What they may have lacked in audience, they more than made up with heart and lots of soul. So said Steve Simon, St. John’s ‘ambassador’ to Iraq, on his return from a second tour of the war zone as part of a military-sponsored concert tour, Bluzapalooza.
“At the Kuwait International Airport on our way home, I was talking to Colonel Shock and I told him that from a corporate profit and loss perspective (the businessman in me) our tour was not very cost effective when measured by the size of our audiences,” Simon remembered.
“Colonel Shock responded that our mission was to ‘save souls’ and ‘what price can you put on a soul?’ That left me speechless.” Nonetheless, Simon, who co-produced the tour, said as many as 20,000 soldiers attended his series of concerts.
The tour of bases in Iraq and Kuwait lasted 12 days, ending Oct. 6. Dispatches from the tour make the troops’ appreciation clear even though many of he soldiers didn’t know what the blues are (is?).
But it was just the thing for “a handful of soldiers and civilian contractors … a break from the hard work and long days of kicking in doors,” wrote one. “And when the soldiers lined up top meet the performers, the headliners kept thanking them for what they do. It was sincere, It was a breath of fresh air.”
- First-hand reporting from some of the tour stops: here and here.
- New York Daily News photographer Joseph Rosen was on the trip and took dozens of photos, including the one you see above. Dozens more are here.