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Interview: Constantine Maroulis of FOREIGNERS JOURNEY at Axelrod PAC

The Tony Award nominated actor, musician and American Idol alum will play hits from Foreigner, Journey, Queen, Toto and his own material at the Deal Park avenue Aug. 18.

Interview: Constantine Maroulis of FOREIGNERS JOURNEY at Axelrod PAC

Constantine Maroulis to Play Music of Foreigner, Journey and More at Axelrod Performing Arts Center

It's hot out there and, well, so are us hot-blooded humans.

Strangers waiting, up and down the boulevard. Yearning to know true love and wanting that special someone you've been harboring feelings for to show you.

Losing a love who suddenly resurfaces and shamelessly welcoming them back with open arms. Or, looking too hard and waiting too long for a girl like you.

This isn't the summer of love, but a foreigner's journey nonetheless, merging - you guessed it-the music of two of rock's powerhouses, Foreigner and Journey, re-imagined by a powerhouse performer in his own right, musician and Broadway star Constantine Maroulis.

On Thursday, Aug. 18, the Axelrod Performing Arts Center will welcome the New Jerseyan and American Idol alum turned Tony Award-nominated "Rock of Ages" sensation to the namesake show for what promises to be an unforgettable evening playing the music of these classic rock heroes, plus a little Queen, Toto and Maroulis' original material.

"I love these catalogs," said Maroulis, who spent this past weekend in the serene oasis of Upstate New York to see outlaw country legend Willie Nelson live for the first time. "Going to high school in the '90s, the grunge on the radio, '70s arena rock- those voices always lept off the radio into my face. As a musical theater guy, I had an ear for rock opera. Jesus Christ Superstar, The Who's "Tommy" changed my world. Led Zeppelin, The Grateful Dead. Those arena sounds felt like a musical in a way. This show, this classic rock celebration, is an extension of Rock of Ages for which I'm best known, and helped elevate this wonderful worldwide brand. To be recognized by my community is a dream come true."

The Brooklyn-born Maroulis, who grew up in Wyckoff, a suburb in upper Bergen County, recalls being a 5-year-old circa 1980, unstrapped in the backseat of his Greek-American parents' 1970 Chrysler belting out the "ear candy" hits of the day to the so-called crunchiness of the radio. As he got older, despite intense stage fright, Maroulis' mellifluous singing voice and vocal range couldn't escape his place in choral ensembles in school. His middle and high school years were the first times he set foot in front of a rock band, jamming in garages after dark, experimenting with music, and bouncing off encouragement and good vibes from his peers at school. He eventually earned his spot in musicals as a junior and senior at Ramapo High School.

While growing up during the birth of MTV, Maroulis recalls the new wave bands like Blondie, The Smiths and The Cars peaking in popularity and '80s-goth groups like The Cure and other pop acts like David Bowie, Madonna and Michael Jackson dominating the era. As the 1990s emerged, so did Guns 'N' Roses and the Seattle scene from Alice in Chains to Nirvana, that little band that disrupted, no, violently shook, the music industry, much like The Beatles did in the turbulent 1960s. In the midst of today's synth-pop resurgence with hits from Ellie Goulding and not to mention, Harry Styles' infectious song of summer 2022, "As It Was," following in the footsteps their 1980s predecessors, it's the bands that make him nostalgic.

"I love advances in technology, but there's nothing like plugging in a guitar and putting a band together," he said. "I miss the band scene. I remember the early 2000s... the Strokes, the Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs, the Hives, The Vines, Jet. That energy was the coolest shit."

On the indie rock scene, he cites fellow New Jerseyan Jimmy Gnecco's band Ours, Damien Rice and Elliott Smith, who was nominated for an Oscar for his 1997 hit "Miss Misery" for the motion picture Good Will Hunting, as his other inspirations.

With Foreigners Journey, Maroulis is looking to imbue that same energy from 1970s hard rock to the early 2000s garage rock and post-punk revival into his set.

"Bands like Foreigner and Journey were commercial, but they weren't afraid to write about a failed relationship and were more literal than abstract," explained Maroulis. "There is no other voice than the recorded voice of Steve Perry. Journey tapped into this early '80s glee. This freedom of, 'We're in the '80s. It's almost the end of the millennium. It's boy-meets-girl, middle-America.' It's commercial safe rock 'n' roll; they can rock, but they were not afraid to display amazing musicianship and sing about love and heartache. They didn't feel they needed to be overly artistic about it."

Maroulis performed with Meat Loaf at the Songwriters Hall of Fame when Jim Steinman was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2012. That evening, Foreigner's past member, Lou Gramm, reunited with frontman Mick Jones for the first time in years.

"They were so incredible together," recalled Maroulis. "I was blown away at the diversity of their catalog."

Maroulis will put his own spin on the hits of Journey and Foreigner, Rock of Ages and Idol-style, while exploring Bohemian Rhapsody and playing seductive songs off his latest album, "Until I'm Wanted," which he recorded following the pandemic.

"Those are rock stars that will never walk the earth again," he said of Jones and Perry. "I'm blessed to bring my energy as a performer and bring something new to what they do."

Tickets are $45 in advance and $50 at the door. Groups of 10 or more are $38. Visit axelrodartscenter.com to purchase or call 732-531-9160, ext. 14.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Axelrod PAC and Constantine Maroulis

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