Daniel Sage’s rare ability to perform a song he’s only heard once makes his classic-rock tribute shows highly participatory. After connecting with Safelight, a local group that provides resources for survivors of child abuse, domestic violence, and sexual assault, Sage organized a series of single-artist performances, with all proceeds going to the nonprofit
In Hendersonville, this New York-based singer/producer has found an audience for his carefully chosen artists, even down to the order of his set lists and selections of garb, such as Elton John’s signature hat and sunglasses. But these are not impersonation gigs, he insists — they’re opportunities to invite the audience to re-live favorite songs from legends such as Elton John and Billy Joel (shows he performed respectively in June and July).
“I’m not pretending to be these great musicians. If you love that artist, let’s make it ours together,” says Sage. The full sound of audience participation makes it more singalong than tribute, he suggests.
Playing by ear and fluent in dozens of instruments, Sage relies on oral memory, sometimes needing only to Google lyrics to recreate a requested song live. He typically performs his single-artist shows with a drummer and a bassist, covering the guitar and piano himself.
He cherishes the liberty that improvisation and a “play as you go” mentality can afford him in his solo shows. And, as a producer, he believes that audiences want to hear songs they already know. Sage personally gravitates toward Motown and ’60s and ’70s classic rock.
There’s talk of a night of AC/DC, Rush, and Van Halen in the works. Sage admits there may not be a similar market for the specificity of his shows in New York City. “I’d be literally competing with [the real] Billy Joel if I were to do his show,” he jokes. “What I really want to do is play my own music in New York, which I have a little bit, but not with a full band like I want to.” So the tributes will remain sacred to Hendersonville, a city he spends time in because it’s where his mother lives.
Sage will also perform his original music, a rock/acoustic blend, at Hendersonville’s free outdoor concert series Rhythm & Brews this month, opening for headliner The Company Stores. He plays weekly in a number of Hendersonville venues, and will continue to participate in community benefits the rest of the year.
Asked what his tribute subjects might think of his shows, Sage says, “I’d hope they like what I’m doing by putting a different spin on things — bringing my own voice to it.”
Daniel Sage performs his original songs Thursday, Aug. 16, at Rhythm & Brews in downtown Hendersonville (6pm, free, 828-233-3216). As part of his Special Mini Summer Concert Series staged at Flat Rock Playhouse Downtown (125 South Main St., Hendersonville), Sage presents “Take It Easy” (songs of the Eagles and James Taylor) on Saturday, Aug. 25, at 8pm. The final tribute show is “Moondancin” (songs of Van Morrison) on Saturday, Sept. 22. Tickets are $29 per show, or $25 with a same-time purchase of two shows. Proceeds benefit SafeLight: safelightfamily.org. For more information, see danielsage.com.