Monday, August 4, 2014

Happy Together

Here's a Happy Together Tour Concert Review courtesy of Forgotten His Reader Shelley Sweet-Tufano from a show she saw last week in Webster, MA. (The Happy Together Gang hits the Chicagoland area on August 22nd for a show at The Paramount Theatre in Aurora, IL ... and we can't wait to see it!)  

More info here:

Sounds like a great show ... and Shelley sent along some great pictures as well ... so enjoy (as we live vicariously through her concert experience until we get to see the real thing in a couple of weeks!)  KK   

What's better than sitting under an umbrella in the pouring rain waiting for an outdoor concert to start??  Actually many many things ... I made a mental list while I was waiting.  

BUT because God loves music, me, and the musicians I love, the rain stopped, the clouds parted and 20 minutes before concert time, the sun came out.    

Back in time to July 12th in Atlantic City.  This is a conversation I had with a friend when I was questioned about past and future concerts I had seen / would be seeing.   

ME:  I will be going to Webster, MA, to see The Happy Together Tour.  I'm surprised to be hearing all the rave reviews on Mitch Ryder and Mark Farner.    

HE:  WHY DOES THAT SURPRISE YOU?  (Now comes a stream of their virtues and what songs I would be hearing)   

ME:  I guess because I have never seen them live, I don't know what to expect; whereas I know Gary, Chuck, and The Turtles will be great.   

He has already received an email from me proclaiming him correct.     

Back to yesterday:  July 27th.  I have always loved the beginning of this concert with the countdown.  People slowly filing in or now leaving to get food (you didn't know you were hungry or needed that alcoholic beverage until you sat down?)  Or nodding "yeah, yeah, sure.  Five minutes ..."  NO!  I MEAN IT!  IT WILL START IN FIVE MINUTES!  HONEST!  Then I can laugh when they come running back sloshing beer, etc. all over their hands and arms.   

First up is Gary Lewis!  As he always says:  "Ah, Memories."  Ones we never get tired of.  It is so much fun hearing the stories, singing along, swinging my feet.  Oh yeah ... swinging my feet.  My chair is a great seat.  No one in front of me, but raised up off the ground so I look like a five year old.  My feet just won't touch the ground.  This actually came in handy during the rain as a waterfall flowed down the steps of the stadium seating and I was the only one with dry feet because the water ran under them hanging in midair.  It really DID turn back time for me, and gave my friends fits of giggles.  Each performing set ran about 20 minutes and seemed to be jammed into 'quick-mode'.  I believe Mitch Ryder referred to this as due to the possibility of rain returning.  Hey, Turtles and Three Dogs can swim!  Not great for a Railroad though, whether it's in or out of a Grand Funk.  Thank you Gary, for your enthusiasm, willingness to be first in line, and details of the origins of your songs.  I DID miss 'Sealed With a Kiss' though ... really did, Sir.  

Mitch Ryder!  The connection between Rock and Motown!  As mentioned, I have never before seen him in performance and ... HOT DANG!  The entire audience should have worn blue dresses for this segment.  Actually, a few wore blue tops and implied they were devilish.  Always thinking that I am part of the generation that tested the rules and tried to open new doors, it does not surprise me that 'Sock It To Me' was banned on the radio for having 'dirty lyrics'.  But when Mitch sings the original lyrics, I say, "Really? Really?  THAT was banned?"  I think the same thing listening to 'Rhapsody in the Rain'.  Surprisingly, these are some of the songs I turn my students onto to get them away from the rap lyrics they are prone to listen to.  Maybe because they can be symbolic and have more than just sexual tones.  I wanted to get up and dance during this segment, but I am polite AND remember ... my feet don't touch the ground.   

Mark Farner is older than me.  This came as a shock since the man covered more space on the stage dance-hopping with a guitar than TV commercials on 'seniors' would imply is possible.  Yes, exceptions to every rule.  My Great-Grandfather did hand stands in his 70's because his grandsons were doing them wrong and he felt he needed to show them correctly.   Mark Lindsay says, "Rock and Roll Keeps You Young".  I'm sure that helps.  It does with me.  Working with kids also helps.  I think performing helps.  I muse here about this because HE WAS SOME KIND OF WONDERFUL. Locomotion or just in motion, he is wild.  Mark, I stand again in ovation ... you can sing and move!  (This is why I mentioned the Atlantic City conversation before ... my friend was right.)  

After the duel surprise thrill of Mitch and Mark, I was ready for Chuck Negron, knowing the capacity of his voice in performance.  As I said, the sets seemed to run a little too quickly for me.  I would have enjoyed more verbal time with each performer.  Chuck, I don't know how you did it, but you put on a little speed while appearing totally calm and laid-back.  Chuck Negron gives you the appearance he will be there all night, just hanging and singing.  And suddenly he is gone and you say, "I didn't see that coming."  He ends as calmly as he begins, and you have heard about how awful Eli is, how lonely One is, and all about a bullfrog named Jeremiah.  Time flies when you're having fun is an understatement.  Chuck, your voice was so strong and powerful.  It packed a punch while you stood there calmly delivering the message.  Whew!  

