Wednesday, August 22, 2018

A Guest Concert Review Double Header!

We’ve got a Shelley Sweet-Tufano Concert Review Two-fer for you today …
As the Summer Concert Series winds down again (man, where the heck has this year gone?!?!), we’ll feature reviews of a couple of different shows she saw recently as yet another Guest Concert Review.  (If you’d like to submit a review of something you’ve seen recently, drop us a line … we welcome your input!)  kk

First Up … The Oldies Spectacular Show!

Get a cup of coffee, tea or glass of wine and have a read.

I want to take a moment to focus on the support staff that work with our 50s, 60s, 70,s and 80s musicians. I know it is not an easy job working with / serving the public. (that’s us in this case) On its best day you can laugh, smile and say, “Wow! That was a fun time!” At its worst, you STILL must smile, while gritting your teeth or keeping down panic. You need to keep remembering, “I have coffee and a soft bed at home. It’s ok.” For this weekend I want to thank Lou Christie’s Ladies and LAR Enterprises, Inc. for helping me with ticket purchases, concert information, and making me feel welcome. So Kathy, Linda and Laura:  THANK YOU! There are many people making it all happen.

This is an “Oldies Spectacular” sponsored by The Lions Club of Southampton and Radio Station WLNG out of Long Island. We have mentioned this oldies station before in Forgotten Hits. Tonight’s Master of Ceremonies is Cool Bobby B, host of the Doo Wop Shop Oldies Show on Tuesday nights. The following is his intro:

Pennsylvania, 1957, at precisely midnight, and under a full moon, a shadowy figure breaks the flimsy lock on a “day timer” radio station transmitter room, cranks up the power to 100,000 watts and broadcasts Street Corner Harmony records (later to be know as Doo Wop.)  The police responded but before they could apprehend him, the intruder slipped out the back door and into Rock ‘n Roll history, leaving but a single clue … a cowbell. He remains wanted to this very day, but that same voice can now be  heard throughout the country on the nationally syndicated Cool Bobby B’s Doo Wop Stop.

It’s a true story. Bobby B even beats us to the lobby after the show (he had just closed the show from the stage) and says Good-night and Thank You to each patron. That is one slippery disc jockey.

The Quotations open the show. Although they have appeared on the My Music TV shows, this is the first time I have seen them live. It was NOT my ‘Imagination’ - they were very good. Beautiful harmonic renditions despite reported health issues from one of their team. Each act sang full sets (the concert was three and a half hours long) and so even though I wrote down each song all night, typing the set lists would overshadow the space on this review. If anybody wants to know, ask me. I will be glad to send any and all to Kent, but for now let’s talk performances.

The Quotations gave us fast and furious, (Let Me In) humor, (What’s Your Pain?) smooth, (Sha-Boom, Sha-Boom) and romantic (Smoke Gets In Your Eyes.)  Of course, they performed “Gimmee the Mah Mah Mah ... Gimmee the Mah Mah Mah gination” ... and now this song is stuck in my head. 

Imagination is funny ... (Oh stop it! ) 

They were an unexpected treat for me starting the show. The Lions Club has done a great job printing full page info on each act so I will be quoting a few lines about each one.

“The Quotations are a doo-wop band that got its start in 1958 when the boys were students at James Madison High School in East Brooklyn, New York. Like so many rock and roll groups, they would hang out in the neighborhood, harmonizing and dreaming of the day they would get their chance to “make it” into the big time. But in those days, Barney’s Pool Room on King’s Highway was about as far as they got, but it was the center of their universe and a place to meet.”

It took ‘Imagination’ …

Red suit … red shoes … Let’s go to the Peppermint Lounge. Joey Dee runs out, jumps around and dances (girls twist better) through his set. 

