Monday, August 20, 2018

CONCERT REVIEW: The Happy Together Show, 2018 (Paramount Theater - Aurora, IL - Friday, August 17th)

I couldn't help thinking it the whole time I was sitting there ...

How do you review a show that you have essentially seen about a dozen times now?  (Note to Shelley:  I don't know how you see Peter Noone and Herman's Hermits 8-10 times a year ... my "repeat performances" have been spread out over several years!!!  Now granted, he is one of the most accomplished, charismatic performers on the circuit ... and has a way of making every show seem somewhat unique by adapting to the crowd and the city where he's performing ... but essentially ... musically speaking ... it's exactly the same show every single time.  Yes, he mixes up the song line-up every now and then ... perhaps as much to prevent his OWN boredom with these tunes as anything else ... and I have NEVER seen him put on a bad show ... he kills it each and every time ... but again, I found myself thinking about this instead of paying complete attention to the Happy Together Show on stage Friday Night ... and the fact of the matter is that this was MY loss ... because there is absolutely NOTHING that any of the acts on stage did wrong to present anything other than a hit-filled, exciting show.  But I digress.)

Simply put, there are really no unexpected surprises anymore ... and this same cast of participants has been part of (in some form or another) every Happy Together Show I've seen.  (Sure, there have been some different line-ups ... typically either Chuck Negron or Mark Lindsay are the "second in command" show closers ... and this year they're featuring BOTH ... which does make for a stronger line-up overall) ... but the fact remains that you still know exactly what you're going to get before you even take your seats ... and I believe that most of the audience in each and every city are "returnees" who have seen the show perhaps as many times as I have!  lol

Last year they mixed things up a little bit by adding Ron Dante (who sang his Archies and Cuff Links hits) and the recently reformed Box Tops, which offered a nice change of pace ...

But for several years now The Association, Gary Puckett, the aforementioned Lindsay and Negron, The Turtles (of course!) and, for at least the past three or four years, The Cowsills have been who we've come to expect to see.

Don't get me wrong ... this is the most "bang for your buck" show out there ... between this year's line up of The Turtles (who featured Ron Dante filling in for an ailing Howard Kaylan), Chuck Negron / Three Dog Night, Gary Puckett and the Union Gap, The Association, Mark Lindsay / Paul Revere and the Raiders and The Cowsills, these artists have collectively had an INCREDIBLE 83 National Top 40 Hits ... and you know that within the confines of a show like this, each artist is going to come out and sing their five or six biggest hits and be on their way.  It's a show that'll feature jam-packed hits, from start to finish ... all thriller with no filler!

Still, it's hard to muster too much enthusiasm after this many viewings ... but I put that on me, not on anyone associated with the show ... ALL of the artists performed their hearts out Friday Night (August 17th) at The Paramount Theater in Aurora, IL.  (And, in all fairness, after seeing ELO on Wednesday Night, this would haven been a tough act for ANYONE to follow!!!)

That being said, what follows if more of a recap than an analysis ... EVERY artist was great and kept the crowd going all night long.  (Apologies in advance for the quality of these photos ... all are cell phone shots from the 21st row.  We did not go back stage for this one.)

For starters, they did mix up the running order of the line-up this year ... which left it up to The Cowsills to open the show.

As far as I'm concerned, The Cowsills are one of the best acts back out on the road today.  (In fact, they have stolen the show on the Happy Together stage each and every time we've seen them.)

They were equally as good Friday Night (although the vocal mix was a little muddier than usual.)  That's not The Cowsills' fault ... but the soundboard guy (who was positioned literally right behind us) should have been paying closer attention to kind of "brighten things up" a bit.

Still boasting Susan, Bob and Paul Cowsill, they did their usual set of "The Rain, The Park and Other Things," "We Can Fly," "Indian Lake," "The Theme from 'Love ... American Style'," and their biggest hit, "Hair."  (Susan explained how she was a superstar with a #1 Hit at seven and then "washed up" at the age of ten!  lol)

Naturally, they went through the whole Partridge Family story (The Cowsills were the inspiration for TV's "family" rock group, which included Mom and the two youngest children.)  And, if by some chance you haven't seen it yet, you have GOT to check out "Family Band," the documentary released a few years ago that revisits (in great detail) the career of The Cowsills ... it is, without question, one of the best Rock Docs ever made.

Next up was Mark Lindsay, former lead singer of Paul Revere and the Raiders ... who also notched a few solo hits on his belt in the early '70's. 

