Bikers, songs and hugs – lots of hugs. That sums up “Katey Sagal: An Evening of Music and the Cast of Sons of Anarchy,” which began its tour April 18 at the Midland Theater in Kansas City. The inaugural performance was part concert, part unscripted Q&A, and part fan convention dedicated to Sagal’s songs and a promised good time with the cast of the hit FX drama.
A crowd that looked more suited to Sturges than a classically posh theater environment packed the Midland early to peruse the merchandise booth for their own pieces of SOA fandom or bid on a silent auction benefiting Staten Strong, a charity supported by the cast that helps victims of Hurricane Sandy.
As the show opened, The Forest Rangers, fronted by Bob Thiele, music producer Sons of Anarchy, took to the stage. After some prolonged fumbling with his guitar, he said, “By the time we get to Milwaukee, this is going to be so good.” Warming up the crowed ahead of Sagal’s appearance, the band performed the original song “Someday Never Comes.”
Immediately after the song, Sagal walked on stage to raucous applause. Launching into a cover of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ “Free Fallin’,” she set the tone for the evening’s style of music. She interspersed the set with accounts of her music background as a backup singer for Bette Midler, Etta James and, briefly, Bob Dylan. Revealing that she’d taken guitar lessons during the shooting hiatus, Sagal gave the crowd a taste of her musical skills with an original number that will be included on her new album, which arrives in September.
As she closed her first set, Sagal noted the fan following she had acquired since being cast as Gemma on Sons of Anarchy, saying, “Yeah, I’ve got a whole -- a whole -- new crowd.”
While Sagal took a brief break, a series of clips from the series appeared onscreen to the audience’s obvious delight. The host of the Q&A portion, Hawk (just Hawk), came on stage to pump up the crowd for the cast members who would be joining the actress. Theo Rossi (Juice) and Mark Boone Junior (Bobby) walked out to a frenzied reception. “Where’s the barbeque?” Boone asked the audience, in reference to Kansas City’s culinary reputation.
Hawk started off with some questions of his own, asking whether the actors know their characters’ fates in advance. Rossi was quick to point out that they live from script to script. “Man, listen, the show is … we don’t know, we just love doing it,” he said.
Hawk then pointed out -- spoiler alert! – a beloved character dating back to Season 1 was killed off in the fifth season, triggering boos from the crowd. When asked if he liked the direction Bobby’s character took in Season 5, Boone responded with a succinct “No.” He recognized his increasing musical appeal on the show and was coaxed into singing a few bars of Elvis Presley’s “Love Me Tender.”
Asked whether he had auditioned initially for the role of Juice, Rossi revealed, “No, I auditioned, amazingly, for Jax first. Unless it was going to be set somewhere in Brooklyn, I have no idea how that was going to happen!”
Questioned how they want their characters to end their run on Sons of Anarchy, Boone shared, “I’m expecting it ain’t going to be pretty.”
Sagal returned to the stage to take questions along with the other actors, and Thiele soon followed suit. Asked about how she won the role of Gemma, Sagal replied, “Well, this is how it really happened: Everybody knows my husband Kurt (Sutter) writes the show, right? So it was a particularly sexy night … no, I’m kidding.”
“Kurt came to me and he was writing this show in the world of an outlaw motorcycle club, and he said, ‘I think I have a part for you,”” she said.
Hawk said he could tell the cast is close just by observing their interactions backstage, prompting Rossi to reveal he had been texting another one of the stars just five minutes earlier, proof of the friendships formed over the past five seasons.
“I think it’s a testament to the casting choices,” Sagal said.
Asked whether music was her first love, she admitted, “Yeah. I always wanted to be a singer/songwriter. I had some success with that, I made some records.”
An audience member asked Sagal whether the dark places Gemma has been to in her series arc have affected her as an actress. “I’m not somebody that has to live that 24/7 to act that,” she replied, “so I’m able to separate it.”
From there, the wave of requests began for hugs, often from Rossi, who happily obliged. Thiele became the night’s unofficial photographer, running up to Rossi and his fans to snap a picture of the embrace for his Twitter account.
The next question centered on the identity of the homeless woman in every episode. “She’s sort of a Hamlet rip-off,” Sagal replied. “It’s my husband’s literary moment. You have to be somebody who actually read Hamlet to understand it.”
The cast was then quizzed about their favorite episodes to film. Boone chimed in first with, “Each episode has gotten better as it goes along, I think, and that’s the pleasure of doing the show.”
Sagal offered, “I particularly liked in Season 2, I think it was Episode 10, and it was after my particular character Gemma had been raped. And she kept it a secret, and in Episode 10 the secret was revealed. I thought it was beautifully directed by Paris Barclay.”
Rossi shared, “For me, I’m such a huge fan of this show. I mean, I watch it as a fan. We did the patch-over episode [Season 1, Episode 4]. It was at that moment where I was like, ‘This is the guy Juice is, kind of this social idiot.’”
The Q&A continued with multiple requests for hugs from the cast. Hawk wrapped up the night by sharing that Sagal would return to the stage for a final set, but not before one last surprise: Curtis Stigers, singer and co-writer of the Sons of Anarchy theme song “This Life,” performed it with The Forest Rangers.
In the end, loyal Sons of Anarchy fans were treated to a night of music, fun, and friendship with the cast and songwriters behind the hit series. This was just the beginning of a tour that will stretch through the hiatus, keeping the spirit of Sons of Anarchy alive, even when fans have only the DVDs to tide them over until Season 6.