"1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, 10 Downing Street, and maybe one or two others ... these were among the few addresses around the world which were instantly recognizable to just about anyone who was alive during the 1960’s. But all they had to do was hear, “There’s a place down on 45th Street …” and anybody who was even barely conscious knew it was the location of the Peppermint Lounge, a rather small nightclub which had become the primary watering hole for the rich and famous of that era. And it was all due to a handsome, talented kid from New Jersey named Joey “Dee” and his super-energetic band called the Starlighters, who rocked the place to the rafters every night to the great delight of the glittering clubbers who flocked to see them.”

Two ‘twist’ songs and, of course, ‘Shout’ are performed by Joey tonight, as well as a Rap parody named ‘Pants On The Ground’. The Quotations become his back-up singers (standing off-stage) for ‘Peppermint Twist.’  He brings them out to give them their credit applause. Nice, right? Speaking of applause, Joey tells us he wants to take a picture for his family in Florida to prove that he received a standing ovation tonight. So what do we do? Stand up! Joey gets his picture and skips (yes, skips) off-stage.

White boots, white pants, and a bright “shocking orange” shirt delight the crowd as Lou Christie emerges to end the first act tonight.

“Throughout the 1960’s Lou recorded hit after hit that would sell millions of copies to his loyal fans around the country and around the world. The list of hits included 'Lightning Strikes,' 'I’m Gonna Make You Mine' and the controversial 'Rhapsody in the Rain,' which was banned from air play because of lyrics that were deemed 'suggestive' for the time. But as so often is the case, material that’s suppressed becomes even more desirable than it might have been without the censorship and 'Rhapsody' became one of Lou’s major recordings.”

I am picking up a pattern on Lou’s introductions from stage to stage. A common phrase used is: APPEARING ON THIS STAGE IS THE MAN HIMSELF, LOU CHRISTIE. Think about this. I finally had to. To be called “the man himself” time after time requires one to be elevated to a certain position or stature. I have heard from other performers that “Lou is just a nice guy.” Three times from the audience tonight a woman shouts out, clearly audible, “YOU’RE STILL HOT!” He IS still hot. He is still in command of a powerful voice that brings falsetto and romance together in a classic “Moon-Pie” combination (Northerners: “Scooter-Pie.”)  When they sing to us, these performers still make us feel desired and appreciated … and young. He gets all the words right for "The Heart of Saturday Night" and brings down the house with "Lightning Strikes" and the encore of "Never My Love."


“Frank Reina is the original second tenor of The Capris. Tony Sergi joined The Capris in 1985 as their drummer. At 13 years old, John Monforte started singing as a first tenor on the street corners of Queens. Lou Esposito joined The Capris in 1998 after their guitarist Danny Spitalieri became ill. Michael D’Amore is lead singer and the newest member of The Capris.”

Thus begins the second half of the show. 

The Capris verbally pay homage to Eugene Pitt, founding member of The Jive Five, who passed away July 5th. They mention him often and dedicate songs to him. Their initial appearance on stage is to a jumpin’ "Great Balls of Fire."  They are obviously looking out for the men in the audience when they tell them to keep away from "Runaround Sue." Great harmonies and a blistering falsetto from Michael D’Amore mark their set, which gives me another view of "Love Potion #9."  Boy, that was one busy gypsy supplying all that potion to these vocal groups. 

Frank steps up as spokesman and regales the crowd with stories. I almost love these stories from the artists as much as the music. The stories they tell pull the time, the people, and the music together into a cohesive unit. How to end the set? Only one way: "There’s A Moon Out Tonight."  And actually, there was no moon. There was a partial new moon lunar eclipse. Ironic.

And closing the show are The Duprees.

“The Duprees are known the world over for their romantic interpretations of some of the most beautiful love songs ever written. They have made a career out of giving new life to old hits. If you take the Glenn Miller arrangements of the 1940’s along with the tunes of Joni James, Frank Sinatra, Jo Stafford, Nat 'King' Cole and the vocal harmonies of Tom Petillo, Tony Testa, Phil Granito and Jimmy Spinelli and put them together, you have the sound of THE DUPREES.”

