Saturday, January 6, 2018

The Saturday Surveys Are Back!!! - January 6th (1968)

By overwhelmingly popular demand, we've brought back The Saturday Survey ... with a twist ...

To keep the whole 50 Year Flashback trend going that ran to glowing reviews last year when we recreated the events of 1967 in a day-by-day calendar fashion, we've decided to take a look back every Saturday at the most popular songs from around the country back in 1968.

Only THIS time we're going to feature a different survey from a completely different state each and every Saturday until the whole country has been represented!  (That's right ... during the course of the year, we will feature a different weekly survey from a different state each week for the ENTIRE United States with no repeats!!!)  

It's our way of keeping Forgotten Hits fresh and unique ... a one-of-a-kind oldies music publication unlike any other.

Of course, we couldn't have done this without the help of long-time Forgotten Hits Reader and Contributor, Clark Besch ... who, with a little bit of assistance from his crackerjack team ... (or would that be crackpot team?!?!) ... put this whole thing together for us!  (Watch for special shout-outs to these guys who helped out along the way!) 

That makes this yet another VERY successful CLARK / KENT collaboration ... and a pretty SUPER one at that!!!

(That's right ... these guys did all the heavy lifting while I just get to sit back, publish the results of their efforts every weekend and take all the glory!!!  Lol)

Please enjoy our weekly trip back 50 years as we present the year-long Cross Country Edition of The Saturday Survey!!!  

(And if you've got a friend who is WAY into the charts and the whole idea of survey collecting, please let them know about our brand new feature and where to find it!)  Thanks, All!!!   (kk)

***survey courtesy of Frank Merrill 

Our very first chart comes from WWNR broadcasting out of Beckley, West Virginia, playing the hits "19 Hours A Day" on AM 620.  

Sitting at the top of the chart this week is John Fred and His Playboy Band with their #1 Hit "Judy In Disguise (With Glasses)".

The Beatles and The Monkees are next with "Hello Goodbye" and "Daydream Believer" ... and then we find some fine Chicagoland representation with The American Breed at #4 with "Bend Me, Shape Me" and The Buckinghams at #8 with "Susan."

The Pick Hit of the Week belongs to The Uniques and a track called "I'll Do Anything" ... I think WWNR may have missed their mark with this one as this song never officially charted on ANY of the National Charts (and likely disappeared just as quickly in Beckley, West Virginia!)  kk

1-6-68 - WWNR - Beckley, West Virginia

We start the 1968 survey journey in a town with a current population of 16,000 today that sits halfway between Charleston and Roanoke.  

This chart features a few FH readers / artists as the year gets off to a fast start following the great year that preceded it.  

Despite a lack of unknowns here, "I'll Do Anything" was just one of many FANTASTIC Uniques 45s that became regional hits around the country, but often never survived the rigors of the Hot 100.
-- Clark Besch

While this song never officially charted nationally, The Uniques DID hit The National Charts in some fashion eleven times between 1965 and 1970.

Their most popular track, "All These Things," peaked at #44 in 1966. Led by Joe Stampley (who would go on to have a pretty successful solo career as a Country Artist), Frannie ranks this tune among her all-time favorites ... and swears it was a MAJOR hit in Texas when she was growing up back in the '60's.

Safe to say that Joe believed in it, too ... in addition to two separate chart runs with The Uniques, he cut it again as a solo artist, where it topped Billboard's Country Singles Chart in 1976. (Another re-recorded version reached #62 in 1981.)

Joe has had over 60 country chart hits on his own ... including several novelty hits with Moe Bandy (released as Moe and Joe) including one of my favorites, "Where's The Dress" (#8, 1984), that poked fun at Boy George and Culture Club!


FH Reader Harvey Kubernik sent us some 1968 Musical Milestones to share with our readers, which we'll also tie in from time to time as part of our brand new Saturday Surveys Series!  (You'll see that we're adding a few of our own tidbits along the way, too!) 

Here are some of the events that happened between January 1st and January 6th, 1968 ...  

1/1/68:  Mono albums are discontinued in U.S.   
(It'll be stereo format only from now on)
[Of course mono ... AND vinyl ... have come back in a VERY big way recently ... but I am NOT rebuying all of this music again under ANY circumstances!!! - kk]  

1/3/68:  Time magazine picks LBJ as Man of the Year again 

1/4/68:  Chess Records releases the psychedelic soul debut album from Rotary Connection

[Now THERE'S an artist that belongs in our Chicago Music Hall Of Fame! -kk] 

1/5/68:  "Bob Dylan's Greatest Hits" goes gold ... it has since gone five times platinum!  (kk)
Also on this date, Jimi Hendrix is jailed for the day on "drunk and disorderly" charges in Stockholm, Sweden after he tore up a hotel room during a fist-fight with his bassist, Noel Redding  (kk)

1/6/68:  Dick Clark's "Happening '68" program premiers on ABC - it's the follow up series to the very successful "Where The Action Is" and once again features Mark Lindsay and Paul Revere and the Raiders.  Guests on the first episode include Harpers Bizarre and Dino, Desi and Billy. (kk)

Earlier that same day, Clark's "American Bandstand" featured Kenny O'Dell and a video of The Turtles performing to their latest hit, "She's My Girl."  (kk)
And The Gibson Guitar Corporation patents its Flying-V guitar body style, first developed ten years earlier.  (kk)

Friday, January 5, 2018

The Top 10 Shows of 2017 (The Countdown Continues!)

