Monday, June 27, 2016

JIM PETERIK - The Songs - Live at The Raue Center For Performing Arts

Saturday Night, June 25th, we ventured out into new territory to see Jim Peterik perform selections from his brand new CD, "The Songs", a "reimagining" of some of his best known work.  (Special thanks to Jim Peterik for allowing us to bring a couple of Forgotten Hits Readers with us to the show!)   

Forgotten Hits Readers may remember that I initially gave the CD a "less than favorable" review a few months back ... (for those who didn't see it) ... not so much a bad review as more of a "constructive criticism" as to why some songs worked better than others in this new, reinterpreted manner. 

As such, I was anxious to see how the songs would play live, in concert.  (And Jim wanted me to see them, too, as he felt I would come away with a whole different opinion once I saw the crowd's reaction to these Peterik classics.)   

It's going to be awesome, Kent!  Rehearsal sounded great last night. See you there.  

The show kicked off with a VERY lengthy duet of Gershwin's "Rhapsody In Blue", performed by pianists Danielle Cairoli and Mike Muggli.  It was part of The Raue's annual salute to The National Piano Conference and the stage was stunningly set with two full-sized BLUE grand Baldwin pianos.  (They were beautiful ... and our host that evening, Richard Kuranda, assured us that tonight at The Raue was the ONLY place in the world where "Rhapsody In Blue" was being performed as a duet on two blue grand pianos.  I gotta believe him on that one!)   

While beautifully performed, it went on for nearly twenty minutes (must have been the album version), a bit more than necessary, even as a means to highlight the talents of each individual pianist.  (At one point Frannie said it was like being on hold with United Airlines for 15-20 minutes ... and I had to suppress every fiber of my being not to yell out "Free Bird!!!")  The duo received a long, standing ovation afterward and I heard from several audience members afterwards how much they enjoyed the performance (obviously FAR more highbrow patrons than me!)  But I will admit that it did provide the perfect opening for a night  of music dedicated to The National Piano Conference.   

After a very brief intermission, Jim Peterik and his son Colin took the stage to wake up the audience ... I mean open their set with the drastically slowed down version of "Vehicle" that also opens Jim's new CD.  This new arrangement provides a haunting, stripped down opening that is even more powerful in concert ... but I've still got to go with my original analysis of this track ... it's a GREAT opening ... but it needs to continue to build into something ... each progressive verse should grow in accompaniment until it reaches its ultimate climax finale.  I believe it would be far more effective that way ... and still hold on to some integrity of the original piece forever ingrained in our hearts and souls.

As stated in our original review, some treatments work better than others ... and I still maintain that a big part of this is our own personal attachment to this music.  ("Hold On Loosely", for example, is NEVER going to sound any better than it did on that original recording, plain and simple.)    

That being said, Jim's voice is as strong ... or stronger ... than ever ... and the sound was absolutely perfect at The Raue, in some part thanks to fellow Ides member Larry Millas helming the control board.  I cannot stress enough just how perfect the overall sound was.  This was our first visit to this venue and I am looking forward to coming back for other concert events.  (Already booked and catching my eye are The Buckinghams in November and Amy Grant next April.) 

There is also a very interesting-looking downtown Crystal Lake area that we want to explore in more depth next time out ... unfortunately by the time we got there virtually everything was already closed for the night.

Interspersed with video footage taken down in Nashville during the original recording sessions for the album, Jim's special band put together for this evening's performance (Andrew Ohlrich on fiddle and vocals, Pete Smith on Banjo, Guitar, Vocals and Percussion, Aaron Smith on Upright Bass, and Jim's son Colin Peterik on Piano, Keyboards and Vocals), then proceeded to work their way through the entire CD in random order.   

All of the songs came across much more powerful in this live setting than they do on the CD ... in fact Jim's performance of "That's Why God Made The Radio" (and the story he told that preceded it) were outstanding.  "Caught Up In You" was a concert highlight (with the emphasis on the "Eleanor Rigby" strings used throughout ... a totally unique and captivating arrangement of the .38 Special classic.  (In fact, Jim told us that they were filming a video for this song on Sunday which would soon be available on YouTube as the first single from the LP.  Look for it here on Forgotten Hits, too, as soon as it's available.) 
[EDITOR'S NOTE:  Check out the photos below ... Jim sent these to us right from the video shoot on Sunday ... you're seeing them here in Forgotten Hits for the first time ANYWHERE in the world!]

Other concert highlights included LA Goodbye (which was also considerably stronger than the recorded version ... I cannot help but feel that perhaps Jim listened to our advice to bring more of the guitar-sound back into this track rather than relying on the piano to drive it as it was a near-perfect rendition in this new format.)  Still I missed the whole da-da-da-da-da, da-da "hook" portion of the song.  Another was the very stirring rendition of "The Search Is Over", featuring just Jim alone at the piano.  (Talk about your "tear-jerkers" ... this one actually caused me to choke up on a couple of occasions.)  Some of the lines are just a bit outside Jim's vocal range comfort zone ... but the way he toned his voice to compensate for this brought that much more emotion into the overall performance.  It TOTALLY got to me.)

Two brand new tracks written specifically for the album, "Miracle At Ground Zero" and "The Same Muse", were especially powerful ... and the dubbed in (via pre-recorded tape) gospel chorus background on "Ground Zero" made the track swell with passion and emotion.

His version of "Heavy Metal" (a song he wrote with Sammy Hagar for the animated film of the same name) was another concert highlight, bringing the crowd to its feet ... definitely the rocker of the evening.  (Jim has to be enjoying the opportunity to perform some of the songs he doesn't typically include in an Ides Of March or World Stage concert ... which proves to be a real treat for the audience as well.)  Several times during the night audience members were surprised to hear just how much incredible music this man has actually created.

