Tuesday, August 5, 2014

More Concert Reviews

A couple more concert reviews today, sent in by our Forgotten Hits Readers.  ('Tis the season!)  Summertime brings out the very best to the outdoor venues ... so today we cover another recent Happy Together Concert as well as an East Coast Peter Noone road-trip.   

First up, our WRCO Disc Jockey Buddy Phil Nee ... who was a little bit disappointed when he discovered that there would be a line-up change to the Happy Together Show we've been plugging of late when the tour hit The Wisconsin State Fair Sunday Night.  

Phil emailed me before he took off for the concert:  

We are headed to see the Happy Together Tour in Milwaukee Sunday night.  The State Fair website says that Gary U.S. Bonds is in the lineup.  No mention of Mark Farner.  Have you heard anything about that?   

No, I hadn't ... but I told Phil his timing couldn't be any better since we were running a Happy Together Review on the website on Monday.  I asked him to please rush me out a review that we could run as a follow-up.  

Then, after he got home from the show, he sent me this ...

We were a bit disappointed by Mark Farner not being there ... and just before show time they announced that Gary Lewis was sick and couldn't play.  I thought each act might play longer as a result but the show was done in 1 hour and 25 minutes.  I've got to tell you that Gary U.S. Bonds kicked all of their asses!  I will have my assignment done later this morning. 
- Phil   

So now, please enjoy his full report: 

The Happy Together Tour limped into Milwaukee on Sunday night, August 3rd.  We learned on Saturday through the Wisconsin State Fair website that Mark Farner was not going to be there.  There was no explanation why, however, I presume they have known about the change for a while 
since they had a taped intro and American Bandstand video clips for his replacement, Gary U.S. Bonds.   

It has been 29 years since I last saw the Happy Together show and 30 years since my girlfriend (now my wife) June and our friends Gary and Mary saw the show in Dubuque,  Iowa.  The four of us reunited and during the ride Gary told me that he was disappointed that Mark Farner was not going to be there. He felt Gary U.S. Bonds' music was even older and did not fit with the rest of the artists.   I informed him that Mr. Bonds had the most recent hit with 1981's 'This Little Girl'.   Just before show time, the host radio station announced that Gary Lewis was sick and would not be performing.  This was a big downer to start the show.   

The concert began with Mitch Ryder.  I have interviewed Mitch twice before and had not watched him perform in nearly twenty years.  He does not move around the stage as in the past, however, his voice was strong and he seemed like he was having a good time.  He did a good job of chatting with the crowd between songs.    

Gary U.S. Bonds was next.  I have never had the chance to interview him or see his show, though I have always loved his music.  He was the best of the night.  He sounded great and played the audience well. He brought his own sax player, Joey Stann, who used to play with Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes.  Have you ever seen someone play a tenor and a baritone saxophone at the same time?  He played harmony and lead out of both sides of his mouth on the sax fills! He got a standing ovation mid-song.  Gary told the story about the kid from New Jersey that helped him a bit and then the opening notes to 'This Little Girl' rang out.  This may have been the best played song of the night by any artist!   

Chuck Negron's voice did not seem to be as strong as I had hoped.  I wondered if Gary Lewis had been spreading his sickness around back stage.  I have talked with Chuck before and have always enjoyed his energy.  He did not seem to show much of it Sunday night. He showed a touch of class by mentioning the names of the original band members and thanked them for all of the hits.  The Happy Together band did a good job of backing him.  Joy To The World really got the crowd going and it was his best song of his set.   

The Turtles hit the stage with their comedy and music.  I have interviewed Mark a few times and have always enjoyed he and Howard's shows.  They are still very good.  Their songs are timeless and they opened with She'd Rather Be With Me.   They then played It Aint Me Babe,  Elenore, and Happy Together.  I could not believe that they were already playing the showstopper!  The entire show was over in less than 90 minutes.  

I realize that Gary Lewis being sick was not planned for.  I presume that the band had only rehearsed the numbers  that were played. When we heard that there was going to be one less artist, I presumed that Chuck Negron and the Turtles would play longer sets.  There were plenty of songs that they could have played.  The Turtles did not do You Showed Me, You Baby and You Know What I Mean.  

They brought back all of the artists at the end to sing a piece of their biggest hits and it was over.  Overall it was a good show to see again after all of these years.  I just wish that it had been a little longer.  Our radio station hosted a festival for 20 years. This happened a few times, when a scheduled artist was unable to perform.  One time another artist could not get a plane out of a foggy airport.  The promoter went to Charlie Daniels and asked if he would play longer.  He went on and played another hour.  I realize that he had his own band though.  
-- Phil Nee / WRCO   

Wow!  Well, I hope that the whole band is here later this month when they bring the Happy Together Show to The Paramount Theatre in Aurora, IL!  (Then again I've got to admit that now I'm DYING to see Gary "U.S." Bonds ... and I'm not even all that big a fan ... I just want to see his sax man do his thing!!!  lol) 

Next ... Shelley Sweet-Tufano's three day / three concert / three state Peter Noone road-trip.  (Shelley's review of The Happy Together Show in Massachusetts ran yesterday on the FH Website ... scroll back if you missed it!  She had the benefit of the full, announced line-up for her show!)   

The opportunity popped up this summer to attend three concerts in three days in three states by the same artists.  It seemed ridiculous, stressful, and near impossible.  So, of course I planned it, grabbed a couple friends, and we began.   

We decided to travel at night after each concert to minimize our travel time ... and to see what it is like to be a band on the road.  For me, this would bring great stories to the classroom about the 'glamour' end of the music business.  First let me introduce the band:  Herman's Hermits starring Peter Noone.  Next, let me tell you they gave each concert their flair as though it were the only concert they were playing that month or year.  What changed the concert experience were the venue types and the audience.  So, I was also seeing how these variables can affect music and its players.  

