Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Neil Sedaka - Live at the Arcada Theatre ( 10 - 4 - 15 )

Neil Sedaka tonight at the Arcada, was fantastic. It appeared to be an almost sold out event. 

I have seen Neil several times, but not in many years. He has always been one of my all-time favorite singer / songwriters.  

The evening started with photos of the many famous recording artists who had big hits with songs he wrote. Then Neil came out and his voice sounded as pitch perfect as it is did 50 years ago! He did recent songs, as well as the oldies one would expect from his early years.  

He shared personal memories that inspired some of his music, some touching, some humorous. It is rare to see an artist that connects with his audience the way Neil does. He is sincere, and yet humble ... explaining ... not bragging. 

Neil studied at Julliard to be a concert pianist before he started his pop career, so he always plays a classical piano piece, which he did beautifully. His show delights on so many levels, and surprises those that only know him from the Bandstand days ... he is so much more than just that. Neil has a top notch band, and he plays on almost all of his songs.

Neil Sedaka is a national treasure, and so much more than just "an oldies act". He is still in great voice, energetic, and relevant! 
Goldie Rox  

[Special thanks to Luciano Bilotti 
for sharing all of these great photos with our readers!]

I had seen Neil Sedaka twice before Sunday Night's show at The Arcada ... both times as part of his mid-'70's comeback, fueled by Elton John signing him to Rocket Records.  (For the first show, back in 1975, he was the opening act for America ... less than a year later, Neil was the headliner, supported this time by newcomers England Dan and John Ford Coley ... in both cases, EXCELLENT shows.) 

Neil's popularity found a brand new audience thanks to contemporary hits like "Laughter In The Rain"  (#1, 1975); "The Immigrant" (#22, 1975); "That's When The Music Takes Me" (#27, 1975); "Bad Blood", his #1 duet with Elton John (1975); the beautiful ballad remake of "Breaking Up Is Hard To Do (#7,1976)"; "Love In The Shadows (#16, 1976); "Steppin' Out  (#36, 1976) and "Should Have Never Let Her Go" (#19, 1980).  In the process, he once again became a major concert attraction.  (Of course, there also was an unsightly, somewhat scandalous awkward incident in the mid-'70's when Sedaka was kicked off The Carpenters' tour for reportedly garnering too much attention during his warm up spot, thus detracting the focus away from his headliners, ALWAYS a no-no in show-business!!!) 

Sedaka continues to build his audience, even some 57 years in.  The show kicked off with host Ron Onesti bringing a young boy up on stage from the audience (eight years old!) who claimed to be a BIG Neil Sedaka fan ... and even cited "Laughter In The Rain" as his favorite song by Neil.  Ron then presented the young gentleman with a poster, autographed by Neil, and moved him and his father into front row seats.  This is just part of the reason that makes The Arcada Theatre such a GREAT place to see a show. 

Neil kicked off the show in very laid-back fashion, alone at the piano prior to the band taking the stage.  He then proceeded to take us on a personal tour through his incredible catalog of music with short, behind-the-scenes stories about most of the songs.  (At one point he told us that he had written over 700 songs ... but wouldn't subject us to them all ... yet by performing many of these in snippet form, he still managed to get through quite an incredible set list.)

All the early hits were there including "Oh Carol"; "The Diary"; "Stairway To Heaven"; "Calendar Girl"; "Happy Birthday Sweet Sixteen"; the original uptempo version of "Breaking Up Is Hard To Do","Next Door To An Angel" and a few others.  He told us that once The Beatles hit our shores he retired for thirteen years, moving his family to England where there seemed to be a better appreciation for the "old American rockers" of yesterday ... and it was while he was there that a young Elton John, already a fan, said that he would like to help plan and engineer a comeback for Neil back home in the States. 

In between the non-hit years, Sedaka continued to write songs that became hits for other artists ... although he made it a point in concert to say that he only ever wrote ONE song on contract and on spec ... and that that song was "Where The Boys Are" for Connie Francis, a #2 Hit in 1961, used as the title track for a new movie that Connie was starring in.  Other songs written during the "in between years" include tracks recorded by Frank Sinatra, The Monkees, The Fifth Dimension, Tom Jones, Frankie Valli, The Captain and Tennille and even the aforementioned Carpenters, to name just a few.  (Despite any behind-the-scenes fueding that may have been going on, The Carpenters had the biggest worldwide hit with Neil's "Solitaire", a #15 hit in 1975.)

Two of Neil's biggest and best-known hits were never released by himself as singles ... seems like just about everybody covered "Solitaire" (his most-recorded song, he said, with over 70 documented versions) and "The Hungry Years", his personal favorite.  Sedaka also performed a couple of tracks from his brand new album, both of which sound as good as many of the others he has treated us to over the years. 

From start to finish, this was a very heartfelt show.  Neil and the audience got emotional on more than one occasion as we came to realize just how much incredible music he has given us throughout our lives.  His voice still has all the same texture and tenor that we've always enjoyed ... and it's a hoot to watch him do a little side-step and soft-shoe shuffle every now and then as the music overtakes him up on stage.  At 76 years of age he still shows a lot of spunk in concert ... and his voice has retained that youthful sound that first brought him to our attention all those years ago.  And, with the rest of the band offstage, he even treated us to a short classical piece, showing us why he was a Julliard prodigy at the age of eight years old.

With a catalog this deep, there will always be a few songs you wish he would have done.  The first one that stood out for me was "The Immigrant",  a song released in 1975 drawing attention to the plight of John Lennon wanting to remain here in The States as a New York resident.  You rarely hear this one on the radio anymore, despite the fact that it was a #22 Hit in 1975 ... so it makes for the PERFECT Forgotten Hit for our purposes.

Neil also had a HUGE local hit here in Chicago in 1963 ... "The World Thru A Tear".  This one stalled at #69 nationally and was released right on the cusp of The British Invasion ... but here in Chi-Town it climbed all the way to #4 and has long been a personal favorite.  While I wouldn't have expected to hear either of these tracks live in concert, I feel it is my Forgotten Hits duty to share them with you now ... and to suggest that if you have a chance to see Neil perform his career retrospective show, you would do yourself well to do so.  A GREAT night of music by a true and humble entertainer. (Again, I have to ask ... How is THIS guy not in The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame?!?!?)

BONUS:  Neil shows this video as part of his intermission ... and it's incredible!  (After signing Elvis Presley to their label, RCA Victor Records went out looking for their next major sex symbol ... and I guess Neil was it!!!)

Great show ... be sure to check out Neil's website for upcoming concert dates.