Mark's set seemed to be the longest of the night and included a medley of "Steppin' Out" / "Just Like Me," "Hungry," "Good Thing," his solo hit "Arizona" (one of the best vocals of the night ... and the crowd definitely agreed with me), The Raiders ONLY official #1 Record, "Indian Reservation" and "Kicks," where Lindsay did his famous leg kick up over his head ... nothing short of incredible at the age of 76!!! 

The Association wrapped up the first half of the show with their hits "Windy," "Never My Love," "Cherish" and "Along Comes Mary."

Original members Jim Yester and Jules Alexander and "newbie" Del Ramos (he joined the band in 1972) provided examples of The Association's perfect harmonies (as well as most of the humor) for the night.

After a brief intermission, Gary Puckett took the stage.

His voice is still booming after all these years ... and my complaint remains the same as it has for at least the last two decades ... the original melodies to these songs, six of which made The Top 11, including TWO #1's, are nowhere to be found in the way he currently sings them.  

He makes it impossible for the audience to sing along (and then asks them to!)  We LOVE these songs, Gary ... PLEASE go back to doing them the right way!!!  (Of those six Top 11 songs, the only one he didn't perform was "Don't Give In To Him" ... otherwise, "Woman, Woman" (#2, 1967); "Young Girl" (#1, 1968); "Lady Willpower" (#1, 1968); "Over You" (#5 1968) and "This Girl Is A Woman Now" (my personal favorite ... and #3, 1969) made up his set list.

Chuck Negron of Three Dog Night was next.

Due to health issues, Chuck's voice has been hit or miss at these shows for the last few years ... but he nailed it Friday Night. 

He kicked his set off with "Celebrate," their #11 Hit from 1970.  He wisely stayed away from the ballads this time around (which are what did him in on the last Happy Together Tour.)  Instead we got a knock-out version of "Eli's Coming" as well as "Mama Told Me (Not To Come)" [another #1 Hit], their first #1 Record, "One," and their BIGGEST #1 Hit, "Joy To The World," which Chuck belted out with all the vigor of forty years ago.  (A great set)

Wrapping things up, of course, were The Turtles, this year featuring Mark Volman and Ron Dante, who was standing in for a recuperating Howard Kaylan.  (I was a little surprised by the fact that no mention of Howard being out was made until about the fourth or fifth song of their set, when Ron was allowed to sing his own #1 Hit, "Sugar Sugar."  I would have preferred a couple more nods to Ron's "hidden" solo career ... like maybe "Tracy" by The Cuff Links or another Archies song "Jingle Jangle" ... in fact, a reference to "Leader Of The Laundromat" would have been a fun addition, too.)

That being said, the best of The Turtles' hits were represented ... "It Ain't Me, Babe," "You Baby," "She'd Rather Be With Me," "You Showed Me," "Elenore" and (of course ... how could they not ... I mean they named the whole tour after this one!), "Happy Together."  Missing was their #14 Hit "She's My Girl" ... and, I have to admit that I was a bit disappointed that Mark Volman didn't take advantage of the fact that Howard isn't on this tour, and perform "You Know What I Mean," a Forgotten Hits favorite that Mark also likes quite a bit ... but is NOT one of Howard Kaylan's favorites!  (See Mark, you coulda snuck that one in and nobody would have been none the wiser!)

As has been the custom for every Happy Together Tour, they then "start the show over" by bringing out each artist to reprise a short portion of one of their hits, followed by a full ensemble reading of "Happy Together" to close the show before a final bow.

All in all, a fun show of nothing but '60's classics ... as I said earlier, between them, these artists have created some of the best music (and memories) of this era ... and it's a real treat to have them all presented in one place at one time.

Highly recommended (especially if you haven't already seen it!)  lol

Dates Remaining: 
(not many ... the tour wraps up next week!!!)

Tuesday, August 21st - Louisville, KY - Kentucky State Fairgrounds

Thursday, August 23rd - Appleton, WI - Fox Cities Performing Arts Center

Friday, August 24th - Onamia, MN - Grand Casino Hotel

Sunday, August 26th - Deadwood, SD - Deadwood Mountain Grand

And, they came up with an absolutely AWESOME T-Shirt for this year's tour, too!!!

[A personal thank you to Ron Dante, who comp'd us tickets to the show!  Thanks, Ron ... wish we coulda said hello in person!!!]