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Singer Bell strikes a chord with city

| Thursday, Dec. 21, 2006

Teen idol Drake Bell says his Wednesday night concert may remind people of old Joe Cocker shows, with authentic and compelling live music performed by a seven-person band with harmony.

"When you go, you see a real band ... not like Ashley Simpson's bubble gum, 'Let me lip-sync this music'," says Bell, 20, who will perform at Soldiers & Sailors Hall.

"It's so sad now, because we see that so much," Bell says. He is half of the comedy duo on the Nickelodeon show "Drake & Josh." "Everyone is coming out with a trick like karaoke. It's a joke."

Bell's concert will precede the filming of his new Pittsburgh-based reality show, which will feature Bell, of Los Angeles, moving to Pittsburgh and starting his career as a musician. The 13-episode show -- produced by Ross-based PEI Productions Group, which also is producing the concert -- will include behind-the-scenes glimpses into the life of a pop-rock star, and show footage from Wednesday's concert, an upcoming Buffalo, N.Y., concert, and Bell's Pittsburgh-area concert earlier this year.

That outdoor concert, performed in August at the Ross Community Center, was a hit that drew about 6,000 people. The concert was part of the first Fallen Marine Memorial Run, which local organizers founded to benefit the widow and family of a North Carolina Marine killed in Iraq.

"We were thinking, we'll get like 800 people out here, and 6,000 people showed up," Bell says of August's concert. "It was just insane, so we thought, let's do this again."

Bell's Pittsburgh reality show, which is not yet named, will move him at least temporarily to Pittsburgh in early 2007. He says he is looking at an apartment in Mt. Washington, and is very excited to spend time in the area, although Bell doesn't know if he will completely uproot himself.

"I was just blown away by how nice everyone was, and how great everyone pulled together," Bell says, reminiscing about the huge success of August's concert.

"In L.A., people aren't the way they are in Pittsburgh," says Bell, who also praises the landscape and city view of Pittsburgh. "Everyone is so accommodating and so nice, and willing to bend over backwards to help."

Bell -- who released his sophomore album, "It's Only Time," on Dec. 5 -- says audience members of any age will love Wednesday's concert, where he will perform mostly songs from his new album.

Casey Patterson, director of public relations for the Oakland museum, says the Soldiers & Sailors venue, where Bell's concert will be held, holds more than 2,300. Hopefully, more concerts like Bell's will come to the venue, she says.

"We're thrilled that he's coming," Patterson says. "This is the first type of concert really of this kind in our auditorium."

Additional Information:

Drake Bell

When: 7 p.m. Wednesday

Admission: $25-$45

Where: Soldiers & Sailors Hall, 4141 Fifth Ave., Oakland

Details: 412-323-1919

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