Tuesday, November 19, 2013

GINO VANNELLI - Live At The Arcada Theater

This year, Frannie and I decided to observe the old adage "Give The Gift Of Music" and, as a result, we've been going to a lot of concerts lately.    

By combining birthday gifts (mine's in August and hers is in September) as well as our anniversary (November) we've recently been able to attend shows by The Eagles, The Rascals, Burton Cummings and Gino Vannelli, who we saw last Saturday Night at The Arcada Theater in St. Charles, IL.  (In addition, I've done a couple of "solo" shows, including Al Kooper and the Sail Rock extravaganza that featured Firefall, John Ford Coley, Robbie Dupree, Orleans, Player, Gary Wright and Christopher Cross ... man, what a line up THAT was!!!  You can add this year's version of The Happy Together Tour to this list, too.)   

These have all been good shows ... and Gino Vannelli was no exception.

Now I'll be the first to admit that Gino has never exactly been my cup of tea ... I like the obvious hits but this one was Frannie's choice all the way ... and she's been a big fan of his since day one when she first discovered this guy back in the late '70's.  (She had already seen him a couple of times before we were married ... and absolutely LOVES his music.)  And, after all, it WAS our anniversary so I figured "Why not?"  

(In fact, I told Gino after the show that I was really looking forward to going to his concert because I knew that even if he sounded "just a little bit OK" tonight, I was probably going to get laid!!!)

The good news is, he sounded a WHOLE lot better than "just a little bit OK" ... in fact, he sounded GREAT!  (Sorry but I'm keeping the details of any other after-the-show events close to the vest!) 

Vannelli has a SMOKIN' band ... and he was in EXCELLENT voice that night, the last stop of his 2013 Canadian and America tour.  Despite the fact that I probably knew all of about four songs (let's face it, he only had a few hits ... and he took a very long hiatus from the record business to investigate other interests while he was ... as he tells it ... black-listed from the music industry for not conforming to what the label ... read Clive Davis ... wanted him to be), I still felt entertained for the entire performance ... simply put, there is no denying a good show when you see one ... and this was a GREAT show!  

Backed by a seven-piece band (which included a three-piece brass section who came and went throughout the night), these guys jammed non-stop for well over an hour, to an audience that was clearly filled with Gino fans.  (Who knew there were this many Gino Vannelli fans in the St. Charles area all these years later?!?!) 

He looks quite a bit different today than he did back in the day ...   



... but was in EXCELLENT voice and, at 61 / 62 years of age, still has all the moves he had back in the day ... fact is, he sounded great.  (Rather soft-spoken on stage, there were times when it was hard to hear him when he talked between songs ... making it quite a shock when that big, booming voice comes out in song moments later and sets the stage on fire.)  

Slim, trim and fit, Vannelli looked great, too ... in an Engelbert / Robert Goulet sort of way! ... between the look and the sound, you'd swear that you had just stepped back into 1981 or 1982.  (There must be something in the Canadian water ... between Burton Cummings back in September and now Gino Vannelli in November, I've got to say that you could close your eyes at EITHER of these shows and swear it was the original record playing in the background!)   

Vannelli recently made headlines when he sang all three anthems at the Bell Center in Montreal for a Montreal Canadians / Dallas Stars hockey play-off game (The American National Anthem, the English/Canadian Anthem as well as the French/Canadian anthem) and he even gave us a short sampling of what THAT was like, trying to learn and rehearse all three.   

The obvious hits were covered ... "Living Inside Myself" (a #6 hit from 1981 that rarely gets played anymore) as well as "I Just Wanna Stop", the biggest hit of his career (and my personal favorite) ... sadly, he tinkered with the melody on that one ... and not for the better ... you can get away with that on some of the lesser known, fan-based hits ... but don't rearrange your BIGGEST hit ... 'cause that's the one song that EVERYBODY came to hear!!!  He did "People Gotta Move" (another favorite) as the encore and then came out and signed albums, t-shirts and photographs in the lobby after the show.  (VERY special thanks to Ron Onesti, proprietor of The Arcada Theater, who extended us a "private audience" with Gino before he hit the lobby ... which is when this special photograph was taken.) 

  Photo by Luciano J. Bilotti  

Vannelli's still got it ... and he provides a show well worth seeing.  (Again, the band was magnificent ... SO many dynamics that would come out of nowhere to accentuate the pivotal passages of any given song ... a real delight to see and hear.  These guys not only played well together but played well off one another as well to create some real visual and musical highlights on stage ... there were times when they really gelled that it sounded like there were TWENTY guys up on stage instead of the seven that were making it all happen.)  

I came away with a new respect for Gino as an artist when I learned that he also wrote nearly all of his own material ... apparently he's always been more than just a booming voice with a mammoth Afro, an incredibly hairy chest that would make Austin Powers jealous and an obnoxiously large medallion ... I just never got past the obvious stereotypes the record label used to market their "product" to dig in and listen to the artist underneath.    

Kudos to Vannelli for standing his ground, giving up virtually EVERYTHING to stick by his convictions and pursue his career on his own terms.  Again, who knew ... but I'm glad I know now.  
Kent Kotal
Forgotten Hits