I like John Tesh. I don't like his music. I find it boring, derivative and-worst of all-annoying.
But, in the spirit of full disclosure, I own Iron Maiden's 1985 double live LP Live After Death. I attended Bryan Adams' Waking Up the Neighbours tour and defend Wham! as good pop music. So who the hell am I to judge Tesh's music as boring, derivative and annoying?
To begin again, I like John Tesh. I don't like his music.
His grammar is great, his elocution excellent. He flawlessly transitions between humorous TV personality and earnest Christian. Best of all-even with the bullshit meter at full power-he doesn't seem disingenuous.
"I just could not take the television thing anymore," he says. "I felt like in the early years, Entertainment Tonight was sort of fun and harmless, and now I feel like those shows are vicious.... There comes a time in your life when you want to do something useful."
What Tesh considers useful is playing romantic piano ballads and hosting a syndicated self-help radio show (he also spends a lot of time on his tsunami children's relief project). Tesh's show is for the person who doesn't have enough time to read Good Housekeeping, Reader's Digest and O but wants all the new info about losing weight, finding a better job and conquering road rage. It's like NPR for apolitical moms.
So he's not dragging victims from burning cars. But what he does now is undeniably more useful than telling us what kind of dressing Julia Roberts likes on her seared-ahi salad.
"We want to encourage people to have a purpose to their lives," he says, earnestly. "I know that that's a phrase being overused today, but it's true."
"It's like I'm becoming a part of peoples' lives instead of just spitting out what celebrities are doing-I'm sorry, did that sound angry?" he says, transitioning to humor.
When he isn't chatting with America, he's writing, recording and touring with his much-maligned new age/Christian band. Tesh isn't a moron, which is why I like him. He knows his music is our generation's greatest punching bag and that every interviewer will eventually ask him some variation of "Why does your music blow goats?"
So he wisely brings it up first. We're innocuously discussing his decade of piano lessons and his love of Rachmaninoff and Gershwin when he hijacks the conversation.
"Let's not ignore the elephant in the room. I've become the whipping boy for a lot of stuff," he says. "When Yanni was accused of hitting his girlfriend, I said to my wife, "Do you want to watch Letterman and Leno tonight?' And she said, "Why not?' We saw joke after joke after joke. "Yanni was arrested for striking his girlfriend; later that evening Kenny G and John Tesh went on a killing spree.'"
Then he deconstructs the whole thing. He describes a meltdown Michael Bolton had years ago after he was accused of being a hack, and how it only made Bolton look more foolish.
"You have two choices. You can be all pissed off and angry and not be able to sleep at night, or you can go along with it. You still go out there and create great music but be in on the joke."
And there's no whipping boy as in on the joke as Tesh. At a Detroit gig, he let Leno unload a truck full of white bread onto the stage. On his website he has link to Conan O'Brien's sketch, "When Teshes Attack."
Maybe it's killing Tesh inside and he's trying to play it cool, but I don't think so. I like John Tesh because not only is he cool with being a whipping boy, he excels at it. And, oh yeah, he wrote the NBA theme song, which is the best sports theme song of all time.
John Tesh plays at House of Blues, 8 p.m. on May 14. $35. 619-299-BLUE.