Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Another Concert Review: The Beach Boys with Herman's Hermits Starring Peter Noone

Guest columnist Shelley Sweet-Tufano has written numerous reviews for us over the years ...

Here comes her latest on what sounds like an TERRIFIC double-bill ... 

The Beach Boys with Herman's Hermits Starring Peter Noone!

Rain again??  On the day of an outdoor concert?? 

Yes, yes, yes.    

Did the Music Magic work this time?   

It had me worried ... ten minutes before the concert started, I was putting on a rain poncho and wondering if I needed to change the batteries and washers in my rain wand, as it was getting to be concert time and this would be a "Rain or No Rain" event.  

It was a ball park, standing room only on the field, reserved seats in the open stands, and everyone currently crowded under the concession table covered areas.  Well, a few of us were in our seats.  I passed around the beach towel I brought to the few around me so that the seats could be dry when they sat down, and watched the stage crew remove plastic, put plastic back up, mop up stage, and repeat a few times.  This does not sound like a very safe environment for performers, but this venue works it this way ... and apparently successfully.  Well, the merchandising tables should be a big hit as they are under cover.  Kudos to Pam for braving the rain and hitting the stands and field with cds for sale.  

'Vindaloo' begins.  More people move down into seats.  The Hermits come out.  More people move down into seats. 'Something Good' begins.  Peter Noone and umbrella come out and ... more people move down into seats.  And THEN!!  The turn-off faucets on my wand begin to work and the rain stops.  Another case of God loving music, and hating spontaneous electrocutions.    

This is a concert of comparing East Meets West.  Way East, over the pond, and Way West, on the Pacific Coast.  This is, for sure, a demonstration of the 60's music.  I never considered classifying them all during the 60's, as did so many others.  Oh, I knew there were different styles, but I either liked the song or I didn't.  I had friends and fellow students who drew lines in the sand (the lines changed frequently).  "If you like the Stones, you CAN'T like The Beatles!"  "The Beach Boys are 'in'.  The Everly Brothers are 'out'!"  So, I kept quiet and played my own records, in my own room, in my own company and those of my two best friends, who also felt the same.  So let me begin from the moment I stepped out of the car.   

Soundcheck is late today.  Probably due to the rain, so at 5:10 or so, I am crossing the parking lot and listening to Herman's Hermits Starring Peter Noone.  The song?  A Lennon / McCartney tune:  'I Will'.  It is difficult to pin me down to favorites in anything.  Blue is my favorite color, but that shade of green or yellow just totally caught my attention.  Same in music.  Fast songs, dance songs, lyrics, melodies ... I will tell you I like it 'because'.  However, over the years, with more info on the background of the song, easily humming the McCartney melody and enhanced with simply stunning lyrics and meaning ... this is my favorite Beatle song when I am forced to pick.  A strange selection maybe, but also strange to hear it coming from Peter Noone at a soundcheck.  It was beautiful.  Not done for performance reasons so I don't look for a tight unit, but I instantly know I am where I should be right now and all is right.  

The intro to each group is given by someone who really doesn't know much about either one in their current forms so Herman's Hermits Starring Peter Noone is announced as "the original artists".  Well now!  Each of the Hermits is certainly an 'original' (especially you, Dave) but not original Hermits.  It IS the original Herman.  It is also the original Peter Noone, if you wish.  Try being the non-original Peter Noone. If we only used personal names, there would be no copies.   

I did not hold out much hope for this audience.  If you were on the field, you were already soaked sitting on your blanket.  People were huddled at the top of the stadium, under cover.  Most of the audience did not even show up and I know it had good sales.  AND Herman's Hermits starring Peter Noone does not really appear on the tickets or advertising.  It is a Beach Boys show.  So ... it takes a warm-up of 'getting to know you' to awaken this crowd.  Since the field is pretty empty, the stands seem waaaaay far away, and as a performer, it must be lonely out there at second base.  

Both groups handled this very well, and in different ways.  This concert is all about listening to the music as, unless you looked at the large screen, you could not see the musicians and their facial expressions.  We also did not have that experience of a large throbbing oneness to carry us on in unison.  However, the show must go on and, as Peter and his Hermits sang, bantered, smirked, kicked, and jigged,  the field audience moved in, huddled together, swayed, caught cds and T-shirts and pushed in for more music.  Out in the stands, we were lost from that closeness, but pulled in for 'Henry VIII' and all its 19 second-verses.  The crowd around me got in the mood and flow when they realized they knew the songs, even though they did not expect to hear them that night.  I heard the crowd changing over from 'just waiting to hear The Beach Boys' to yelling H-E-N-R-Y with vigor at the end.  The fun grew slowly, but steadily, until the "More" chant for the encore.  Just to be clear here, Peter, the wind was NOT in the favor of the stands when we yelled, as the storm clouds were being pushed from first base to third base, past the stage at second.  I could say 'Thank You' to the audience for making it soggy fun, but as always, it is the performers who pull us out of our comfort zones, back to our youth, and help the children in the audience connect with us.  

So how did The Beach Boys handle this situation?  They had an interactive video on the screen, but I must give more credence to starting out with seven Beach Boys songs non-stop and achieving the school dance feeling that got people up and moving around.  The request for a cell-phone participation sway on 'Surfer Girl' was another good idea.  By this time it was dark, so glowsticks or lights on anything (phones, flashlights) showed clearly.  I have not seen The Beach Boys live since they split into factions so I was eager to enjoy.  A big surprise for me was John Cowsill!  He is an amazing drummer and took the Brian Wilson lead vocals on several songs.  By this time, one of my chicken friends had come down to join me in what had become MY ROW, because I was the only one in it.  She is an excellent photographer (I travel with two) and when Cowsill first starting singing, Mike Love and Bruce Johnston were pictured on the big screen.  It was obvious they were not singing, but the stage was so far away, I could not see who was.  I'm repeating, "Who's singing?  Who's singing?"  She is, in turn, pulling out her camera with the zoom lens so she can try to find out, and then the camera hits on John Cowsill, and I exclaim, "It's John Cowsill!  Hey, he's doing a good job."  OK, I know ... The Cowsills performed as a family and he has a lot of experience, so I should not have been surprised.  But again, I had not ever seen him in performance since he joined the Beach Boys so, like my students, there is much learning to be had.  