Our first stop is in Long Island at an outdoor park venue.  Traffic was moving well that day until we hit the Long Island Parking Lot, also known as any road on the Island during the day, but we winked at each other knowing we'd miss it leaving at night.  We bought picnic food at a local store, set up our chairs, met up with other friends attending, and relaxed in a beautiful day before the concert.  Looking around, others were also arriving early (good sign).  Many wearing HHSPN t-shirts, purchased and home-made.  Another good sign.  The last good sign:  Families!  Not just drinkers looking for a night out ... or so I thought.  

When the concert started there was 'A Kind of Hush' allll ovvvvver the crowd!  Huh??  These people turned to stone and salt and acted as if they had never intended to be attending a concert.  This is the only place I have been where the silence was louder than the crickets.  What was wrong?  I looked around.  They were eating, drinking (there it is) and staring into space like they were watching TV or a video game.  A zombie audience indeed.  The breaking point became 'Sea Cruise'.  They could NOT stay still any longer as Rich Spina banged the keyboards, Peter Noone wailed out the words, and my friends and I started 'surf dancing' in our seats.  FINALLY an awakening.  From here we had dancing in the aisles, audience participation and people having FUN.  A talk with the commissioner of parks after the show gave me an insight that THIS is the norm.  "It is a free night for them.  They tell us they want to see this band and that band.  Then they show up and just sit and talk to each other."  Based on that info, Peter, Vance, Rich, Billy and Dave,; you get the prize for audience growth and achievement.  There was another massive autograph line as we departed to be 'On The Road Again' to our next state. 

Back to Connecticut, from whence we came!  A quick two hour ride up to Mohegan Sun turned into 3 1/2 hours of night construction!  Oh how could I forget that in Connecticut, the shortest route between two points is under construction!  I'm printing up T-shirts with that slogan and making a ton of money selling them on the said highways.   

I think standing in line for a seat makes a difference in audience attitude.  When / if you get in, you are grateful and make for an appreciative crowd.  Plus Mohegan Sun is home turf for HHSPN.  Although they appear there once-a-year now, formerly they came in as many as three times a year, and for a couple days of two concerts a day.  Everyone is relaxed and ready to pop-rock.  We get to hear 'Jezebel', which is so dynamic in live concert and three verses of 'Can't You Hear My Heartbeat' where 'Wedding Bells Are Gonna Ring'.  I agree that the song should not end because then we have 'Mrs. Brown', 'Henry' and 'A Kind of Hush' and ... it's over.  There was one loud drinker in the Den that night but, in keeping with "ignorance is bliss", he was given his moment in time and then ignored.  I think his friends gagged him.  Back in the cars (two cars containing five people going to all three concerts)  and I assure the "Banned" that it is clear passage out of Connecticut.  I have already checked the night construction schedule and there is nothing going south.  WHEEEE!!! 

And then just another 'Oh Crap' moment!  Lest we think that The George Washington Bridge can be easy to travel at night, they CLOSE LANES ON THE UPPER TRUCK LEVEL.  There is more traffic going over to New Jersey this night than I have seen during some days.  My comment:  "Why the heck do ALL these people need to get into New Jersey tonight?"  My driving friend replies, "Maybe they are all going to Atlantic City?  We are."  I sneer as I say, "That doesn't even make sense" prompts a "Hey, I'm tired!  I just want to get to the hotel!"  We were not making the Atlantic City run in one sweep, but stopping midway to sleep and finish in the morning.  Even so, we pull into the beach motel at 3:30 AM, overtired, ridiculously giddy and unbelieving that this area still has high people traffic at this hour.  Noticed:  beach life in the summer is 24/7.  Apparently if you are a man and I show up at your doorstep at 3:30 AM, wake you up, apologize over and over for being so late, and bite my lip (unconscious, but I was told I did); you will want to fix the situation and hand me a key, telling me to forget the paperwork and money and go get some sleep.  I think I was heard to say, "Let's get in the room before he changes his mind."  Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!!    

On to Atlantic City!!  We eat breakfast leisurely on the way and slide into AC before check-in, leave our bags, and hit The Boardwalk!  Next, concert time at the casino across the street after enjoying dinner in 'Paradise' at Margaritaville.   

Wow!  Here is the venue with the spectacular!  Spectacular lighting, spectacular staging, audience who paid for tickets ... does it make a difference?  NOT in the performance at all.  In the audience ... maybe so.  I cannot guarantee that paying for a ticket nor acquiring a seat standing for hours in line makes for a good audience, but the people who are here want to be here.  They have taken time from vacations, gambling, and other night-life to come.  The disco ball twirling on stage is ... at first silly.  BUT I see how they deflect lights off of it to create a 'star' atmosphere.  That is both an outer-space feel and a superstar feel.  As Peter sings 'End of the World', he is standing right in front of me (I have direct sight although I am on the second level) with a spot illumination. The rest of the stage is dimmed.  He does not move.  It is mesmerizing.    

So, our three day, three state, three concert road trip ends.  Was I tired?  Oh yeah!  Did I have fun?  Oh YEAH!  Lastly, would I do it again?  OH YEAH!  I guess I would!  Thank you to my Connecticut friend, my Massachusetts friend, and my two Virginia friends who shared in my folly.  Also to those friends who showed up at Long Island, Mohegan, or Atlantic City; it was good to see you all.  (Footnote:  there were people who showed up from Florida right up the coast line to RI and MA)  I have some good new teaching material.    
-- Shelley J Sweet-Tufano