It is a puzzlement to me as to why this is the first time I have seen The Duprees in live concert. They sing 15 songs and have a killer stage show, but our paths have not crossed before. “We sing harmonies in love songs. It’s what we do.” Yes, it certainly is! Beautiful, classic songs that even if they are not about romantic love, bespeak of love of some type. My mouth dropping favorite was "Exodus." I loved this song from the moment I first heard it, yet to hear it swell up from the stage with the strength of “THIS LAND IS MINE. GOD GAVE THIS LAND TO ME” not only gives goosebumps, but brings tears. My all-time favorite movie (speaking of tears) is GONE WITH THE WIND. Yes, they performed "Tara’s Theme," which did not have words in the movie and certainly could never have been sung by Scarlett given the drama of the plot, but now helps you to relive the events the movie portrays and hope that Miss Scarlett is wiser and open to a new outlook. At one point, Phil Granito is given the stage and turns into a human Gumby singing a medley that ends with "Say You Will."  This is a sudden, surprising contrast to their coordinated love harmonies movement. The final song, "You Belong To Me," is a culmination of romantic love in its harmonic best.

For those of us who love the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s music, what comes around will just keep going around. There is a flash of new … a dash of classic … and an eternity of delight and memories. New performers join the seasoned and the “Hits just keep on coming” in concerts around the world. I am delighted ... and frustrated ... that currently there are more concerts within a three hour radius than I can get to. This week is my vacation from both jobs and Saturday brings a show in Coney Island, a show on Long Island, a music fest in Milford, CT, AND I am traveling home that day from concerts in Pennsylvania. 

Wait a minute … I am scheduled to work Monday night? During my vacation? I MEAN REALLY??!! 

It’s ok … Deep breath … I have coffee and a soft bed here at home.
-- Shelley J Sweet-Tufano


And now, one last blast of Summer!

One more week and then school starts. Although I have concerts scheduled in September, October, and November, this weekend marks the last official reign of my summer concert blitz. I wanted this part of my summer to arrive, but I didn’t want it to end, and that is always the result of it beginning.  

Hot and humid again? Yes, I just stated this was summer. What’s my problem? It isn’t raining! At the Quakertown, PA Univest Outdoor Performance Center, the crowd gathers early with their chairs in tow. I have a ticket for a reserved seat so I don’t need to bring a chair, but I envy the people sitting behind me in their comfortable lounge chairs while I occupy an upright folding chair. I connect with many friends here who also must sit upright in reserved seating. Nothing dims the fun, whether you are sitting or reclining, at a summer outdoor concert.  

Craig Thatcher and Nyk Van Wyk (pronounced Nick Van Wike) are a talented guitar and fiddle duo who play lengthy Irish ditties, jaunty roving tunes and tributes to the past local steel industry, whose vacant buildings have been restructured into an art center. Bethlehem Steel Stacks is not far from Quakertown and I know many of Forgotten Hits' Readers have visited and performed there. Craig is also an old friend of drummer Dave Ferrara, who also hails from this section of the country. Dave draws a lot of the attention whenever he appears close to home. 

Craig and Nyk start with a song written while Craig was returning home from a trip to Ireland, and the Emerald Isle feeling is abundant. Nyk’s fiddle wails quickly and cleanly as he takes the lead in the melodies and the two become the perfect act to open the show. People sitting next to me are locals and tell me stories about Craig and how popular he is in the area. The Irish Festival here, at home, is in a couple weeks and this readies me to look ahead to that weekend. 

