Wednesday, May 14, 2014

NEIL SEDAKA - A Guest Concert Review

Forgotten Hits Reader David Lewis saw Neil Sedaka live in concert over the weekend ... and couldn't wait to tell us all about it.  (Sounds like one hell of a show!)  I haven't seen Neil since the '70's but thoroughly enjoyed both shows I attended, once as the opening act for America and then a year later, back as a headliner on his own.

Sounds like these days you get a wide variety of musical styles during a Sedaka show ... but he's still in great voice and still entertaining audiences all over the world.

Here's David's review ... 

How many songwriter / singers have been writing successfully for 60 years? Yes, 60! It’s not easy to think of many. And what singers can we think of who sound precisely the same today as they sounded in 1959? Again, it’s a short list. To add one more requirement to the list, who is as creative today as they were just before the Brits upset the apple cart? Well, there’s one person topping my list: It’s Neil Sedaka.

We saw Neil performing with the Nashville Symphony Saturday night (the third of a three-night run), and his show is simply magnificent. His voice is so well–oiled one has to listen intently to hear the slightest roughness, and that’s on the low notes! Sedaka gave us a solid two hours, and kept us spellbound throughout the surprising second-half of his show.

The first part of Neil’s act is just as you’d expect: He plays all the old hits, beginning with “Oh! Carol”, though he didn’t mention he wrote it because of young Carol Klein, aka Carole King. He went on to do the rest of the early hits such as “Happy Birthday Sweet Sixteen”, “Breaking Up Is Hard To Do”, and several others. He talks about something serious happening in late ’63 that sidelined him for 12 years, and then picks up with his friend / collaborator Elton John helping Neil return to the pop charts. Neil performed all of these songs to perfection with the backing of the symphony, which included a full drum kit, electric guitar, and a blending of instruments that provided the right “feel” of 60s pop. He interspersed commentary between the songs and raved about the delightful way Toni Tennille performed the Grammy award-winning “Love Will Keep Us Together.”

After an intermission, he returned and said he now wanted to do something different, which was a return to his roots. Neil was awarded a scholarship to the prestigious Julliard School of Music at the age of 9, and has always been a serious student of classical music. He recently wrote a piano concerto “Manhattan Intermezzo”, which he performed with the symphony at this show – and it was indeed the surprise of the evening. This classical piece is enough to make any die-hard rock and roll fan want to listen to more of the classics. The composition is bright, light, and airy – and just plain fun. Sedaka’s classical style would remind one of Gershwin or Copland, and throughout the performance I would hear similarities to Neil’s early pop songs. Hearing his fingers running around that keyboard, one wouldn’t think a 74 year old was playing.

Sedaka also talked about his family: His wife of 51 years, his two children and his grandchildren. During the second half of the show, he also performed later hits such as “Laughter In The Rain” and the ballad version of “Breaking Up Is Hard To Do.” A few more of his later songs and some more short classical compositions rounded out the evening, and the crowd was on its feet.

The only blatantly missing piece from this show was “Bad Blood.” I’m surprised it was not included, considering Neil’s mention of Elton and Rocket Records.

This tour only makes a few stops this year, and if it comes to your town you won’t regret attending. Neil Sedaka has changed with the times and seems to be a super nice guy, and he delivers a performance that’s bright and fresh-sounding from start to finish. 

-- David Lewis 

Sedaka's got eight more U.S. dates before he takes off for Canada and an extended series of shows in the U.K.  Looks like he returns to California for a couple of shows in December.

You can check out the complete itinerary here: