p.m.