Monday, December 15, 2014

Another Triple Play

It's another Triple Play of Concert Reviews today in Forgotten Hits ...
Only this time around, they come from FH Reader Shelley Sweet-Tufano ... who did the Peter Noone Trifecta ...
Catching Herman's Hermits in three different cities.  (Can anybody out there say "Serious Noonatic???")
Take it away, Shelley!
OK, just when did New Jersey become the 'Tow Truck State'?  I am constantly attending concerts there, and have had my issues with their one-of-a-kind driving situations.  For instance, to make a left hand turn, one needs to go right and loop around to the left.  I needed to learn never to leave the right lane on most roads.  Then there is the EXIT TO PAY TOLL philosophy.  Why would I want to leave a highway to pay a toll, and then re-enter the highway?  Uhm, one picture of my license plate sent to me with a toll bill taught me otherwise.  So now, of course, I WANT to leave the highway to pay the toll.  So now we can add the Jersey parking lot wars!  In the two cities I visited there are parking lots owned by one business that are adjacent to an opposing business with no parking rights.  So much so that there are, in some cases, video cameras watching.  And IF you do not enter the correct doorway when you leave your car, a tow truck appears and your car is gone.  OR someone is on duty at a visible location watching to CALL the tow truck into action.  So we now know that if you wish to borrow money in the state of New Jersey ... call a towing service.  They are raking it in!  I discussed this with a friend of mine from Jersey, who is involved in government, and he informed me that all but two mayors in the state are currently in jail.  Oh well ... thank goodness I only attend concerts here.  So let's consider how these concerts will control my mind into forgetting that at any minute ... even though I did not even drive to the theatre ... I may be towed.  Considering my first paragraph, I will not be giving credit to theatres and cities ... only performers.  NONE of whom live in New Jersey. 
The first concert opened with The Buckinghams.  YES!!!  I have not seen them since Mohegan Sun, which seems eons ago.  I will be able to see Carl and Nick in 2015's Happy Together Tour, but will miss Dave, Bruce, and Rocky.  So I am so happy for this chance and the one that comes two days later. 

This audience is of one of the highest levels I have seen in a long time.  I am seated in the front row of the balcony, so when the concert floor erupts in applause and excitement as The Bucks enter, I am loving the view.  The full rich sounds of The Buckinghams' songs I love fill the auditorium.  Radio is fine.  CD's are better.  LIVE MUSIC cannot be matched. 'Don't You Care', 'Susan', 'Hey Baby (They're Playing Our Song)', 'Mercy, Mercy, Mercy' and 'Kind of a Drag' heard loud and clear in my balcony seat.  Vocals were shared between Carl, Nick, and Dave with Bruce and Rocky chiming in back-ups.  Nick sings his favorite (I am assuming this because he always takes over lead vocals with this one) 'Expressway (To Your Heart)', more widely recognized as performed by The Soul Survivors.  There is a tribute to The Happy Together Tour ... Gary Puckett, The Grass Roots, The Turtles, and Tommy James songs ring out.  (OK ... I must have missed Tommy James being in Happy Together, but it HAS been going on for many years!)  I know I will NOT hear this medley in Westbury, LI in two nights because both The Grass Roots and Tommy James are performing on the same ticket.  I muse to my friend that the Tommy James songs would be good candidates for glow sticks, as I listen to Dave Zane and Carl Giammarese pass off on lead vocals.  As Nick Fortuna points out, there is an Englishman tapping his foot off-stage, waiting to come on.  So the first act eventually must end so we can proceed to intermission, followed by act two.

During intermission, I pass out glow sticks and glow bands to be used for a couple songs in the second act.  You guessed it:  Herman's Hermits starring Peter Noone.  This audience is a riot.  Just about everyone wants a chance to "glow along".  One man says, "But how will we know?  We haven't rehearsed!"  Believe me, rehearsal is futile!  Just follow my lead.  It is not rocket science here.  Some people choose to "glow" through the whole show, others choose to hide their sticks until they see my whirley-gig, glowing, spinning props emerge.

