Costner brings star power to Packard

More than one person standing in the lobby of Packard Music Hall in Warren on Tuesday said they were there to see Academy Award-winner Kevin Costner and his band, Modern West, because how often is an A-list movie star in Warren. Some took more advantage of it than others.

“I kissed him right on the cheek,” Karen Ames of Cortland said as she exited a meet-and-greet with the actor/director before the show. “It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

She added, “He liked it.”

Even those without VIP tickets got a chance to get up close to the star.

After a montage of clips from his movies, Costner entered from one of the side doors of the auditorium and walked down the center aisle, shaking hands and patting backs as he made his way to the stage.

Brenda Click of Southington was lucky enough to be sitting on the aisle for the opening date on the tour on April 12 at Seneca Allegany Hotel & Casino in New York.

“I gave him a hug and gave him one of these badges,” she said, referring to a pin that said “Cancer Sucks,” which belonged to a close friend who recently died of the disease. “He put it in his pocket.”

Click was back Tuesday and wearing a button that said “Multiple Myeloma Sucks,” which is the type of cancer she is battling.

When asked why she wanted to see Costner so badly, she answered, “Only a man would ask that question.”

Tuesday’s concert was a cancer benefit for restaurateur and musician Richard “Chook” Alberini, who was diagnosed last year with stage three pleomorphic sarcoma. After aggressive chemotherapy and radiation treatments in Columbus earlier this year, Alberini said he is scheduled to have the grapefruit-sized tumor removed from his leg next month. But his doctors are confident his cancer hasn’t spread to his lungs or liver.

Alberini, who donated to countless fundraisers and benefits when running his family’s restaurant in Niles, said it’s difficult being on the receiving end.

“It’s hard for me to sit back and let people do these nice things,” he said.

“I was one to give and do, and it felt really good. Now it’s the other way around. They want to give, and I have to learn to sit back and receive.”

Alberini thanked co-promoter Ken Haidaris for the concert and everything else he’s done.

“I have to say what a great friend Kenny has been through all of this,” he said. “He’s been there from the beginning, and he’s been there every step of the way.”

A Chinese auction with two guitars autographed by Costner and other gift baskets was taking place in the lobby before the concert.

Molly Halliday, who organized the auction, said, “We can’t keep up with the people. We have to have sold $800, $900 in tickets in the first 40 minutes.”

For some, supporting Alberini was just as important as seeing Costner.

Jan Gibson of Howland said, “We wanted to support Chook. We loved the restaurant, love him.”

But she added, “I’m anxious to see the new Kevin Costner movie about the Browns (“Draft Day”), and I’m anxious to hear him sing.”

Costner, wearing a black polo shirt, scarf and jeans, told the crowd of about 1,400 that one of the reasons he started playing music in the towns where he was making movies was that he wanted to have a more meaningful interaction with people than an awkward photo taken at the supermarket or signing an autograph that probably was lost before the fan got home.

Instead, Costner and his six fellow musicians entertained with a mix of country-tinged rock and more traditional country fare, some of it inspired by his award-winning miniseries, “Hatfields & McCoys.”

Costner praised the crowd for attentively listening to songs they probably hadn’t heard before.

“Thank you for filling this building for us, and letting us tell our stories,” he said.