Tuesday, July 28, 2015

TONY ORLANDO - Live at The Arcada Theatre

>>>It's a big week for concerts here this week in Chicago ... we've already got FOUR shows lined up!!!  Sunday we're off to see Tony Orlando at The Arcada Theatre.  We saw Tony several years ago and it was one of the best shows I've seen.  He had a KILLER band at the time that just blew me away.  Hoping for a similar experience this time around.  (Would love to talk to Tony, too, before or after the show if it's possible.)  Then, on Tuesday Night it's back to The Arcada to see Graham Nash.  Graham has only scheduled NINE stops on the US leg of his current tour ... and The Arcada is one of them ... so this should be a VERY special evening of music.  (I've been a lifetime fans of Graham's work with The Hollies, Crosby, Stills and Nash and all of his solo ventures ... but have never seen him perform live before ... so this will be a real kick for me!)  On Thursday we'll be catching The Chicago Experience (who lit up the stage at The Arcada during The Marty Grebb Benefit Concert a few months ago) will be performing an outdoor show in Rosemont.  We missed them the last time around as we were out of town so I am REALLY looking forward to experiencing the COMPLETE Chicago Experience this Thursday Night!  And then on Friday it's another outdoor concert as Daryl Hall and John Oates light up the stage at RiverEdge Park in Aurora.  Frannie and I have been Hall and Oates fans FOREVER ... and have both seen them several times in the past ... but never together ... so this should be a very special night for us as well.  (Now if we can just keep it under 90-degrees and push the rain off until the weekend!!!)  kk    

You have all those concerts this week?  I expect reviews of every one!  And Kent.....this means 'war'.  Off to my own concert! 

Well, here's the first ... Tony Orlando at The Arcada Theatre on Sunday, July 26th!  

Tony took his show and turned it upside down at The Arcada Theatre Sunday Night.  

For years his big show-stopper has been his tribute to all the veterans who have defended America over the years, having them rise and take applause from the rest of the audience along with a heartfelt thank you for their courage and their service.  It has been a big part of Tony's show for many, many years now ... and always draws a powerful, emotional response from the audience ... so it came as a bit of a surprise when he started his show with this feature Sunday Night.  Unfortunately, few from the somewhat sparse crowd responded so it played out with a little bit less impact than it would in a larger auditorium of fans ... yet this was still was a very moving part of the show.  

Orlando next launched into his biggest and best known hit, "Tie A Yellow Ribbon 'Round The Ole Oak Tree", which became an anthem for soldiers returning home from overseas (despite its original lyrical content geared around a man returning home from prison.)  

BOTH of these selections came as a bit of a shock being used so early in the proceedings.  As I mentioned before, these have always been two of Tony's biggest show-stoppers.  He then talked a little bit about how Dawn first got started and put together a short medley of their first two chart-topping hits, "Candida" and the very similar sounding "Knock Three Times".  These were followed by two of my Tony Orlando Favorites, "(Say Has Anybody Seen) My Sweet Gypsy Rose" and "He Don't Love You", Orlando's last #1 Record, a remake of the Jerry Butler tune "He Will Break Your Heart".  

And then that was it ... the Tony Orlando / Dawn hit parade drew to a close after just five brief flings with the past ... a bit surprising because in all, between his stint with Dawn, his early teenage years as a solo artist and his one-off Top 40 Hit "Make Believe" by Wind, Orlando has managed to hit The National Top 40 seventeen times.  To only feature five of this hits did seem to cheat the audience a little bit.  

The thing his, he's so damn likeable it was hard to complain ... so instead of hearing the hits we came expecting to hear, we were instead treated to cover versions of songs by other artists like Ben E. King, The Beatles, James Taylor and others ... not that he didn't do ALL of this music justice ... there was just a bit of a "monotone" feel to it all, with little in the way of "highs" and "lows".  (Tony's medley of James Taylor's "Fire And Rain" and Prince's "Purple Rain" was pretty powerful, however, especially knowing the low end of Tony's career, clearly spelled out in his biography, "Halfway To Paradise", one of the best rock bios I've ever read ... and highly recommended.  Hey, you can pick up a used copy RIGHT NOW for a penny!!!)  