WOW, what an opening for the second act!  Again, the audience is up and cheering, sharing in the excitement.  The balcony, which traditionally is composed of people who choose not to be involved, but want to watch only, is bristling with anticipation.  "How do we crack these?"  "What are the two songs again?"  "Where did you get these?" "Do you do this for a living?"  (you can actually make money doing this???   Really???) .  What a great thing to experience this time with people who are not regular concert goers and are now open to receive the magic in this experience.  I am asked, "Does he do 'I'm Into Something Good'?  That is my favorite song!"  "After 'Vindaloo'?  When did they sing that?"  So many questions.  After being asked my name several times, someone makes a connection and tells me that they used curriculum I worked on for their autistic grandson that uses music to teach language.  "He is talking now!"  (never saw that one coming ... thank you!)

The show is rip-roaring good.  When Peter does a Monkees dedication (for his friend Davy, and also one of his favorite songs), I pull out a spinning pinwheel.  A man behind me stands up and loudly proclaims, "Crack your glow sticks!  She has started!"  You can't make this stuff up, friends.  I laugh through most of the Hermits' performance.  They are loving their performance and so is the balcony.  We make it through 'Silhouettes' with a glow stick reprisal, and stand through 'Hush' also waving and glowing.  After the show has ended, people come down to me and the common phrase is "I have never had so much fun.  Thank you!"  We gave them permission to let loose and just have fun. 

Hope no cars were towed ...
On to concert number TWO!
The next day, the second concert is also in New Jersey ...
I really must say that the audiences were phenomenal!  This was a one-group concert by Herman's Hermits starring Peter Noone.  The positive side of a one-group concert is that you get to hear songs you might not otherwise hear performed.  'Sea Cruise' was switched for 'Because'.  Peter's jokes and stories, while similar to what I have heard before, have been changed a bit at each of these three concerts.  It keeps you on your toes, and chuckling in your seat.  As The Banned plays Freddie and the Dreamers' 'I'm Telling You Now', my friend and I do the 'Freddie' while seated.  I admit we could not get the main floor seating as manic as we had the balcony the night before, but they certainly cheered and enjoyed the show willingly.  These three shows were each a half hour apart in distance.  It takes great performers and entertainers to keep it enjoyable for the people who may be attending more than one show.  It's like teaching the same lesson in different ways so that it is new and exciting each time.  Also with one group and an intermission, you get costume changes.  I just like to tease in my reviews to encourage each and every one of you to get to a concert of your choice, enjoy, indulge yourself in fun, and let loose in a safe environment. 
On to Long Island ...

The annual Autumn Nights Concert on the rotating stage of Westbury Music Hall.  This venue has several other names, depending on the bank who currently owns it, but to me, it will always be Westbury Music Hall.  Last year, the rotating stage got stuck and we viewed much of the concert looking at the performers' backs.  This year the stage is functioning properly and we end our long weekend with a Fab Foursome of distinct groups ... The Buckinghams!  The Grass Roots!  Herman's Hermits starring Peter Noone! and Tommy James and The Shondells!

As a crowd pleaser, The Buckinghams fly high.  They open the show with enthusiasm and talent.  My seat is about five rows from the stage and the view is clear.  (no high heads or strange hats)  This may be the last show until next fall that I see all five members together.  Carl and Nick, who are original Bucks, will be enjoying a reprisal of The Happy Together Tour this summer.  I don't know how it could be possible to get The Godfrey Townsend Band AND all current Buckinghams on tour so I need to learn acceptance that I cannot have it all ... SNAP!  However, tonight I can enjoy Rocky, Bruce, and Dave along with Carl and Nick.  They spent yesterday at the 9/11 Ground Zero Monument.  Whether this affected their performance, I don't know.  But they are even better than in Jersey.  The circling stage allows for close proximity and Carl delves into hand shakes with the audience willingly.  I watch as women of all ages smile, grab his hand and try to relay their feelings and long-term fanship.  I hate to inform all these performers, but this is a third generation-inclusive audience.  Amazing how this 60's music swells the hearts of every age.  I work in my classroom to obtain reactions from students so it is always fun for me to watch the reactions of others at concerts and compare.  Similar reactions:  if music appeals to you and you can relate to something within it, you are in love.  Many times this love includes the people serving you the music on their best 'noteworthy' platter.  It is real love, though only based on what is heard and viewed musically.  The Buckinghams carry us away through their songs to a better place where there is no need for a 9/11 Monument.

