The mishap that injured Gino Vannelli last December kept him off the road for most of 2012.
"You might call it an occupational hazard, although I never expected anything like that to happen," says the honey-voiced singer, whose early hits included "I Just Wanna Stop," "Living Inside Myself" and "People Gotta Move."
Before a December concert, he says, "I was testing my in-ear monitors and some unwitting road-crew member unplugged a cable. The blast was so loud that I went deaf for about five or 10 seconds in both ears." He did perform, but the pain and ringing in his ears worsened. Warned by his doctors not to fly, Vannelli canceled concerts until July, when he did six or seven tour dates in Norway, Ukraine and Italy. "I did OK, but it was a little hard," he says. "I'm still under a doctor's care, but I suspect within a few months it will be totally gone."
The accident, which caused "excruciating pain," he says, had severe repercussions, personally and professionally. "If you want to find your highest God, if you can't have silence, it's really difficult," he says. Professionally, he says, "I am looking so forward to performing again, because I really miss it."
So look for Vannelli and his seven-piece band to put on quite a show in the intimate, acoustically lush Bear's Den in the Seneca Niagara Hotel and Casino.
Perhaps partially as a result of the performing hiatus, "We prepared a bunch of new songs for the people in Niagara Falls," says Vannelli from the music room of his Oregon home. "We have five or six new songs in our repertoire."
Vannelli, who is proficient on several instruments and as a composer and arranger, considers his work a discipline. "I just love going to the studio, whether I am doing a project or not," he says.
Vannelli, who just turned 60 but notes, "I don't feel any different," stays active through yoga and the Chinese moving meditation of Qigong, along with running and weight-lifting. He does vocal exercises every other day and watches his diet carefully.
With the help of a vocal coach several years ago, Vannelli says he can defy "the common tradition that as you grow older your voice deepens and you lose your upper range. ... I am singing a plethora of the songs in the same key, and with tremendous ease, the way I did when I was 23. Some I will take lower just because I want to do lower notes. But the voice is really a muscle, and if you work with that muscle, it can deepen and broaden with age and also keep the top of its pyramid."
Vannelli was one of the first artists to judiciously enrich the sound of his live music with carefully chosen recorded sequences. "Even with sequences, we are eight people on stage, so it's quite a big group," he says. "The sequence has to be really good, it has to be spare in the right way, all the instruments and voice have to be planned out really well. It needs to feel really natural."
Vannelli says he can't wait to take the stage tonight. "That room is a fantastic room," he says. "I love playing all over the world, but I love going back to the Bear's Den. I love taking walks to the falls."
During his strolls near Niagara Falls, he says, he is sometimes recognized by fans, "but they are usually pretty cool." Then he says it again: "The group is really up for this because it's been a while, and for me, I am anxious to test out some of these new songs."
When: 8 p.m. today and Saturday and 7 p.m. Sunday
Where: Bear's Den, Seneca Niagara Casino and Hotel
Tickets: $55 to $65 (Ticketmaster)Info: 278-4944