As before, it is Tony's incredible back-up band that steals the show ... and Tony has never had a problem with stepping out of the spotlight in order to showcase this incredible group of musicians.   

These guys have been with him now for the past 12-18 years and are a stellar group of musicians in their own right, covering all genres of music in perfect style.  (It's not too often that you'll see a group of musicians this versatile and tight to pull off back-to-back songs by Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson, followed by a spot-on, kick-ass version of "Whole Lotta Love" by Led Zeppelin!) 

This is all the more amazing as Tony tells us that the band's ring leader, Kerry Cole, who sings as well as plays guitar and keyboard and has been with Tony now for eighteen years, had a stroke four years ago ... yet he never missed a beat on stage Sunday Night and is one of the most talented and entertaining musicians we've ever seen.   

Brother Tracy Cole wails on guitar and the band is filled out by newbie (12 years onboard) Jim Shelton on bass, Tony's brother David Orlando on keyboards ("I used to change his diapers," Tony pointed out!) and the incomparable Toni Wine (who has worked with Tony in one capacity or another for the past 54 years!) also on keyboards and background vocals.  (Toni did take the spotlight for a minute to sing her signature song "Groovy Kind Of Love", a #1 Record for both The Mindbenders and Phil Collins!)  [Editor's Note:  Once again EVERY website I checked this morning listed the wrong man on drums ... so unfortunately I can't share his name with you today.  SIX websites cited Michael Jackson as Tony's drummer ... but Michael Jackson is WHITE ... and Tony's drummer Sunday Night was most DEFINITELY of a darker complexion!!!]  (See back row)

The group is booked solid throughout the end of the year, playing lots of casinos and show lounges ... and this is, quite honestly, how they come off ... very much a "show lounge" type of act ... just not necessarily the "main lounge".  

We last reviewed their show back in 2006.  (Despite hours of searching I could not find that review ... probably lost forever as part of our most recent computer crash.)  

Because I went into that show without any preconceived expectations, I was blown away by the talent of Tony's band ... and his graciousness to allow them to take center stage for a good portion of the show.  Knowing that coming into Sunday Night's performance, I had higher expectations as to what I would witness on stage ... but wasn't really sure how many of those original members we saw nine years ago might still be with him.  Turns out they ALL were ... and I swear there where times where it felt like the exact same schtick was being presented, nearly word for word, all these years later.  That's got to make a band feel somewhat stagnant yet, on their own, these musicians really did shine.   

Overall ranking:  5 out of 10.  (I guarantee you there were dozens and dozens of audience members who would have given this concert a perfect score ... perhaps one of the most telling comments I heard as we were leaving came from a gentleman sitting behind me who told his group, "Thank you for dragging me along to this thing ... it was actually really good"!!!   

We weren't dragged ... we WANTED to go ... I guess I just expected a bit more "updating" to the routine ... and a few  more legitimate Tony Orlando hits along the way.  (kk)   

The Tony Orlando Hit List:  
When you see a list of this size, it's incredible that he only featured FIVE of these tracks during the course of a two-hour show!   

1961 - Halfway To Paradise  (#17) 
1961- Bless You  (#11)   

1969- Make Believe  (#17)   

1970 - Candida  (#1) 
1970 - Knock Three Times  (#1) 
1971 - I Play And Sing  (#20) 
1971 - Summer Sand  (#19) 
1971 - What Are You Doing Sunday  (#26) 
1973 - Tie A Yellow Ribbon Round The Ole Oak Tree  (#1) 1973 - Say Has Anybody Seen My Sweet Gypsy Rose  (#3) 1973 - Who's In The Strawberry Patch With Sally  (#13) 
1974 - Steppin' Out (#7) 
1974 - Look In My Eyes, Pretty Woman  (#11) 
1975 - He Don't Love You  (#1) 
1975 - Mornin' Beautiful  (#14) 
1975 - You're All I Need To Get By  (#34) 
1976 - Cupid  (#21)  

TONIGHT:  Graham Nash at The Arcada Theatre!!!