Josh Gates Live! (Detroit) review

It’s hard to say anything but nice things about the delightfully entertaining archeologist/adventurer/actor Josh Gates (host of Discovery’s Expedition Unknown). But the entire “Live” appearance is built around his charisma and his stories – believe them or not.

Ardent followers of his TV show (myself included) know that he is a highly enthused explorer in pre-scripted “expeditions” to find treasures and (lately) ghosts. And of course, he never finds much of anything, but he has a relaxed and involved style in presenting stories about historic figures and their (most often) lost treasures — DB Cooper, Captain Kidd, sunken ships and lost voyages, etc. Sometimes he finds nails or canisters suggesting the historical figure was there at one time — at others (a recent opening of an Egyptian crypt with a mummy inside!) are carefully orchestrated press releases for other archeological groups – and sometimes border on defiling the crypt/ruin (they drilled holes in a Mayan temple to “look for gold”). Josh is surrounded by a superb television team that makes it look like he himself is leading these explorations — when in reality he’s a talkative (and sometimes smart-alecky) narrator at best.

Still, when it was announced he would be appearing live, I put on my shepherd’s sundial neckless and sat rapt for 90 minutes at a packed Masonic Temple Theater to hear about his stories and adventures.

The first thing you notice is that he is taller and thinner than he appears on tv — of course, on Expedition Unknown he is usually the only (on-screen) American surrounded by thin Europeans or Egyptians. The next thing you notice is how his conversational style really is like that on the series. Over the course of the evening he tells stories about his adventures, close calls, boring month long trips that are edited down into exciting 40 minute episodes, and most recently his (bizarre) fascination with ghosts and supernatural. He was the impetus for the spinoff series Expedition X — “what was that!” — tv at it’s most unbelievable and hokum of the first order.

Unfortunately he spent too much time discussing his supernatural obsession, and he lost me for most of that section – though from the reactions around me there are clearly those who think that is more interesting than his actual archeological adventures. Different strokes for different folks.

I did have a VIP package and would have met him, were it not for the hundreds of other people at the VIP event, so no thanks, hero or no hero.

If you get the opportunity to see him live, do so! It’s rare that we get to see someone like Josh Gates in person, away from the tv screen, and away from the cameras — but he’s also an actor of the first order, so expect your evening to sound like a memorized script (because it is).

Expedition Unknown returns to Discovery Channel on May 25th.

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