An outdoor concert, an indoor concert and the end of my summer. Peter Noone and his Hermits play a major role. I don’t know if this is a new jacket or a jacket that the airlines have finally reconnected to its owner, but the blue on blue print is youthful and dapper. It reflects / absorbs stage lighting very well in natural light or spotlight. Vance Brescia controls the stage when he picks up a role of black tape and deftly bundles up T-Shirts before sending these projectiles flying into the crowd. Peter spends much of his time in the audience. A place that used to emit a fearful situation is now humorous fun because there is no possibility of the audiences being able to rush the stage now. I think some of us could, but “mind your manners” is in the forefront of our experiences now. Again, the couple next to me fills me in on their love of the 60’s performers. They came to Quakertown to see Tommy James a couple weeks ago and now return to see Herman’s Hermits starring Peter Noone. “It has been 20 years since we last saw him.” We talk music, radio and Forgotten Hits. They tell me, “It’s great that you love the music. We are older than you and grew up with it. But you wouldn’t know about that time.” OK, GO WITH THAT THOUGHT, YOU WONDERFUL PEOPLE!! 

While in the audience, a woman yells at Peter, “You’re just adorable!” Lou Christie is hot, Peter Noone is adorable. This concert circuit is fun! The best part of the outdoor venue was an impromptu opportunity when Peter is singing, “Traveling Light” and a train slowly motors by yelling out “HI, HI!” to the stage and its viewers. Instantly Peter reaches down, grabs a harmonica and with the banned quickly catching up, they start “Folsom Prison Blues.”  What an opportunity! That will make this concert stand out from others. Even the train enjoys this. 

The indoor concert is at Mohegan Sun Pocono. This was a venue adventure for me. The original Mohegan Sun, in Connecticut, has brought me years of music enjoyment and I just had to check the new place out. This concert was not booked by Mohegan but by an outside promoter. It was also his first booked in the Mohegan ballroom. The sound system was reminiscent of Tommy James concerts I attended ... Loud. The advantage I had sitting in the middle was that it was equally loud in both ears. Some of my friends had one ear ringing as they were off to one side or the other. Peter again spent much of the concert strolling through the audience and a few times he seemed to experience or feel the uncomfortable volume issues. I know the staff were trying out different features with the lighting (spotlights were not able to follow quickly) and video camera projection. At the end they worked out some beautiful split screen and fade-ins and outs  And they improved at the technical spectrum as the concert evolved. But as my valet the next morning said to me, “They still have a few things to work on.” Beautiful casino and scenery and the Mohegan tribe is diligent in what they do, so the future here looks bright. Truthfully, they selected a great first show. On a rotten night, Herman’s Hermits starring Peter Noone puts on a great show. 

And their special guest openers? 1910 Fruitgum Company! 

A friend pointed out the autograph line for 1910 Fruitgum Co. ... “Look how long it is!” And why not? They put on a fabulous opening act of 60’s hits we love to sing. Last summer, they announced that Bobby Brescia was leaving the group and moving to The Philippines. I announced it here in a review ... BUT there he was on keyboards at Mohegan Sun Pocono! Great! 

Yummy, Yummy, Yummy
Green Tambourine
Indian Giver
Surfin’ USA
You’re The One
1,2,3 Red Light
Simon Says

A tribute to Bill Burkette of The Vogues with "You’re The One" and a song Frank Jekyll sang on the bus with The Beach Boys, "Surfin’ USA," gives proof of their musical abilities that goes beyond the bubblegum image. Again, the 60’s were such a diverse selection of choices and we could cross over from one to the other at will. Oh sure, there were musical snobs just like with classical lovers. For some, you could NOT like anything else but R&B if you liked The Stones. If you catered to Motown, then you must turn off the radio for pop and bubblegum (at least if there were others in the room with you.)  And certainly, for some, folk rock and protest meant the only way to change the world. I never had, never will have that issue. I like the song / singers or I don’t. Throw the labels away. Using music to connect autistic and cerebral palsied children to the world reinforces the fact for me, that music is personal. There is no one genre that is “best”. And here is where I will garnish enemies. Uplifting songs with a positive presentation have a longer lasting impact on the success of children. 

Good-bye Summer, and thank you!
-- Shelley J Sweet-Tufano