Breathe With Uncle Tom

Ukulele sensation Aidan James and Uncle Tom Moffatt are ready to rock your world Feb. 15 at the American Lung Association’s fifth annual Breathe Concert in historic Hawaii Theatre, showcasing a stellar lineup of stars as only The Showman of the Pacific can do

For decades, the name Tom Moffatt has been synonymous with show business here in the islands, bringing in top-notch entertainers from Elvis to Elton. So who better could serve as chairman to promote the American Lung Association’s Fifth Annual Breathe Concert, set to rock Hawaii Theatre Feb. 15.


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Ukulele sensation Aidan James serenades Uncle Tom Moffatt in his studio. Photos by Lawrence Tabudlo

The biggest acts in show biz would probably overfly Hawaii if it were not for Tom Moffatt. Thanks to Uncle Tom, local audiences have enjoyed the extraordinary talents of the biggest and best entertainers, including Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson, UB40, Billy Joel, Frank Sinatra and, yes, even Stevie Wonder.

So it’s wise for the American Lung Association to tap Moffatt’s drawing power for its fifth annual Breathe Concert Friday, Feb 15, 7:30 p.m. at Hawaii Theatre.

When Moffatt is associated with a show, it’s an endorsement of its entertainment value. as chairman of this year’s concert, he breathes life and excitement into the event. Don’t miss it.

The showcase of local talent features Grammy award-winning musician Daniel Ho and singer Tia Carrere; Na Hoku Hanohano slack key artist Kawika Kahiapo; 11-year-old YouTube sensation Aidan James; and La Pietra Select Choir directed by singer/actress Shari Lynn.

“It’s a nice mix of people,” Moffatt says of the lineup. “It’s a well-balanced concert with a little of everything.”

Multiple Grammy-award winners Ho and Carrere are a “mesmerizing duo,” according to Moffatt, who saw them at a Maui slack key festival last year.

“There’s nice chemistry between them, and they communicate so well with the audience,” he says. “They are gifted artists.”

That’s quite an endorsement, coming from the state’s premier concert producer and promoter. Known as “The Showman of the Pacific,” Moffatt’s nearly six decades of radio and rock stars give him unbridled credibility.

In fact, it’s hard to separate Moffatt’s illustrious career from the treasury of live shows he presents in the Islands. name the a-list, world-class acts, from Rudolph Nureyev to the Rolling Stones, and Moffatt made it happen for hawaii.

“Finding the right performer who will sell tickets is harder now,” he says in retrospect. “I used to be able to tell by record sales. If 10,000 people bought an album, we figure 6,000 would come to a concert.

“Now there are music downloads,” he says, “and it’s a different ball game.”

Record stores are dinosaurs, too. Remember Tower Records, House of Music and Records Hawaii?

“Gut feeling still helps,” Moffatt says of concert bookings.

If that’s the barometer by which he gauges ticket sales, we should gold-plate his gut. Moffatt is rarely off the mark. Yet he readily admits that Hawaii is a unique market with its idiosyncrasies for music.

“The softer sound appeals here,” he claims. “Groups like Chicago, Earth Wind & Fire are big draws. Hawaii likes melodic sounds.”

But the best barometer of that happens entirely off stage, according to Moffatt.

“There’s a moment – and I love it when I see it happen – when the audience and artist are communicating … responding to each other. Whether it’s a musician or comedian, that connection is very important,” says the seasoned showman and MidWeek columnist (see Page 48).

“I can’t put my finger on it, but I know it when it’s happening,” he says. “A lot of reviewers concentrate on the performance they’re seeing on stage. I watch the audience. I can feel an audience. The artist and audience feed off each other.”

That is likely to happen at the Feb. 15 Breathe Concert, where the audience expects a night of entertainment wrapped around a good cause. Performers want to bring attention to the American Lung Association’s advocacy for healthy lungs and air quality. Celebrities and causes are effective venues for raising public awareness.

Musician and producer Ho, who spends a lot of time in Los Angeles, knows what air quality means to a lifestyle. The Honolulu native and six-time Grammy award-winner wants to preserve Hawaii’s pristine environment and healthy living standards for all.

Singer-actress Carrere has a personal reason for supporting the Breathe cause. Her 7-year-old daughter Bianca has experienced four asthma attacks and hospitalization in four years.

“It is shocking how many children are afflicted with lung disease,” she laments.

An estimated 9.7 percent or 28,600 children in Hawaii currently experience asthma, with at least four asthmatic children in every elementary and intermediate classroom.

Eleven-year-old James, an ukulele wiz whose YouTube videos have more than a million hits to date, was born with asthma. As a toddler, he got sick a lot with persistent coughing. This was traumatic not only for young James, but for his parents as well. Doctors thought it could be allergies, but it turned out to be asthma.

James’ condition is monitored carefully now and treated with medication when necessary. But to watch this irresistible performer in action, rendering Bruno Mars or rocking to Hey Soul Sister, one wouldn’t think of his delicate condition. When he’s in front of an audience, he turns on his charm and delightful dimples that leave one breathless.

Further showcasing the spirit of youth is the 17-member La Pietra Select Choir under the direction of music teacher Lynn. The auditioned girls choir, 14-18 years of age, sing a variety of music and have performed at many community concerts, including with the Honolulu Symphony.

Also on stage at the benefit concert will be Na Hoku Hanohano award-winning musician-singer-composer Kawika Kahiapo of the group Kaukahi. The slack key guitarist, who was taught by legendary Gabby Pahinui, is known for his 2007 hit composition Life in These Islands, which was written on the back of a restaurant menu.

The tune has become an anthem for Hawaii’s quality of life that, as Kahiapo suggests, colors everything from one’s social to spiritual being.

As Moffatt correctly characterizes, the Breathe Concert has something for everyone. But mostly it has celebrities who unselfishly share their time and talents so we might all breathe easier about finding the path to healthier lungs.

Now that’s something to sing about.

Tickets to the Feb. 15 Breathe Concert cost $35, $55 and $135 at the Hawaii Theatre box office, by phone at 528-0506, and online at Pre-concert party at The Venue. is included in $135 ticket purchase.

Remember these oldies but goodies?

A Breathtaking Guy – The Supremes
Breathe – Faith Hill
Breathless – Jerry Lee Lewis
Every Breath I Take – Gene Pitney
Every Breath You Take – The Police
Exhale – Whitney Houston
Fresh Air – Quicksilver Messenger Service
Life and Breath – Climax
Take My Breath Away – Berlin