Melbourne musicians bring rock legends to life during King Center concert series

Classic Albums Live series runs through Oct. 21

MELBOURNE, Fla. – Ever wanted to see Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers live? What about the Beatles, Led Zeppelin or Fleetwood Mac?

Well, the Maxwell C. King Center for the Performing Arts is giving audiences the chance to experience these artists and more with its “Classic Albums Live” series.

During the concert series, which runs through October, local musicians perform covers of classic rock albums, bringing their purist renditions of the iconic songs we all know and love to the Melbourne stage.

“I love Florida because the culture here is not just beaches and relaxing. People love music. They really, really do,” said Nicky Hildyard, a Toronto transplant and the lead vocalist of the King Center “Classic Albums Live” series. “Music is really part of the fabric of Florida, more so than any other state, any other place I’ve ever been.”

Nicky Hildyard (on the keys) is the lead vocalist for the King Center series and said the energy of Melbourne crowds is unmatched. (King Center for the Performing Arts and Classic Albums Live)

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Hildyard, who has since traded in the harsh Canadian winters for Space Coast sunshine, is one of the featured musicians at the King Center, a community of people he now considers family.

He sings alongside Merritt Island native Shain Honkonen, the lead guitarist who has been performing in the “Classic Albums Live” series since he was 18 years old.

“It’s a cool kind of hometown story,” said Chad Ballard, the performing arts center’s sales and marketing director, of Honkonen’s musical journey. “Whenever we have the shows with him, he’s always got a nice following and family members cheering him on from the crowd there, too, so it’s nice.”

Hildyard and Honkonen perform everything from Tom Petty to Pink Floyd, casting aside compact discs and cassette tapes in favor of sounds heard in studios during the nascent rock ‘n’ roll days.

Shain Honkonen is the lead guitarist in the "Classic Albums Live" series who has been performing at the King Center since he was 18. (King Center for the Performing Arts and Classic Albums Live)

“It’s more like being in a modern-day orchestra,” Honkonen said. “We iron out every detail to make sure we have it sounding as accurate as we can... Sometimes we’ve done albums, where I’ve had to bring eight or nine guitars, just different guitar tunings for the different songs... But then it all pays off and the magical, fun moments are onstage in front of everyone, when you pull it off and when it’s happening and you get chills onstage.”

They try to replicate the authenticity of that musical time period as best they can.

“(Musicians then) seem to have more revelry, you know, in the studio, you can hear them even on the album, just like laughing, they’re goofing off, and they capture these moments in the recordings,” Hildyard said. “And we’re actually going to do that, like, we’re going to laugh like goofballs.”

He added that’s what makes these albums they’re performing so amazing.

“It was a different approach, it was the beginning of everything that’s happening now technology-wise, but more importantly, I think there’s a lot more roots, there’s a lot more soul and organic sort of creations with these guys,” Hildyard said.

The "Classic Albums Live” series brings rock legends to life on the Melbourne stage. (King Center for the Performing Arts and Classic Albums Live)

Hildyard and Honkonen said while they love rock ‘n’ roll, they’re drawn to and inspired by all genres, building on their musical foundation by dabbling in everything from classical music to heavy metal.

“I listen to much different music than we play,” said Hildyard, who opts for dark, heavy metal for leisure listening.

But he relates his classical music training to performing rock ‘n’ roll.

“When you hear it, you can hear why it’s timeless and that’s the same thing with some of this music that that we perform, you know, like this Tom Petty album. It really is timeless music,” Hildyard said.

Honkonen, on the other hand, said his favorite bands and favorite shows to play don’t always align.

“My favorite band is the Beatles, but that’s just out of respect, and admiration for what they did. I know it’s like a cliché answer, but any genre of music and modern day recording in general, all owes a lot to them,” the guitarist said. “That doesn’t mean the Beatles shows necessarily my favorite shows because as a guitar player, I like being challenged and pushed in other ways... So you know, when we do Pink Floyd shows I get to do a fair amount of lead stuff, which I really enjoy.”

But whether it’s rock, country or comedy, the King Center’s marketing director said the “hidden gem” of a theater nestled along the Space Coast aims to draw all the top entertainment options to the Melbourne venue, bringing in titles both young Broadway audiences and classic rockers can enjoy.

“We’ve done events from symphonies and ballets to Broadway shows to major national touring concerts and comedians,” he said. “It’s an awesome place. We take meticulous care of the venue. There’s been some recent renovations, too, that have brought it back into a little bit more of a modern look. And we we have a great time there, too. We have fun with everybody that comes to the doors and we always do fun, interactive drink specials and sometimes we’ll have a photo booth or submit some extra prizes and giveaways there, too.”

The Classic Albums Live series continues at the King Center through Oct. 21. You can find the schedule below and more information on the performing arts center’s website. For more on the musicians’ solo projects outside the King Center, check out Hildyard’s Alice’s Jam Garden and Honkonen’s band ViliFi.

May 20 - Tom Petty, “Damn The Torpedoes”

June 17 - The Beatles, “Let It Be”

July 15 - Supertramp, “Breakfast In America”

Aug 26 - Led Zeppelin, “Physical Graffiti”

Sept 16 - Fleetwood Mac, “Rumours”

Oct 21 - The Police, “Synchronicity”

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