Wednesday, May 7, 2014

My Comments On Your Concert Comments and Reviews

Thanks again to Ron Onesti for giving away FIVE free pairs of tickets to the Micky Dolenz / Cowsills Show this past weekend.  And thanks to our five winners for supplying their honest reviews of the show.   

I decided to let all of those reviews run sans comments yesterday to give you guys the spotlight ... but today I'd like to address a few points noted along the way. 

Randomly taking them one by one ...  

I can honestly say that growing up I don't think I ever would have given a second thought to seeing The Cowsills perform live in concert ... although I loved some of their music ("The Rain, The Park and Other Things" and "Indian Lake" in particular), but I was just a little "too cool" and they were just a little bit too square and wholesome for my tastes at the time ... but over the years I have come to better appreciate the tremendous gifts this family has shared with us musically ... and, after seeing the Showtime documentary special, am more intrigued than ever by the way they soldiered on despite some incredibly difficult obstacles along the way.  As such, I was REALLY looking forward to seeing them perform at The Arcada Theatre.   

On the other hand, I've probably seen Micky Dolenz 25 or 30 times over the years ... so while his show may hold fewer "surprises" for me, I still enjoy and appreciate his presence on the stage. For me, Micky's has always been one of the most under-appreciated voices of rock and roll ... the man can SING!!!  And, from my own personal experience, I've never seen him put on anything less than a stellar show.  Based on the reviews we received it sounds like he was either having an "off night" ... or maybe just saving himself a little bit for all of the upcoming Monkees reunion shows right around the corner.  (Micky returns to the Chicagoland area later this month, in fact, for a Monkees show at the Star Plaza Theater in Merrillville, Indiana.)   

Some of you seemed genuinely surprised by the connection of The Cowsills to the old television favorite "Love, American Style".  No, they didn't WRITE the theme ... but they performed it each week during the opening and closing credits.  Funny to think that this one went over so well in concert ... but then again, is there anybody out there who doesn't know this song?!?!   

Without a doubt, this family went through some incredible struggles internally ... if you haven't seen it, you have GOT to catch their documentary special ... it takes you through every high and low of their career ... happy and sad.  With a couple of recent losses I have to give them props for carrying on.  (Brother John currently drums with The Beach Boys!)  And, by all accounts we received, they still sound great!  (Some say they flat out stole the show!)   

The story of how the real-life antics of The Cowsills inspired the watered-down television equivalent, The Partridge Family, is pretty well known.  What some don't realize, however, is that the show was originally planned to be built around The Cowsills themselves.  For whatever reason, it didn't turn out that way ... comments ranging from "they couldn't act" to "they have no charisma" to "they're not believable as a family band" (which in and of itself is the ludicrous type of comment only Hollywood could make ... they WERE a family band for God's sake!!!) prevented the series with them onboard from ever getting off the ground.  

Instead, they decided to hire professional actors ... and Shirley Jones and her real-life step-son David Cassidy, assumed the lead roles.  (Reportedly neither knew the other had been cast until the first day of rehearsal!)  Even then the intention was to dupe in a real band and just have the actors lip-sync the tunes provided.  (This actually happened on the pilot episode ... but after that, Cassidy insisted that he really COULD sing ... and play the guitar ... and why don't producers give him a shot?)  They did ... and a brand-new teen idol was born, literally overnight.  (Unfortunately, this was never the image David wanted for himself ... and he had a real hard time dealing with it.  You'd be more likely to find him backstage jammin' to Jimi Hendrix than singing pop tunes like "I Think I Love You" or "Doesn't Somebody Want To Be Wanted" ... but I digress.) 

If you haven't seen the Showtime Cowsills Documentary Special yet, seek it out ... it's really quite amazing.  (You can probably find it On Demand ... and it is also available as an "Instant Video" through Amazon.)  No matter what you THINK you may know about their story, I guarantee you you'll find some real surprises here ... many at the expense of "happy endings."   

As for Micky (part of yet ANOTHER TV Band ... and, some might argue, the very first "Boy Band" ... and why not?  They were "manufactured" in much the same way The Backstreet Boys and N*Sync were.  Hey, if Destiny's Child and TLC can be classified as "Girl Groups", then why aren't The Monkees a "Boy Band"?!?!?), the story is that he auditioned for the part on The Monkees by performing "Johnny B. Goode" to prove that he, too, really could sing.  (Dolenz has NEVER gotten the credit he deserves for his amazing vocals.)  He had done a bit of recording prior to the TV series but nothing ever really clicked for him.  Once he sang their first two hits (two MONSTER #1 Records, "Last Train To Clarksville" and "I'm A Believer") his whole life changed ... and, as noted in the reviews, he's been singing them ever since.  

Dolenz has always been capable of more, however, and he normally showcases this in concert.  One of the most moving performances I've ever seen was Micky singing "Since I Fell For You", a real torch song that he nails as well as anybody I've ever heard ... in fact, BETTER than anyone I've ever heard.  Unfortunately, that's not the kind of music his fans come out to hear.   

