A musical coincidence has found two musicians who grew up less than 150 miles from each other sharing the gig of a lifetime by being bandmates in Cher’s “Here We Go Again Tour.”
Potsdam native Jason J. Sutter and Onondaga County native Ben Mauro were fans of Cher growing up and they’ve both developed very successful careers in the music business.
Mr. Sutter has been the drummer for Smash Mouth, Marilyn Mason, Foreigner, Dee Snider and other artists.
Mr. Mauro, also a vocalist, grew up in the hamlet of Memphis. He’s performed in the bands of Lionel Richie, Don Felder, John Fogerty, Britney Spears and Kelly Clarkson.
But Cher’s current tour, which began in January and is regularly selling out large venues, is something special, both men said in an Oct. 11 telephone interview from Germany before a concert at the SAP arena in Mannheim.
“It’s wild that we’re both on this ride together,” Mr. Sutter said. “Even though we’ve done it at this level with other bands, it’s not the same.”
Cher is on her first tour in five years. It’s in support of her 26th studio album, “Dancing Queen” and her songs featured in the 2018 film “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again.”
Previously, the two musicians performed with Cher’s residency in Las Vegas, “Classic Cher,” beginning in 2017. Cher will return to Las Vegas next year for a residency at Park Theater and the pair will also be in her band there.
On the “Here We Go Again” tour, Mr. Sutter and Mr. Mauro are among five members of her band.
“This is probably the most talented band I’ve ever played in,” Mr. Sutter said. “Every one is inspiring on all standards. Every note counts. It’s the highest level of music.”
Cher, 73, told London-based the Sun on Oct. 12 that this would be her last tour. Her first hit was more than 50 years ago with “Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down),” written and produced by her then-husband, Sonny Bono. According to Billboard, Cher has had No. 1 hits in six consecutive decades. In 1988, she won an Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance in “Moonstruck.” In 2018, she received a Kennedy Center Honor. A stage musical about her life debuted in December on Broadway. It closed in August.
“Every night that she sings, it’s like a lion roaring,” Mr. Sutter said.
Cher’s on-stage energy is also very impressive, he said.
“She keeps up with all of her dancers, who are like 25, and she looks amazing,” Mr. Sutter said. “She’s physically fit, probably in better shape than she’s ever been, which is crazy.”
Mr. Mauro recalls watching episodes of “The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour” as a youth. The show ran on CBS from 1971 to 1974.
“For my family, that was one of the shows we watched every week, so getting to play in the band is very surreal,” Mr. Mauro said. “Sometimes when we’re doing a pre-show prayer and I’m standing right next to her, I can’t believe it.”
Cher is in England through the end of the month. She arrives back in the U.S. next month with a Nov. 19 show in Portland, Ore. She’s scheduled to perform at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto on Nov. 29 and Madison Square Garden in New York City on Dec. 3 and 4.
“There’s no empty seat,” Mr. Sutter said of the venues on the tour. “Ben and I, who have been touring a lot and played a lot of arenas, both know that sometimes those top seats can be open. We’re talking every single show is sold out, not an empty chair in the nosebleeds at the top.”
Mr. Sutter and Mr. Mauro didn’t know each other before they were selected for Cher’s band.
“I didn’t know Jason, and when I found out that he was from upstate New York, I was like, “Oh my God — my brother!,’” Mr. Mauro said.
They soon found common ground as they discussed such things as their fondness for Jreck subs and Genesee ale.
“It gives a message loud and clear to other musicians and performers in upstate New York — if we can do it, you can to,” Mr. Sutter said. “We both practiced hard.”
Mr. Sutter, a 1983 graduate of Potsdam High School, played his first gig at age 9 and his first professional show at the age of 10 with his band Paragon.
He’s made numerous television and feature film appearances including “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno,” “Late Night with Conan O’Brien” and “The Late Show with David Letterman.”
Mr. Sutter is also known for his drum clinics hosted around the world. Mr. Mauro sponsors a music education endowment at West Genesee High School to support its outstanding music program.
GROUNDED, AN INVITATION
Mr. Sutter has a habit on the Cher tour that helps to give him perspective.
“I try to talk through the arena, upstairs as the people are coming in,” he said. “It grounds me and gives me a reminder of where I am. I try to enjoy the moment now. I’ll always look back at it fondly. It’s incredible. We both agree probably there will never be a gig as cool as this one.”
Mr. Sutter and Mr. Mauro hope they can encourage young, local musicians and encouraged them to contact them through their websites.
“We’re always open, especially for young people all over, but really from our home area,” Mr. Sutter said.