Wednesday, November 12, 2014

B.J. THOMAS - Concert Review - The Arcada Theatre

B.J. Thomas was in FINE voice and spirits Friday Night at The Arcada Theatre when he headlined the show that also featured Exile.  (Scroll back to see yesterday's Exile review if you missed it.)  

We have seen B.J. Thomas in concert before ... and nobody will EVER accuse him of being "Mr. Excitement" on stage ... he just comes out and sings ... and slays you with his voice, every bit as strong and clear as it was some 30-50 years ago when he was racking up FIFTEEN Top 40 Hits on the Pop Charts.  (And he makes the whole process look completely effortless ... the whole while hitting home run after home run from the stage.)   

Start to finish, he did nearly every single one of his biggest hits ... "Eyes Of A New York Woman", "Most of All", "Rock And Roll Lullaby", "Hooked On A Feeling", "Mama", "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry", "Hey, Won't You Play Another Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song", "Might Clouds Of Joy", "I Just Can't Help Believin'", "Raindrops Keep Fallin' On My Head" and "Don't Worry Baby" were all performed to rousing applause.   

WORD TO THE WISE:  When you've got an opening act as vocally strong as Exile, bring these guys out to handle the background vocals on "Rock And Roll Lullaby" ... B.J.'s somewhat limited back-up band made a valiant attempt ... and B.J. himself did some INCREDIBLE high falsetto harmonies and filler ... but this particular song, LONG a fan favorite, deserves the maximum treatment in concert ... especially when you've got the resources backstage to do so!   

What he ALSO did this time around was provide an on-going commentary on his career between songs ... and he did it in such a way (with his down-home, southern sense of humor) that hearing him talk about these tracks was every bit as entertaining as hearing him perform his hits.  (Apparently this fact was lost on one female fan who, at one point, shouted from the audience "Just Sing" ... B.J. IMMEDIATELY put her down for her comment to which the entire audience responded with what very well may have been the loudest ovation of the night!!!  As Frannie said when it happened, "Congratulations, woman ... you have just embarrassed ALL of St. Charles tonight with your behavior."  Sadly, far too often you can dress them up ... but you can't take them out!)

The last time we saw B.J. was a few years ago at an outdoor venue where be barely said a word between songs ... so this was a VERY welcome change for me ... and quite entertaining.  (It played as more of a "Vegas-type show", which is how I imagine he performs most of the time.)  I remember reviewing at the time that B.J.'s outdoor show must have been the QUIETEST concert I had ever seen ... if he were any more laid back, he'd probably be sound asleep!!!   

That's why when he told the story about touring behind his very first hit ("I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry") and being put on the bill as an opening act for James Brown, it was such a treat ... the mental image of "Mr. Bland" opening for "Mr. Dynamite" brought a smile to all of our faces (although Brown apparently went out and told "his" audience to give this new kid a listen ... which they did.)   

He seemed to be having a good time on stage Friday Night and so did we ... but I will admit that he over-stayed his welcome by about five songs ... towards the end, there were moments when his between song patter turned into flat-out rambling ... and performing several songs in a row that were not his own hits lead to boredom pretty quickly.  That being said, when he stuck to the hits, they sounded GREAT ... and his between song commentary was, for the most part, very entertaining and enlightening.  It's no secret that B.J. has had some serious "substance abuse" issues in the past, but he has weathered through them ... and come out in fine form and voice ... as such, it was fun to listen to him reflect back about the days when he was having a "really good time".   

Especially ironic for me was the fact that B.J. opened his set with The Temptations' song "Get Ready", noteworthy because we knew we were going to be seeing Dennis Edwards and The Temptations Review the following night.  (Be sure to check back to Forgotten Hits tomorrow to find that review!)  I couldn't help but wonder if The Temps would open THEIR show with a B.J. Thomas song ... somehow, I didn't think so ... nor did B.J. sound right performing theirs ... simply put, that one just doesn't fit his style.   

As such, I was curious as to what direction the show would take ... but B.J. went right into his string of hits and won us over in the process.

Overall Concert Review (on a scale of 1 - 10) :  6 ... with the notation that this easily could have been a 7 1/2 were it not for the lengthy moments that dragged ... seriously, there at the end there were at least three times I figured "well, this has got to be the last song of the night", only to find that he was going to sing another one ... and then another one ... and then another one.  ("Raindrops Keep Fallin' On My Head" SHOULD have been the big finale show-stopper ... however, B.J. kept things going with four more songs after that, none of which were his own hits, including "Higher And Higher" [Jackie Wilson], "Oh Me, Oh My" [Lulu], "Little Green Apples" [O.C. Smith] and "Suspicious Minds" [Elvis] ... quite honestly, ONE of these would have been enough for most of us ... and several audience members did, in fact, leave the theater after "Raindrops" had been performed.  Had he slipped one or two of these non-B.J. hits in mid-set, and closed with his biggest smash, he would have left a far more satisfied audience behind.)  Still, when he was "on", he was QUITE entertaining ... and he was "on" most of the night ... all the more reason for him to wrap things up on a high note.   

Here's one of the big ones he didn't do ...

And, one of my all-time favorite ... that I absolutely INSIST would still sound great coming out of your radio today (if they'd only play the damn thing!!!)