Thursday, April 3, 2014

We Had One Hell Of A Rock And Roll Weekend!

Yes we did!!!  (In fact, thanks to the entertainment on hand, we partied like it was 1957 ... or 1971 ... or 1980 ...  depending on which night you happen to be talking about!)
I don't think I've been to three concerts in a row like that since I was 19 years old!!!

At the invitation of Ron Onesti, we spent our weekend rockin' to the sounds he was featuring at The Arcada Theatre ... 

That meant Three Dog Night on Friday Night ...

A triple bill on Saturday Night, starring The Chicago Six (featuring three members of the 1985 Super Bowl Championship Team, Steve McMichael, Dan Hampton and Otis Wilson), Bobby Kimball, original lead vocalist of Toto and '80's rocker Eddie Money ...

And an incredible rockabilly tribute on Sunday Night, brought to us by The Cadillac Casanovas and Matthew and Gunnar Nelson, Rick Nelson's twin sons, with their loving tribute to their father, all part of a multi-media presentation they call "Ricky Nelson Remembered".

It's exactly this type of musical versatility that makes The Arcada Theatre THE place to go, week after week after week.  Check out their up-coming line-up and you'll be blown away by the number of superstars headed their way ... with more acts being added all the time.

You want musical variety?  How about Micky Dolenz of The Monkees, paired with The Cowsills, together in an incredible double bill, with an on-stage performance of William Shakespeare's "A Mid-Summer Night's Dream" another night, followed by some head-bangin' '80's music, courtesy of Lita Ford, Vixen, Slaughter, Vince Neil of Motley Crue, Dee Snider of Twisted Sister, Tom Keifer of Cinderella and Winger!

Up-coming shows include B.J. Thomas, Johnny Rivers, Felix Cavaliere's Rascals, an incredible '70's triple bill featuring Ambrosia, Firefall and Orleans, The Little River Band, The Spinners ... followed by musical tributes to Frank Sinatra, Patti Page and Glenn Miller!!!  And then, of course, there's Tommy James and the Shondells, Rare Earth, Al Stewart and The Alan Parsons Project!!!  (Intersperced with Deep Purple and The Orchestra, featuring former members of ELO, The Ten Tenors, Air Supply and The Bronx Wanderers!!!)

Blue Oyster Cult, Echoes of Pompeii (and their AMAZING tribute to Pink Floyd), The Guess Who ... and Engelbert Humperdinck!!!  Peter Noone and Herman's Hermits, Jay and the Americans, The Yardbirds, the return of Three Dog Night (as part of the big 4th of July Celebration that will also feature The Chicago Six Band, Dennis DeYoung of Styx and Creedence Clearwater Revisited!) ... I'm telling you, this guy is the Ed Sullivan of St. Charles, IL!!!  And incredibly, he makes it all fit!!!

Watch for shows by Dave Mason, CTA (featuring Chicago founding member Danny Seraphine on drums, Bill Champlin on vocals and Larry Braggs, former lead singer of Tower Of Power), Foghat, Paul Revere and the Raiders, Little Anthony and the Imperials, Dean Torrence with The Surf City All-Stars and ... Kevin Costner (?!?!?)  There is NO limit to the variety of entertainment you can find here ... and new shows are rumored to include the return of America (ALWAYS a sell-out) and Olivia Newton-John.  (We've suggested a few acts as well!)  There isn't ANYBODY that Ron won't consider booking as part of his on-going commitment to bring the very best to St. Charles, IL.

Check out the website for updates and ticket information:

But first, let's get back to the matter at hand ... reviews of the three incredible shows we saw this past weekend! 


On the afternoon of the Three Dog Night concert last Friday some of the folks at work who overheard me talking about the band were surprised to hear that they were still together.  Now I'll be the first to admit that MOST of these folks aren't particularly music-savvy ... while they all seemed to have at least HEARD of the band, they weren't really sure just what they were known for ... and, as such, I was subjected to a number of asinine questions ...  

Is it the same guys?  
How do they sound?  
(Well no ... it's actually just TWO Dog Night nowadays ... but they're both original members ... Danny Hutton and Cory Wells)  

Isn't the lead singer dead?  
(The lead singer?!?!  What made Three Dog Night so unique was the fact that they had THREE lead singers ... who frequently traded off leads during the course of their songs)  
Is that one guy still in jail?  
(Which guy is that???)

But the one that REALLY set me off ... and put me over the edge was when one of the guys came up to me, singing "one is the loneliest number" and asked "So is 'One' the only hit they ever had???" 
That did it.  I blew up.

No ... "One" is NOT the only hit they ever had. 