It's nice to see that he featured "Crying In The Rain", a duet with his sister and long-time performing partner Co-Co.  It comes from his EXCELLENT "King For A Day" album, a tribute to Carole King (who also happened to write a few songs for The Monkees, a couple of which Micky reimagines within the context of this LP).  The bluesy rendition of "Sugar Sugar" happens to be my favorite track from his "Remember" album, released a couple of years ago ... the highlight of the disk for me.  It's also a nod to the fact that Don Kirshner first presented this song to The Monkees to record and they reportedly turned it down, saying that they were trying to break away from that bubblegum image.  (Kirshner was fired shortly thereafter and The Monkees took complete control of their recording output beginning with the "Headquarters" album.)  Kirshner never gave up on the song, however, and a couple of years later resurrected it with Ron Dante on lead vocals, masquerading as The Archies.  (Guess he figured he could execute COMPLETE control over a non-existent "cartoon" band ... plus at least they could never fire him!!!)   

The "Oh Darlin'" story, however, is a complete myth.  Yes, Micky DID go to the studio to watch The Beatles record ... but that was in 1967 when they were making their "Sgt. Pepper" album.  The song he actually sat in on was "Good Morning, Good Morning".  (McCartney recorded "Oh Darlin'" as nearly a solo track two years later, long after The Monkees had fallen off the charts.  In fact, John Lennon himself has remarked how he wishes HE could have been involved in the track ... and there's absolutely NO way Micky would have been there if the rest of The Beatles were not!)  We shot a ton of holes all over this story a few years ago in Forgotten Hits.  Just consider it a GREAT excuse to do a BRILLIANT job covering a Beatles classic.  (By the way, Micky also recorded "Good Morning, Good Morning" on his "Remember" album as a tribute to that REAL landmark moment.)

The Jimi Hendrix story, however, is true.  Hendrix finally quit the tour after six dates, fed up with all the screaming 13 year old girls begging for Davy!  (Some related articles you might enjoy are listed below):
Click here: Forgotten Hits - Jimi Hendrix   

What would have made for an EXCELLENT Arcada Experience Bonus was the fact that Bobby Hart was also in town the night before Micky performed on the 2nd.  How cool would it have been to be able to reunite these two for the Q&A session!  (Personally, even as it stood, I think I would have enjoyed the Question and Answer segment as much as either show ... a great, rare chance to see the artists open up and respond to their fans.)  Had I only known ahead of time, I'm certain I could have arranged this.  (A short while back Jeff Foskett was here with Brian Wilson the night after Micky performed a free concert in Elk Grove Village.  Jeffrey produced Micky's "King For A Day" album ... another potential great reunion that never happened.)   

Regarding the sound and the seating at The Arcada Theatre, I, too, have experienced some sound issues in shows in the past.  There seem to be a few "dead areas" in the theater where the sound doesn't reach you quite as well ... and it tends to have a bassy overtone some of the time, making it difficult to hear and understand the artists when they are speaking rather than singing.  And I will agree that the seating is rather tight ... I'll even add a comment that the bathroom is nearly impossible to navigate, holding maybe three people (if one of them turns sideways!)  This is the nature of an old, vintage theater dating back to the 1920's.  (Guess we were all much smaller then!!!)   

That being said, I think Ron Onesti has done a GREAT job of preserving and renovating this theater.  And that's a fine line to walk.  You want to retain as much of the old look and feel as possible (they've even got the old pump organ that rises up out of the floor which they use from time to time for some of the pre-concert music, just like they used to do back in the old days before the movie started.)  All of this adds to the charm and ambiance of the theater.  I know that Ron is planning more expansion and renovations in the future ... and hopefully issues like more comfortable seating, larger bathrooms and improved sound are all on the list.  I know that he wants to provide the ULTIMATE in theater / concert experience ... while still retaining the charm of this beautiful theater.  Overall, it's a GREAT place to see a show ... and it photographs beautifully ... several of these concerts have been filmed for television over the years and The Arcada has quickly become THE hot spot to see a show in the Chicagoland area.  (Ron himself will tell you that while the theater has some truly historic mega-memories ... acts like The Three Stooges, Martin and Lewis, Mickey Rooney, Groucho Marx and others have performed there over the years ... its RICHEST history has really been the past six or seven years as it has reinvented itself as a showcase for today's favorite stars.)  EVERY person who I've EVER talked to has RAVED about their first Arcada experience.  It's just a GREAT place to see a show ... and no matter WHO you came out to see, odds are you have left as a fan of the theater ... and that's really saying something.  More improvements will come ... so visit often ... you just can't get a better concert experience than this.

Speaking of which, you can catch two more great shows at The Arcada this weekend ...

Soft Rock '80's band Air Supply will be performing Friday night at 8:00 ... and on Saturday, The Alan Parsons Live Project will be doing TWO shows (7:00 and 9:30).  Tickets and more information (as always) at the OShows Website: