Adopt The Arts Honors Glenn Hughes & Robin Zander | May 12, 2016 | Fonda Theatre | Hollywood, CA – Interviews, Review & Photos


May 12, 2016
Fonda Theatre
Hollywood, CA

Interviews & Review by Shawn Perry
Photos by Kimberly Annette

Now in its sixth year, Adopt The Arts put on a rockin’ all-star fundraiser at the Fonda Theatre in Hollywood on May 12, and exceeded all expectations. Although exact figures have yet to be released, Adopt The Arts co-founder Matt Sorum told the sold-out crowd he wanted to reach $100,000 for the night, and by all accounts, when you factor in proceeds generated from VIP tables and auctions for memorabilia, that figure sounded about right. You could certainly buy a lot of guitars with that.

And that’s what Adopt The Arts is all about: putting the tools for creation, like guitars, into the hands of those who need them the most: our kids. It’s no secret that arts education programs have been cut from public school district budgets for nearly two decades. Because of this, Adopt The Arts has stepped up to “adopt” schools in Los Angeles and help fill the gap.

Studies show that adding arts programs to the curriculum keeps students engaged, enhances learning in other core subjects, improves early cognitive development, especially in math and reading, increases graduation rates, and encourages skills vital to living and working in the 21st century.

Staging more fundraisers not only provides monetary support; it also raises awareness of a very serious issue. And what better way to reach a wide audience than to bring in heavy hitters like Aerosmith’s Joe Perry, Black Sabbath’s Geezer Butler and Toto’s Steve Lukather to help honor recent Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductees Glenn Hughes (Deep Purple) and Robin Zander (Cheap Trick). The Fonda show offered a heightened sense of legitimacy behind the work that Adopt The Arts is doing.

“Every year, it gets bigger because it has to,” Sorum told me during a pre-show press event. “More and more people recognize that we’re sticking around, we’re not going away.”

The one-time Guns N’ Roses drummer said that while Adopt The Arts is small, sponsors like Coffee Bean, Hot Topic and Pepsi have come aboard with donations, campaigns and ideas. “They believe in what we’re doing because we’re hands-on,” Sorum said. “We’re in schools, we’re doing music, we’re doing art. We do the work and we’re there.”

Both Robin Zander and Glenn Hughes joined the chorus for support of the arts in school.

“There are a lot underprivileged kids who can’t afford to have instruments and they want to play,” Hughes told me. “Worldwide, there are little kids developing to be geniuses. Some of them don’t have a way of finding their way without help. That’s why it’s important to give back.”

“It all starts in elementary school,” Zander added. “My whole career I have dedicated myself to bringing arts into schools. If there are arts in schools, all the math and reading skills grow. It gives kids a reason to stay in school. Arts in school, whether it be music, painting, drama, or whatever it is, is very important.”

Another musician on hand for tonight’s show was bassist Will Lee, who spent over 30 years playing with the house band on both of David Letterman’s late night programs. Now that Letterman is no longer on the air, Lee told me he’s free to travel and attend events such as this. He also has some unique thoughts on the neurological benefits of being a musician.

“The science is out,” he said. “People that do have the musical life use a part of their brain that really stimulates a lot of intelligent elements in the brain. I think that includes a lot of things — simple things like coping, mathematics, sensitivity to your surroundings.”

For Lee, as with most of the musicians playing tonight, going to school without arts programs is inconceivable. “I’m old enough to have had music programs in my school,” he said. “The thought of it not automatically being there is so absurd to me. It’s sad that it’s not automatically an option to have because of what it can do for a kid’s life. It can keep a kid off the street.”

Once everyone took their seats inside the Fonda, the show commenced with Sorum briefly addressing the audience before bringing on guitarist Billy Duffy (The Cult), bassist Paul Iii (Tina Turner, Disreputable Few), keyboardist Damon Fox (Big Elf, The Cult), and singer Franky Perez (Apocalyptica) for an ear-tingling stab at Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love.”

After a short film, Sorum introduced Glenn Hughes, who accepted a statue and expressed his gratitude for being honored. “Music saved my life,” the man often called the “Voice of Rock” said, later adding, “The children are our future.” He was joined by guitarist Steve Lukather (Toto), drummer Chad Smith (Red Hot Chili Peppers), guitarist Dean DeLeo, and bassist Robert DeLeo (Stone Temple Pilots) for a funky rendition of Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition.” Duffy and Sorum returned to back Hughes on Deep Purple’s “Burn.” Alone and armed with an acoustic, Hughes took on “Mistreated,” a slow blues Purple track. He told the audience he remembers being in the room when Ritchie Blackmore worked out the riff that became this song.

A mid-show auction featured an autographed guitar from Aerosmith’s Joe Perry, a hat that once belonged to Steven Tyler, a Guns N’ Roses drumhead autographed by Matt Sorum, and a second guitar autographed by Journey’s Neal Schon. Funds generated from these items, as well as swag from ZZ Top, Sammy Hagar and many others in the silent auction in the Fonda lobby, would all go into the pot to help Adopt The Arts achieve their financial goals.

The second set featured a stirring version of Black Sabbath’s ‘War Pigs” with bassist Geezer Butler and Slipknot singer Corey Taylor. Another film rolled before Robin Zander came out to receive his award. Guitarist Gilby Clarke and the DeLeo brothers helped out on Cheap Trick’s “Hello There” and “Surrender.” Lukather joined the ensemble for “Dream Police.” Zander then took the spotlight for himself and performed a moving “The Flame.”

After singing “Happy Birthday” to Billy Duffy, the stage filled up with musicians, including an unannounced Joe Perry. During the show’s home stretch, both Zander and Hughes exchanged vocals on the Beatles’ “Come Together” and Zeppelin’s “Rock And Roll.” Sorum and Smith brought the house down with monster drum solos during the latter, and then just before bringing it to a close, they traded drum thrones and pounded out the last beats on different sets. What a finale!

For Sorum, who spent months calling friends, meeting with potential sponsors and organizing the show, it’s easy to see why Adopt The Arts is a “new rush” for him. And he doesn’t mince words when it comes down to why he’s involved.

“If we don’t take care of our kids now, they’re going to end up in the prison system and you can pay later,” he stated flatly. “A student costs $7,000 a year and a prisoner costs $45,000 a year. Do you want to take care of kids, or do you want to run them through the prison system? Art and music are so important to kids. It teaches them social skills. It elevates their brain in a way that’s creative and innovative. And it helps them through their day.”

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