Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Concert Review: EXILE at The Arcada Theatre

We saw an incredible double bill at The Arcada Theatre in St. Charles Friday Night, another GREAT showcase of talent that crosses all musical borders.  

The pairing of Exile and B.J. Thomas was once again genius on the part of Ron Onesti ... the PERFECT blend of pop and country who performed to a VERY enthusiastic and well-satisfied crowd.  

First up ... Exile.

Now if you only know Exile by their #1 Smash One-Hit Wonder "Kiss You All Over", I can assure you that you have missed a LOT of great music since then.

While I have never considered myself a true, hardcore Country Music Fan, I DID have a brief fling with the genre in the mid-'80's ... which is right about the time that these guys broke through in a BIG way, scoring TEN #1 Records on Billboard's Country Singles Chart.  I will tell you that the music of Exile was a big part of what lured me in!   

Incredibly, they've been together since 1963 and are celebrating their 51ST YEAR in the music business right now ... and I've got to tell you they sound as fresh and relevant today as ever ... they COMPLETELY won over the crowd at The Arcada.  (There was certainly an Exile base of fans at the show ... but in the process they also won over ANYBODY who had come to see B.J. Thomas that night.  B.J. joked during his set, while asking for another round of applause for Exile, that he has loved these guys ever since he first saw them perform as the back-up band on one of Dick Clark's famous road shows back in the late 1940's!!!  Truth is, in the mid-'60's they actually DID hone their skills playing back-up as The Exiles on many of Clark's Caravan of Stars tours!)   

I can best compare their success to that of Kenny Rogers and the First Edition ... each scored their first hit with a song that didn't even remotely suggest their ties and affection to country music ... Kenny with the psychedelic "Just Dropped In" and Exile with "Kiss You All Over", an erotic piece of pop that tore up the charts back in 1978.  Each group went on to attract their own audience in the field of country music and, as such, both acts have sustained long-standing careers with their very loyal country music fan base.   

Exile not only performed their own country hits ("Woke Up In Love", "Give Me One More Chance", "She's A Miracle" and others) but they also performed country hits that they first wrote and recorded that went on to become #1 Hits for other country acts like Alabama ("Take Me Down" and "The Closer You Get"), Janie Fricke ("It Ain't Easy Bein' Easy") and Restless Heart ("When She Cries").

But the biggest surprise of the night was when they told the story of their hit that just wasn't meant to be. 

Exile, of course had that great #1 One Hit Wonder in 1978 with "Kiss You All Over", a song that still gets played virtually every single day ... but they never really had another pop hit.  As a result of topping Billboard's Pop Singles Chart for four straight weeks, they were soon touring all over the country with some of the biggest names in the business and doing television appearances, enjoying the whole "star treatment" that comes along with a #1 success ... but soon it was time to go back into the studio and see if they could avoid "the sophomore curse". 

Now typically after a brand new band has a #1 Hit right out of the box ... (fact is Exile was your typical 15-year "overnight success" story!), their next record is pretty much a shoo-in for radio airplay, hoping that the band will strike gold twice now that they had built an audience.  Well, "Kiss You All Over" was a MONSTER ... like I said, you still hear it today ... so, to increase their chances of a "sure thing", they even used a song written by the same songwriting team of Mike Chapman and Nicky Chinn, who had penned their #1 Hit.  Chapman and Chinn were EXTREMELY hot at the time, having written and produced hits for a number of artists including Blondie, Sweet and The Knack.  But for whatever reason, they couldn't work their magic for a second time with Exile.  No one could have been more surprised than the band themselves.  

When they finished the session after recording their next single, they were absolutely CONVINCED that they had just pulled off the incredible feat of back-to-back #1 records.  But it didn't happen.  In fact, their next single never even charted!  Radio didn't play it ... people didn't buy it ... and nobody at all seemed interested in this track ... until five years later when some brand new band out of San Francisco decided to cut the track.  

Here's the ORIGINAL version of "Heart And Soul", recorded by Exile in 1978 ... five years before Huey Lewis and the News would take it into The Top Ten!

WORD TO THE WISE:  Career hit a dry spell and you're looking for new material to get you back in the game?  Every single one of those #1 Country Singles came from Exile album tracks that were overlooked as having "hit potential" at the time of their original release.  It just might behoove you to scour the Exile archives and see if there's more gold in them thar hills ... it's worked several times before!   

Concert Rating (on a 1-10 basis) ... a VERY solid 8 ... and a GREAT show.

J.P. Pennington

Sonny Lemaire

 Les Taylor

Vocally, they're unmatched ... PERFECT harmonies throughout the night with three singers capable of handling lead vocals ... never more in pristine evidence than on their stirring a cappella version of the Curtis Mayfield song "People Get Ready" ... all in all, five VERY charismatic guys who put on a thoroughly enjoyable show from start to finish.  (In fact, I've got to give the night to Exile, hands down ... they really executed the perfect concert experience.)

And that's saying a lot!  Believe me, B.J. Thomas was no slouch, either!!!  (lol)

Look for our review of B.J.'s show tomorrow in Forgotten Hits!