Macomb Center for the Performing Arts to host drive-in concert

Laith Al-Saadi to perform July 31 in Clinton Township

By: Maria Allard | C&G Newspapers | Published July 29, 2020

 Blues rocker Laith Al-Saadi will perform July 31 in a drive-in concert at the Macomb Center for Performing Arts in Clinton Township.

Blues rocker Laith Al-Saadi will perform July 31 in a drive-in concert at the Macomb Center for Performing Arts in Clinton Township.

Photo by Doug Coombe

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CLINTON TOWNSHIP — Audiences might know Laith Al-Saadi from watching him perform at venues around the state, or maybe fans will recognize him from season 10 of “The Voice” on NBC. 

This Friday, Al-Saadi and his band will bring their flavor of blues, soul and classic rock ‘n’ roll to the Macomb Center for the Performing Arts for a drive-in concert from 7 to 8:30 p.m. If you’re in the mood for some Memphis groove or could use a shot of classic rock, the show is for you. 

The July 31 drive-in concert is a first for the Macomb Center as a way to provide live entertainment in a safe environment during the COVID-19 pandemic. The center is located at 44575 Garfield Road, on the Macomb Community College Center Campus in Clinton Township.

First State Bank is presenting the concert, which will be held in parking lot no. 10, located on the west end of the campus, parallel to Dalcoma Road. 

Tickets cost $45 per car, and the limit is four people per vehicle. Since the box office is currently closed, tickets are available online only at www.macombcenter.com.

Since March, Al-Saadi has been entertaining his followers through virtual shows at 8 p.m. Friday evenings from his Facebook page. The upcoming Macomb Center show will mark Al-Saadi’s second live performance since the shutdown; his first was at the Great Lakes Center for the Arts in the Petoskey area. Al-Saadi can’t wait for showtime, something he has been missing since live music was mostly silenced due to the pandemic.

“I am incredibly happy we’re still able to go forward with this new format. I’m excited to play with the band,” the Ann Arbor native said. “Music is a unifying force. It puts smiles on people’s faces. It brings people together. ”

Al-Saadi has been bringing people together since age 4 when he joined the Boychoir of Ann Arbor. He also honed his talent on the local musical theater circuit and began playing piano although he admitted that he “didn’t practice.” By the time he was a teen, Al-Saadi was writing songs and learning guitar. 

“I wanted to sit around the campfire singing Beatles songs with friends,” the musician said. Al-Saadi also found his calling playing guitar and upright bass in the jazz program at Community High School in Ann Arbor.

It was bands like Led Zeppelin, Cream and Pink Floyd that influenced the budding musician, as did Motown artists and blues greats Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Willie Dixon and Robert Johnson.

At age 15, Al-Saadi was in a band known as Blue Vinyl, which cut a CD and once opened for bluesman Buddy Guy in Battle Creek. Before the show and carrying his Stratocaster, Al-Saadi knocked on Guy’s dressing room. For about 30 minutes, the pair bonded over stories about Chess Records and the Chicago blues.

“He was excited about cultivating my love for the blues,” Al-Saadi said. 

Feeling he had “nothing to lose,” in 2016 Al-Saadi auditioned for “The Voice,” got on the show and was coached by Maroon 5’s Adam Levine.

“It gave me some good exposure and increased my gigs around Michigan,” said the guitarist, who has played all around the country and even in the Netherlands. “I was able to play live blues on national television. Adam was nice to work with. He was a cool guy.” 

“The Voice” also paved the “way” for him to perform on stage with Joe Walsh of the Eagles and Keith Urban on Walsh’s “Rocky Mountain Way.” Another highlight came in 2019, when Al-Saadi opened up for another homegrown artist — Bob Seger, who also grew up in Ann Arbor. While having a pre-show conversation with Seger back-up singer Shaun Murphy, he met the Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man himself.

“Someone tapped me on the shoulder and said ‘Laith, Laith,’” Al-Saadi recalled. “I turned around and it’s Bob Seger.  It was really wonderful to be tied in with that rock ‘n’ roll history.”

Event officials have set forth procedures for the concert that meet COVID-19 state-mandated guidelines. Only passenger vehicles will be admitted. Full size vans, recreational vehicles and trucks with campers are not permitted. No one may enter by foot, bicycle or motorcycle, and every vehicle must have a ticket. Attendees must present their printed ticket at the entrance — tickets on phones will not be accepted.

Vehicles will be parked at the discretion of the event manager and within distanced markings. Vehicles with an overall height of over 5 feet, primarily pickup trucks and large sport utility vehicles are to park in the back half of the parking area.

Attendees may open a rear hatch and sit if the hatch does not go higher than the roof of the vehicle. Those in attendance may sit in the bed of a pickup truck. Attendees must remain in their vehicles except to use the restrooms provided. When outside of a vehicle, concert-goers must wear masks and maintain six feet of distance from others.

Alcohol is not permitted, and all vehicle engines must be turned off until the end of the performance. Anyone not complying with the regulations or the directions of event staff will be asked to leave. The event is subject to change based on inclement weather conditions or a change in COVID-19 state regulations.

More information about the July 31 concert is available at www.macombcenter.com.

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