And then ... mayhem enters in the form of The Turtles.  Mark dances their opening number which has now become 'Gumbo Style'.  Words escape me (in a good way guys).  It is hard to believe that I saw them before the concert and they blended into the crowd, appearing totally sane.  On stage, they are certifiably insane, wild, comical, musical, drumstick wielding, tambourine tossing, entertaining monarchs of the 60's (and I don't mean the 'butterfly' Mark)!  Howard encourages snapshots as "you just never know when one of us will keel over.  We're OLD!"  Funny!  I hate it!  I hate the thought of any ending ... today, tomorrow, or ever.  They are the brains that puts this show together and the reason it has grown in such popularity.  

And now for the genius behind the scenes and the glue that holds this together.  Who really has the most fun and the longest exposure during the show?  THE MUSICIANS IN THE BAND.  Godfrey Townsend has again assembled a group that travels with and accompanies every performer.  Manny Focarazzo on keyboards, John Montagna on guitar, and Steve Murphy on drums (who also is killer soloist with Mark Farner and Chuck Negron when needed), do NOT leave the stage except for intermission, and when they need to get out of Mark Volman's way.  (Go see!)  Applause, gentlemen!  Your job is the best, and maybe worst, rolled into one.   

It is a HOT show!  Go see it! 
Shelley J Sweet-Tufano  

On first glance, Mark Farner and Mitch Ryder may seem like unlikely choices for this year's Happy Together line-up.  (Farner might fit in better with "Hippiefest", another Flo and Eddie / Turtles mainstay ... although it's REALLY hard to classify the music of Grand Funk Railroad these days.)  Typically, the Happy Together Tour has always taken on more of a "feel good" / "pop" motiff, so they've definitely "rocked things up" a bit this year by adding Farner and Ryder to the equation. 

Grand Funk Railroad were one of the original hard rock bands, selling ZILLIONS of albums back in the late '60's and early '70's (at one point, right up there ... and surpassing ... The Beatles for Capitol Records.)  Their first eleven albums went gold and platinum several times over.  (There was a time when you never heard Grand Funk Railroad and Black Sabbath mentioned without one another ... and then Led Zeppelin came along and all of a sudden the whole world was rockin' a little harder!)    

But the BIG hits didn't come until they went "pop" with "We're An American Band", a #1 Single in 1973.  Their cover of "The Loco-Motion" (alo a #1 Single) came from as far out of left field as a band could stray ... and today about the only things you still hear by these guys are those two #1 Hits and "Some Kind Of Wonderful" ... but they also recorded a whole bunch of OTHER great music that deserves a spin now and then.  (I love their version of "Feelin' All-Right" for example ... and "Closer To Home" is a Classic Rock Classic.)  Other early album rock tracks like "Heartbreaker" and "Mean Mistreater" ... soulful takes like "Footstompin' Music" and "Rock And Roll Soul" ... legitimate hits like "Walk Like A Man" and "Shinin' On" and "Bad Time" and credible covers like "Gimme Shelter", "Parnoid", "Inside Looking Out" and the aforementioned "Feelin' All Right" are all undeservedly ignored by classic rock aradio today ... these guys were HUGE!!! ... and breaking their entire career down to a couple of pop hits like "We're An American Band" and "The Loco-Motion" doesn't do them justice.  (I'm hoping Farner will play at least a few other favorites in his brief set list when we get to see them later this month.)  

Mitch Ryder's been back on the oldies circuit for a few years now, doing a number of shows (most notably along with Paul Revere and the Raiders and their "Where The Action Is" series).  Mitch had a real knack for working out some interesting medleys back in the day ... yet here again his career seems have been narrowed down to the occasional playing of "Devil With A Blue Dress On" by ignorant radio programmers across the country.  (For a closer look at just how big these artists really were, scroll back to our posting from last Tuesday, July 29th, where we recapped the Composite Top 40 Hits of all five head-liners ... an impressive list to say the least.   

As for Gary Lewis, you're not likely to hear him singing "Sealed With A Kiss" anytime soon ... it's his LEAST favorite record that he ever made.  (We probably have a better chance of convincing Howard Kaylan to give "You Know What I Mean" one more spin than we do of getting Gary to resurrect this one!)  Listening to it now is pretty painful ... I'm still surprised they let that one go, as foff-key as it is.  But no worries ... he's got plenty of OTHER Top 40 Hits to draw from ... including "This Diamond Ring", "Count Me", "Save Your Heart For Me", "Everybody Loves A Clown", "She's Just My Style", "Sure Gonna Miss Her" and "Green Grass", seven straight Top Ten Hits released between January of 1965 and May of 1966.  Famous dad or not, these are all GREAT hit records!    

I know what you mean about these short sets ... and I swear it feels like they've grown even shorter these past few years during The Happy Together Shows.  Even The Turtles themselves come and go so quickly.  (Perhaps it's that old adage "Leave 'em wanting more" ... and let's face it, you can always go check out The Turtles and/or Chuck Negron in solo shows and get more bang for your buck ... although a $59 ticket to see five superstars like this in one show is really pretty remarkable!)   

I would love to hear Chuck Negron do a full-blown set of Three Dog Night hits ... maybe even some of the over-looked album tracks that he's become so well know for.  After seeing the Cory and Danny show a few times now these past couple of years, I'm ready for a full-on Chuck Negron version of the Three Dog Night catalog.   

And The Turtles are always fun, no matter how many times you've seen them.  These guys just have a good time up there ... and take the audience along for a ride.  Even after 45 years of hit-making schtick, it still never gets old.  HIGHLY recommended! 

Thank you, Shelley ... you have REALLY whet my appetite to see this show!  (kk)