If "Caught Up In You" is their pick to click as a single, I think they're overlooking the most obvious ABSOLUTE hit single on the album ... this new arrangement of "I Can't Hold Back" has all the makings of an absolute smash, especially if marketed properly as Jim Peterik remaking one of his old Survivor tracks for a new audience.  The new arrangement (kind of a Jamaican feel with a twist of Jimmy Buffet thrown in for good measure) is catchy as hell and takes the song to a whole new level, from power ballad to a fun track you can't help but respond and sing along to.    

I've probably seen fifty Jim Peterik concerts in the past fifty years and he has never put on anything but an outstanding performance.  He's the consummate entertainer and it is clearly very important to him that every member of the audience is having as much fun as he is.  When he closed the show with the new hoe-down version of "The Eye Of The Tiger", it was clear that the audience had had an absolute blast. He left the stage to rounding applause ... and then most audience members hung around to say hello in the lobby afterwards and pick up a copy of Jim's new book and/or CD.

Overall, a great show ... and even if these were not the arrangements you might typically expect to hear, he still did the songs justice with his inimitable style. 
Kent Kotal
Forgotten Hits

A shot of me and Jimbo (who gave a special shout out to FH Reader Clark Besch by the way) and then another of the three of us ... Frannie, Jim and me (cracking up because after his assistant Chris May had Frannie and I hold up copies of Jim's new book and cd as "product placement", Jim said "Hey, thanks for whoring me out!!!"  lol)

Here are a few words from our two FH Concert Ticket Winners, Steve Sarley and Gary Blau ...

Thanks to you and Forgotten Hits for the free tickets to see Jim Peterik at the Raue this past Saturday night.  
It was a strange evening that started off with two talented people doing a duet version of George Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue" on twin blue Baldwin grand pianos in honor of national Piano Week or something like that. We weren't expecting this, but they were very good.  
Then it was time for Jim Peterik. The lights went down and a screen showed the beginning of a documentary video of the making of Jim's new album, "The Songs," down in Nashville. Then Peterik hit the stage, guitar in hand, accompanied by a keyboard player who turned out to be his 26-year old son, Colin.  
They played "Vehicle." Only two instruments and a totally long and drawn out slow ( I mean really, really slow!!!) version of this classic made this something I'd like never to have to hear again. Why mess with perfection? My wife, Joyce, leaned over to me and whispered, "Oh my God! This is awful. It's going to be a long night."  
A really strong performance of "L.A. Goodbye" balanced off the bad version of "Vehicle" and that is the way it went for the evening.  
I have no idea why Peterik felt it necessary to re-record classic hits in different styles and genres of music, but, hell, he owns them and can do whatever he wants with them, I guess.  
Earlier in the evening, he did string-laden, "Eleanor-Rigby-like" version of .38 Special's "Caught Up In You", which really showcased how excellent the violinist was on his instrument, but when he got around to doing his new arrangement of "Hold On Loosely," I told Joyce, "Condell is the name of the closest hospital. I'm starting to have palpitations over what he's doing to one of my favorite songs!"  (I'm a very big .38 Special fan and have seen them several times, including performances where Jim Peterik has joined them on stage to perform some of these same hits.)  
To me overall it was a very uneven performance.  
The band was quite tight and Peterik's son is very talented on keyboards and background vocals.  
That said, it surprised me how tight the band was because Peterik seemed like he was having a problem with their names, as if they had just met at the theater that evening. On the positive side, Jim Peterik is an excellent showman. He has a charming personality and interacts with his crowd well and does a great job telling stories and sharing anecdotes. Jim's voice is absolutely incredible. I think it may be even better than it was back in his younger days.  The highlight of the show was the performance by his fiddle player whose name I did not catch. [Andrew Ohlrich - kk - and yes, he was outstanding!]  This young man totally stole the show with some incredible artistry, the likes of which I have never seen. I think Peterik was amazed when the fiddle player received a standing ovation in the middle of a song after he finished an extremely dazzling solo.   
On a five-star scale, I give this show a two-and-a-half.
Thank you   
Steve Sarley

Kudos to the Raue Center for the Arts. What a great venue. I have never been to it or the downtown area of Crystal Lake.  Would love to go back when the stores are open and walk around. 
Back to the Raue Center ... 
What a clean, upscale and intimate place for a concert. The sound was the best I have heard at any indoor concert venue I have been to. What a pleasure. 
I was not sure what to expect from the concert after remembering an earlier posted review. I have seen Jim in concert now for over 40 years.and I was blown away how fresh it was to hear his songs presented in the way he did last night.  I noticed he played every song on his new CD ... no more and no less ... and with short documentary video clips and commentary in between songs, his part of the show lasted a hour and a half exactly.   
The best review I can give was from my buddy who got to go at the last second due to a late scratch who said, after the concert, "Ïḿ going to buy The Songs  CD right now in the lobby ... and I never buy one at a concert.¨ That is how much he loved it. And I felt exactly the same. 
Thank You, Fogotten Hits and Jim Peterik for the tickets. Gary  

And this, just in from Jim Peterik from today's video shoot of "Caught Up In You" ...

Here are a couple of exclusive shots for you, Kent, taken at the jam lab during the video shoot for 'Caught Up In You."  With John Dykas and Mark Voss.  

All concert photos by Frannie Kotal,
including the photo of Jim and me
group shot of me, Frannie and Jim by Chris May - 
video shoot photos courtesy of Kristie Schram

and ALL are Forgotten Hits exclusives!