Love Songs on the Coast
Brian McKnight is bringing sensual sounds and a bit of humor to Burton Chace Park
By Tiffany Walton
Brian McKnight is known for creating sensuous R&B grooves as smooth and seductive as a summer breeze off the water.
There couldn’t be a better setting for his lush sounds than Marina del Rey’s Burton Chace Park, where McKnight performs a free waterfront concert on Saturday night.
A consummate performer who’s releasing a live album and Blu-ray next month, McKnight says he’ll bring many of the best-known songs from his 12 studio albums to life during the show. Expect to hear “Anytime,” “Back at One,” “One Last Cry” and “Shoulda Woulda Coulda.”
Not just an R&B crooner, McKnight is a songwriter and multifaceted musician who’s mastered eight different instruments. But don’t worry — you won’t have to hear them all, he says with a laugh.
“I play keys and I play guitar on stage, but for me to bring a tuba on stage and play probably wouldn’t be what pop music fans are coming to hear,” McKnight says. “But I do play the keys and drums and bass and guitar, and most of the stuff on my records is me. I’m playing 90% of the instruments on all of my records.”
For past shows, McKnight would often invite special guests to come up and share the spotlight. But this year he’s moving away from that to allow his own stage presence to breathe. It’s not all about the music, either — he wants to make audiences feel good and laugh.
“When people leave my show and they say, ‘Man, we didn’t realize you were so funny,’ that’s more gratifying than them telling me how great I sounded, that they were actually entertained,” he says. “They’re coming for an hour, hour-and-
a-half to hear love songs. You’ve got to find a way to entertain people that’s outside the norm, because they’re not just going to sit there and listen to the same tempo all night.”
After 25 years of performing, however, McKnight knows that crowds at his live shows come with certain expectations. And on those he promises to deliver.
“You’re going to go through a range of emotions when you come to see me. And I think that’s what we’re selling. We’re selling nostalgia. People talk about how they had their first girlfriend, their first breakup, their first kid, their wedding, to all the songs that I’ve written, so you’re taken through sort of a whirlwind of not only replaying your own life, but also giving you a little piece of mind at the same time,” McKnight says.
Although his songs have been inspired and informed by real-life and personal situations, McKnight does not want his fans to assume his day-to-day personality and stage persona are quite so heavy.
“When you listen to the music that I’ve written, people have always mistaken me as being this really quiet, brooding writer — a person that’s tortured by life itself. I really don’t take myself that seriously,” McKnight says with laughter in his voice. “And I think that’s the atmosphere that we create in the live show, that just makes it very comfortable.”
McKnight welcomes newcomers to his concerts and says he doesn’t mind if they’ve never heard his music and are only interested because it’s a free show by the water. He still intends to dazzle you.
“The other night a guy came to a show and he brought his sister because his sister’s date couldn’t make it. This guy only listens to hardcore country music. He was like, ‘Oh gosh, I’ve got to sit through this,’ and by the end of that show — he didn’t know who I was, didn’t know any of the music at first — he actually wrote me on Twitter saying, ‘I’m a huge fan now because I got an opportunity to see you and I would never have otherwise,” McKnight says.
“To me, it doesn’t matter whether you like the artist, know the songs. If that person is really good, music has a way of being a great equalizer.”
McKnight performs a free show at 7 p.m. Saturday, July 30, at Burton Chace Park, 13650 Mindanao Way, Marina del Rey. For more information about the L.A. County-sponsored Marina del Rey Summer Concert Series, visit beaches.lacounty.gov.