Three Dog Night had 21 consecutive Top 40 Hits between 1969 and 1975.

During that time they were the #1, top-grossing touring act on the planet.  They sold more records than ANY other recording artist and played to packed, sold-out house around the globe.  NOBODY deserves to go through life questioning, thinking ... or worse yet, BELIEVING ... that "One" was Three Dog Night's only hit.  (It wasn't even their BIGGEST Hit!!!)  

According to the national charts, Three Dog Night had SEVEN #1 Hits ... "One" just happened to be one of them.  (It was their break-through hit in 1969 ... but other Number One's followed: "Easy To Be Hard" (also 1969); "Mama Told Me Not To Come" (1970); "Joy To The World" ... their biggest hit EVER in 1971, topping the chart for SIX incredible weeks ... going on to become The Biggest Single of the Year for 1971; "Black And White" (1972); "Shambala" (1973) and "The Show Must Go On" (1974). 

I couldn't take it.  I had to burn this guy a CD over the weekend.  I narrowed it down to 14 of those 21 Top 40 Hits ... brought it to work with me on Monday and made him play it loud enough for the whole office to hear, betting him the he would know AT LEAST half of these songs the moment he heard them.  (He did ... although he still managed to ask the question "So Three Dog Night did 'Never Been To Spain' ... and then, what, Elvis covered it?"  Yeah ... something like that.) 

So how was the show???

REAL good ... albeit pretty much exactly what we expected, having just seen them last summer in Elk Grove Village.  (In fact, they'll be back again in a couple of months, performing as part of The 4th of July Celebration in Festival Park in Elgin, another Ron Onesti Production.)  

Still, it was a complete sell out, the crowd LOVED them and the guys (Danny Hutton and Cory Wells) were in FINE voice, playing all of the hits you'd expect them to play along with a few surprises (well, surprises had you NOT just seen them nine months earlier!), including a couple of new tracks and some LP cuts like "It Ain't Easy" and "You Can Leave Your Hat On". 

I referred back to my previous review to try and pinpoint the major differences.

For one thing, it was a much shorter set ... and, as such, Cory classics like "Try A Little Tenderness" and "Eli's Coming" were left off the list.  The highlights of the night for me were (once again) Danny's INCREDIBLE reading of "Liar" ... and their encore performance of "Prayer Of The Children", an absolutely STUNNING a capella performance that rivals the very best of anything else you've ever heard.  Those were certainly the pluses ... although everything they performed was certainly of the highest caliber.  But ... once again ... the lead vocals were sorely lacking the high end that Chuck Negron provided on hits like "One" and "Joy To The World" ... these two REALLY need some work ... but how do you omit two of your biggest hits?  (Suggestion to the band ... your bass player Paul Kingery supplied some of the finest high-end harmonies I've ever heard, all night long ... would it be so bad to let him take a stab at those "challenging" lines in "One" and "Joy To The World" that you guys are having difficulty reaching to better fill out the sound?  You can still fill in the rest in solid Three Dog Night fashion ... and I don't think ANYONE in the audience will be any the wiser.  Just a thought.  Rather than have these two MAJOR hits stand out as the "weakest links" of the show, give it your best shot instead ... if only for the preservation of the music.) 

Honestly, there was a certain "muddiness" to the sound Friday Night, particularly on Cory's vocals, which were often lost in the overall mix.  My best guess is that Cory may have been feeling a little bit under the weather ... (at least that's the vibe that I got) ... and, as such, may have been holding back just a little bit.  When we saw them in July (followed by Chuck Negron a month later on the Happy Together Tour), I singled Cory out as the strongest singer of the bunch ... but Friday night it was Danny who continually impressed while Cory seemed to struggle. 

Their revamped hip-hop version of "Mama Told Me Not To Come" got a GREAT reaction Friday Night ... much better than it did at the Elk Grove show ... and we enjoyed it quite a bit more this time around, too ... they cut the length in half and played it up with just the right amount of humor to really win the crowd over. 

As mentioned earlier, if you missed them this time around, Three Dog Night returns to the area on July 3rd for a holiday celebration concert at Festival Park in Elgin, IL, a concert also promoted by Ron Onesti.  It's all part of a major concert weekend that also features Chicago Six (led by three 1985 Super Bowl Champion Bears ... we saw them Saturday Night as the opening act for Bobby Kimball of Toto and Eddie Money), Dennis DeYoung of Styx and Creedence Clearwater Revisited.

The Saturday Night Special ... 
The Chicago Six (featuring 1985 Chicago Bears Super Bowl Champions Dan Hampton, Otis Wilson and Steve McMichael),  Bobby Kimball (former lead vocalist of Toto) and Eddie Money

Man, this was a LOUD concert!!!  (And we sat up in the balcony for this one ... and STILL got blasted out of our seats!!!)