I froze in a silent warm embrace as the video paid tribute to Carl Wilson.  Via this video, we were able to see and hear him sing 'God Only Knows' while the band did the instrumentals on a dimmed stage.  Honestly, tears flowed down my cheeks.  I have heard it said, "Carl was the voice of The Beach Boys."  I know his mother referred to him as "an angel" and many performers saw him as the peacemaker for the group.  Whatever the situation, his smile, voice and emotion on this tape is powerful.  This and much of the rest of the presentation may be hold-overs from the reunion tour.  I did not see that show, unfortunately.  I do wish that a tribute had also been made to Dennis.  The only surfer and a vital part of the group, I would have liked to see it.  We could excuse a Brian Wilson tribute as he is still living, and most of the songs sung are tributes to his writing skills.  Would I like to hear a positive reference to him from the stage?  Yes.  But I get it.  Stuff happens.  Part of my teaching encompasses being able to forgive the struggles and embrace the music.  That can be difficult since my own feelings and opinions are involved.  But this music and the presentations by Mike Love, Bruce Johnston and their group was magical, uplifting and FUN!  Oh, I nearly forgot to mention that they brought 'dancers' on stage.  I believe they were children from the audience, although they were dressed in 60's fashions for their participation.  They had a blast!  The music director, and lead guitarist, Scott Totten, strung his guitar around the neck of one lucky lady and then played a solo standing behind her blinded.  

British Invasion Pop riding on the Surf music of California ... Both 60's ... Both successful then and now.  Both bringing forth timeless classics that make the rain go away and melt all the ages watching into one timeless era.  You shoulda' been there.  You should go there.  
-- Shelley J Sweet-Tufano

We were taken to task for parts of our Johnny Rivers review yesterday (scroll back in case you missed it) ... some of it warranted ... some not so much ... 

I read your review and I was in attendance at the show, too.  You have a couple of names wrong.  The drummer is Johnny Rivers' son Michael and the Keyboard Player is Skip Edwards.  Skip was Dwight Yoakam's keyboardist for years.  Darrell Cook is the bass player.  
Some of those obscure songs you mentioned were actually recorded by JR in some recent albums.  
I enjoyed reading your take on the show. 
Ken Rayba
I swear it sounded like he introduced the drummer as "my son, Robbie Rivers".  I looked everywhere trying to find Johnny's son mentioned in ANY publicity for the band and came up empty ... he's not even pictured on Johnny's website!  (Keith Edwards is shown instead ... evidently he's been moved to additional percussion these days ... a role that has less of an impact on their overall live sound than would that of an additional guitar player or some stronger background vocals.)  I apologize for the error ... and for getting Skip Edwards' name wrong.  (Are Skip and Keith related???  And was that Skip's daughter who joined them on stage for the final encore?)  I did get Darrell Cook's name right however ... but ALL of this has since been fixed on the website.)  kk   

For the most part, I thought your review of the Johnny Rivers show was right on the money.  The concert did get off to a slow start and Johnny came across as pissed off (and a bit unprofessional) at the beginning.  However, I also agree that once things settled in, he gave an outstanding performance overall ... and definitely had the crowd going and up on their feet for a good chunk of the show.  
The four song acoustic set provided the perfect opportunity to use the bathroom (which several of us did) ... Johnny should take that as a sign to spread things out a little more.  We probably would have enjoyed the new or unfamiliar material had it been more evenly distributed throughout the show.  (Then again do we really need another version of "House Of The Rising Sun"?)
I think your "5" rating was a little harsh ... for me, the show was definitely a "7".

You should know better :)  
In your review of the Johnny Rivers concert, you mentioned that you wish he had played -- Swaying to the Music. Actually, those words are in parentheses and the real song title is Slow Dancing (Swaying to the Music)
I write this, somewhat seriously, somewhat tongue in cheek, because if you can't get a song title correct, do you really expect people not as into the 60's and 70's music as you are to remember songs? We always want deeper play lists but we have to get the titles correct.
I think if I were going to hand out this severe of a scolding, I would have done some research of my own first.
Actually, YOU'RE the one who's got it backwards ... "Swayin' To The Music" is the title of the song ... "Slow Dancin'" are the words that appear within the parentheses.  (This is the way Billboard charted it as well as the way it appeared on the record label ... and the sheet music and lyric sheet.) In fact, I found several copies of each online after I got your email.
Now in all fairness (and giving you the benefit of the doubt ... would you only do the same for me?), Joel Whitburn's book "Top Pop Singles, 1955 - 2012" DOES state that the record was first released as "Slow Dancin'" on Johnny's own Soul City Record label (catalog number 008) before it was picked up for wide distribution by Big Tree Records (16106) in 1977 ... but it's the Big Tree version that became the national top ten hit ... and, as such, what I (and the rest of the world) know it as.  (kk)

Johnny experienced a similar fate on his follow up record when he recut the Major Lance hit "Um, Um, Um, Um, Um, Um" but retitled it as "Curious Mind", sticking the "Um, Um, Um, Um, Um, Um" in parentheses again!  (kk)