Scott Shannon is the emcee of the show!  Whoa, Kent and Forgotten Hits lovers!  I finally see the man behind the legend.  Hot Autumn Nights has become a tradition at Westbury Music and the fact that Scott is a driving force here makes it even warmer and fuzzier for 60's music lovers ... which this audience certainly IS!  The Jersey audiences were good.  This audience is immersed in the sounds.  Like me, many may be yearly attendees.  For whatever reason, it is working.

Scott announces The Grass Roots.  Good thing because they are setting up onstage!  Westbury keeps things moving.  This is good for rock and rolling a show, but not as heartwarming in the aftermath, when staff push both performers and audience out the doors ... I do mean the 'push' part.  For now though, we can enjoy the songs of The Grass Roots.  There has been much discussion (from me, included) on the fact that there are no longer original members performing here.  The music is solid.  The talent is NOT lacking.  The representation of the songs correct to the originals ... Mark, Dusty, Larry, and Joe ... we will have to agree to disagree on the name.  I have never doubted your talents, your love of the songs, nor the fact that I and many more fans, want to hear these songs performed forever.  I have spent about six months getting to know Mark Dawson, and find him matching me wit for wit, talented, genuine, and sincere.  (Also a little on the whacky side!)  I truly enjoyed this performance and remembered all the times I saw Rob Grill in this same location.

Vindaloo announces the arrival of Herman's Hermits starring Peter Noone.  This rotating stage is Peter's playground.  It enables him to exceed the two previous shows in enthusiasm and talent.  Vance, Rich, Billy and Dave are just as powerful.  Third straight night of concerts?  How can it be possible?  Rich Spina, who usually gets to spotlight on 'Sea Cruise', returns his keyboards to 'Because' for this show.  I know it is not everyone's favorite, but for me, that song melts.  Rich once told me that the keyboards were the last instrument he mastered.  I think he said saxophone was the first (corrections gladly accepted).  Billy gets a push downstage in front of us for his solo on 'Henry the 8th'.  It may be the first time I was actually close enough to see the intricacies in the fingering.  Billy, I wanted the guitar pic.  Next time look up before you throw.  Oh, that would be cheating, I guess   I do wonder how the performers feel about the rotating stage.  Is it unnerving to know that there are people watching you from every angle, or are you so involved that you aren't bothered?  The Westbury venue is also a great place for T-shirt throwing.  It is not a deep audience so people in the back feel that possibility that just maybe a shirt will fly their way.  Cd's should never be thrown.  It shortens the life of the disc.  Yeah, people too.  This was just the best time, Banned.

The closer is Tommy James and The Shondells.  Let me say that last year, besides the stage sticking, the volume seemed to grow with Tommy, making it uncomfortable on ears in this smaller depth venue.  This year, I can say, I did not notice that happening.  Some of my friends thought the volume grew as the set went on, but we all felt it began at the right level.  I had a blast here!  When Tommy stepped into the audience during 'Mony Mony', security jumped into action and continuously tried to direct him back on stage.  Tommy would have none of it.  He continued shaking hands and thanking people for coming until HE was satisfied.  WESTBURY!  TOMMY DOES THIS EVERY SHOW!  GET OVER IT!  Also, have you read his book?  Uhm, he worked for a record company run by the mob.  I don't think he's afraid of men in blue jackets.  It really made me laugh watching.  Music wins out again.  Tommy's band obviously loves his music.  They rock out enjoying playing songs that have been a part of my life for a long time.  There is even a young boy who helps hook up the pedals for the lead guitarist.  Proof once again (not that I need any more proof) that all ages still and will continue to enjoy 60's music.

Time is over?  All the prior performers have been encouraged to pack up and leave and the staff is herding the audience out the front doors as quickly as possible.  This is such a fun venue, and yet the audience is given a "You came to watch a show?  OK, but don't stay too long.  We are all waiting to go home."  attitude.  They are fortunate that the promoters and booking agents are smart enough to book a show as powerful as this or they would have no jobs and plenty of time to stay home.
Shelley J Sweet-Tufano