The Chicago Six is a Chicago Bears Tradition, dating back to before The Bears even made The Super Bowl in '85.  (In fact, at one time Walter Payton ... in all his "sweetness" with his high falsetto was a member of the group!)  They have recently regrouped (along with a few back-up musicians) and pretty much feature a mix of feel-good, party-music ... played pretty darn well for a bunch of football players!  (At one point, they reminded us ... if we spotted any musical weaknesses ... that they used to tackle guys for a living!)

The incomparable Chet Coppock introduced the act and they played a decent set of warm-up music.  Not a bad way to kick off the evening!

Next up was Bobby Kimball.  We saw Bobby a few years ago when he performed as part of Schaumburgfest, sharing the bill with Mickey Thomas of Jefferson Starship.  That night he only performed a few songs, but he sounded quite capable of still hitting all the notes that needed to be hit ... and that helped define the early sound of Toto ... but he was more of a "featured guest performer" than a headlining soloist.

This time he was performing as the main event with his own band ... which included some pretty stellar musicians who were able to faithfully replicate the intricate sounds of Toto, live on stage.  (No easy task, for these tracks were originally laid down by seasoned studio musicians, who were some of the best in the business!)       

In order to best represent the overall sound of Toto, Kimball enlisted the help of co-vocalist, which not only  complimented the sound but also enabled the duo to recreate both ends of the Toto vocal spectrum ... in fact at times he sounded just like the record, handling the vocals originally waxed by David Paich with flair and ease (despite looking a bit like a deranged Leprechaun from one of those "worst-nightmare" horror films from years ago while prancing around the stage!)  Over the course of the night, in fact, I'd have to say the lead vocals were equally shared ... as many of the hits performed that night like "Rosanna", "Africa" and "99" weren't primarily Kimball vocals in the first place ... which is why I find it all that much more surprising that I can't find this poor guy credited ANYWHERE on the Internet or Kimball's website ... between us, Frannie and I searched 40-50 pages last night trying to properly credit this guy, who was in equally fine voice Saturday Night and lended a real authenticity to the sound of this material.  (If ANYBODY out there can properly credit him, please let me know ... he deserves some recognition for the fine job he did.  Our best guess is that it MAY have been Neil Baruelo ... but I've yet to receive an official confirmation on that.)  Regardless, it's just WRONG that Kimball doesn't properly acknowledge his band on his site ... bad form, Bobby!

All in all, an enjoyable (if loud) performance ... which set the stage perfectly for the evening's headliner, Eddie Money.

Without question, this was Eddie's crowd.  Money has played The Arcada several times in the past and always packs the house.  Saturday Night was no exception ... the crowd was up on its feet, singing along for the majority of his set.  (I've never seen Eddie Money perform live before ... it was a bit unusual in several ways ... he never really looked comfortable when it was his turn to command the stage ... yet command it he did.  About the nicest thing I can say (and I truly do mean this in the most flattering way) is that Eddie Money sounded just like Eddie Money!!!

All of the vocal chops were there ... and the crowd hung on every note.  Money's choreography consists of not much more than spinning around in a circle and wiping fake tears from his eyes or simply holding his head ... nowhere near as "spastic" as say Joe Cocker (who just HAD to be an early influence judging by his stage presence) ... although he tries ... but never really looking comfortable in the process, once he hits the spotlight.  (He almost seems surprised to be the center of attention at his own show!)

All the hits were there, including one of my Forgotten Hits favorites, "I Wanna Go Back", a #14 Hit from 1987.  Ron Onesti quipped early on that he sold "900 tickets to paradise" for this sold out event ... and Eddie played it to the hilt.  Again, strong musicianship throughout the very loud show ... but ALL the hits were covered to rousing ovations.

SUNDAY - The Nelson Brothers - Ricky Nelson Remembered

We also had the fortunate pleasure of seeing Rick's sons, Matthew and Gunnar Nelson, perform their loving tribute to their father on Sunday at The Arcada Theatre.  This is a show I have been waiting to see for a long, long time ... seems like every time it hit our area, it sold out immediately ... so it was real treat to finally get to see it.  (Having seen Rick live in concert six times ... and having been a MAJOR Rick Nelson fan my entire life ... let me just say that this is a show you NEED to see if it comes to your area.) 

In a stroke of pure genius, Ron Onesti booked The Cadillac Casanovas as the opening act ... an authentic rockabilly band that are a pure delight to watch.  Guitarist / Lead Vocalist Carl Schreiber (formerly of The Neverly Brothers) has mastered every lick known to man ... and wears a pompadour that would make even the great Wayne Cochran jealous!  (It's been described as "gravity defying" ... and honestly, I think he looks a little bit like an older Adam Lambert!) 

Rick Uppling (who Frannie thinks looks a little like Woody Harrleson!) is an absolute wild man on the upright bass ... don't blink or you may miss him spinning it around, climbing onboard or lifting it to play as a traditional bass guitar ... all antics you don't want to miss and have to see to believe! 

Drummer Tracy Shepherd rounds out the trio, who get a lot of mileage out their limited instrumentation.   (At one point bassist Uppling explained the somewhat shallow sound of an Everly Brothers tune by saying "You have to remember that we've got but one guitar between us"!!!)  Great line!  And a great show!

They made the perfect fit as the opening act for The Nelson Brothers (who later clarified that The Cadillac Casanovas weren't so much opening for The Nelson Brothers as much as The Nelson Brothers were closing for The Cadillac Casanovas!) 

As a bonus treat, The Nelsons came out to join The Cadillac Casanovas for their final number, the little known Rick Nelson track "Do You Know What I Mean" (actually one of my favorites from his own early '80's Rockabillly Renaissance.  Can you believe it's been nearly thirty years that Rick has been gone?!?!?) 

Once they cleared the set, The Nelson Brothers came out and did a fitting tribute to the music of their father, telling little known stories and showing vintage video clips and home movies.  Their vocals and musicianship were outstanding for a two-man band ... stellar in fact ... but apparently they felt something was missing ... so after a brief intermission they surprised EVERYBODY (and probably the warm-up band most of all!) by inviting The Cadillac Casanovas back on stage to finish up the show with them! 

This mixture added a whole new punch to their set ... and I'm here to tell you that the boys fit right in.   

(I remember thinking, "Man, if they sound THIS good off the cuff, imagine what they'd sound like together after a couple of rehearsals!!!)  I told Frannie, "The Nelson Brothers should invite these guys out on the road with them ... as both their opening act and support act for the second half of the show!"  It kinda felt like history in the making ... they TOTALLY complimented each other's playing and in no time flat the entire audience came alive and was up on its feet rocking and rolling along. 

Sadly, you don't hear the music of Rick Nelson ... or Elvis ... or The Everly Brothers ... or any of these other great stars that they paid tribute to Sunday Night ... much on the radio anymore ... if at all.  Chicago is SORELY lacking an oldies station ... and by that I mean a REAL oldies station playing the music of the '50's, '60's and early '70's ... and playing ALL of this great music instead of the 50-60 tracks that the programmers have cherry-picked as the music currently saturating the airwaves today.  (All kidding aside, why don't they just start a "Jack And Diane" station?  I'm serious ... let it play 24/7 ... and then if somebody really NEEDS to hear it, they can just go there and listen to it any time they want!  Instead of "Jack-FM", just set up "Jack and Diane - FM" ... but take it out of the mainstream ... along with other saturated tracks like "Don't Stop Believin'" and "More Than A Feeling" and program in some VARIETY instead!!!  But I digress.) 

Anyway, if you get the chance to see "Ricky Nelson Remembered" featuring The Nelson Brothers, do yourself a favor and buy a ticket ... you will not be disappointed.  SO many great songs are featured and the story telling is done in both a loving and humorous way ... on more than one occasion the audience AND the band got a little emotional ... but in a way that REALLY makes you feel good.  (You'll love the vintage Ricky Nelson / Ozzie and Harriet clips, too!) 

Ron Onesti is already working on bringing The Nelson Brothers back to do their Rockabilly Christmas Show in December ... here's hoping he'll invite us out for that one, too ... along with The Cadillac Casanovas to supplement the evening.  What a GREAT time we had ... it truly captured a VERY special moment that can only be described as "magical".  (kk)

LOCALS:  Don't miss your chance to catch TWO Legendary Acts next weekend at The Arcada Theatre ...

Ron Onesti has extended an EXCLUSIVE offer for Forgotten Hits Readers only ... half price tickets to see Little Anthony and the Imperials on Saturday, April 12th (8 pm show) and Paul Revere and the Raiders on Sunday, April 13th (5 pm show).

Just go the the OShows Website: ... and type in the special promotional code FH2014 ... and your tickets are half off!

We hope to see you out there for both shows ... it promises to be another "one hell of a rock and roll weekend"!!!  (kk)

kk hangin' with The Nelsons ... back stage at Sunday Night's show.
Special thanks to Luciano J. Bilotti for taking this photo ... 
and to Ron Onesti for having us out as his guests ..
man, what a WILD weekend!!!