10 - Cornerstones Of Rock - Buckinghams / Ides Of March / New Colony Six / Cryan' Shames / Shadows Of Knight  (Various Appearances throughout the year)

We caught The Cornerstones Of Rock Show four times last year … everywhere from Normal, IL, where my daughter studying at ISU joined me to The Genesee Theatre (one of their best performances ever) to twice at The Arcada Theatre (where, despite some technical difficulties on one of the occasions, they still managed to put on a killer show.)

As such, there isn’t any one single show we’re going to focus on for the purpose of this review.  Suffice to say that this is ALWAYS an entertaining show … ALL of the artists still sound great as they recreate The Soundtrack of Chicago Rock of the ‘60’s.  In my book, they’re ALL Headliners … from Jimy Sohns and his “National Anthem of Rock And Roll,” G-L-O-R-I-A, to The New Colony Six, reuniting Ray Graffia, Jr. and Ronnie Rice on stage again for the first time in decades, to The Cryan’ Shames, featuring original lead singer Tom Doody, band mascot and leader Jim “Hooke” Pilster and, occasionally, original lead guitarist and head song-writer, Jim Fairs … to The Ides Of March, who act as the back-up band to ALL of the aforementioned acts before performing their OWN killer set of music to close the first half of the show.

The Buckinghams then come out to close the show and along the way these artists pay tribute to some of the other big names in Chicago Rock that are no longer with us like Aliotta, Haynes and Jeremiah (“Lake Shore Drive”) and The American Breed (“Bend Me, Shape Me”.)  [We have suggested a few other worthy tributes that they might want to consider incorporating into the act and we’re waiting to see if that might happen somewhere down the line, just to help keep the show fresh and exciting as it continues to come back around again.]

How can we see it again and again?  (I know … I’m starting to sound like a Noonatic here!) … but it’s simply THAT good … we know and love every song and every once in a while they’ll throw something new in the mix just to help shake things up a little bit.  It’s a fun, high-energy, feel-good show … and it sells out EVERY time … so if you STILL haven’t seen it, you’d better grab your tickets early the next time the go on sale … because my guess is that you’re going to find that most of the crowd are “repeat attenders”!!!
(Cornerstones of Rock returns to The Arcada Theatre on April 29th)

 9 - 50 Summers of Love - Micky Dolenz and Mark Lindsay  (October – The Genesee Theatre)

Between them, Paul Revere and the Raiders and The Monkees had 32 Top 40 Hits and dominated the Pop Music Scene in the mid-to-late ‘60’s.  (Actually Paul Revere and the Raiders’ biggest hit came in 1971 when their cover of “Indian Reservation” went all the way to #1.)

Naturally, Mark Lindsay performed that one … and at least a dozen other of their timeless hits.

Both he and Micky Dolenz were in excellent voice and, backed by The Fab Four, who also deserve a mention for their incredible set of Beatles covers, just “gelled” as a performing unit.  (The Fab Four are back at The Arcada Theatre on Saturday, February 9th, which just happens to be the 54th Anniversary of The Beatles’ first performance on The Ed Sullivan Show … and we just happen to have tickets to give away to this show … so if you’re interested in going, please drop us a line and we’ll throw your name in the hat!)

From our original review:

In 1967 alone, The Raiders had FIVE Top 40 Hits and The Monkees had SEVEN ... that makes a DOZEN Top 10 Hits in a single year ... so celebrating the 50th Anniversary of The Summer Of Love (just as WE have been doing all year long) only seemed fitting.

That's the story behind Mark Lindsay and Micky Dolenz teaming up to provide the 50 Summers Of Love tour, which hit The Genesee Theatre on Sunday, October 15th.

Both artists have very distinctive voices and, over the years, have taken turns headlining several Teen Idol Tours (along with other mainstays such as Peter Noone, Bobby Sherman and/or Davy Jones) as well as The Happy Together Tour.  Their music has really never been off the air ... and they continue to win over brand new fans with each passing generation.  (The audience at The Genesee reinforced the old adage "fans from 8 to 80" ... they were all out there in force, singing along with every word.)

Dolenz says he envisioned these "50 Summers" shows as more of a "Rat Pack" type of concert and atmosphere ... both artists on stage, hamming it up, swapping stories and memories of the '60's (an era when, Micky says, he's been told he had a very good time!), singing each other's songs and just having a fun, all-in-all good time, taking the audience along for the ride.

The magic worked.

Backed by The Fab Four, who opened the show decked out in full Sgt. Pepper gear, performing a stellar Beatles set, much of which was also the music of the 1967 Summer Of Love era ... meaning music The Beatles themselves never attempted to perform on stage ... it was quite an entertaining show.  I've seen dozens of Beatles tribute bands over the years and I have to tell you that these guys are amongst the best ... with the John and George characters often multi-tasking by playing guitar and keyboards during the same song in order to best augment and mimic the sound of the original recordings.  Simply put, they were top notch ... and were able to create a full orchestra's worth of sound with just four musicians on stage ... they put on a great show.

After a brief intermission, Micky and Mark came on stage and performed (in alternating fashion) some of the biggest hits from their combined extensive catalog.  The show opened with both singers singing "(I'm Not Your) Steppin' Stone," a song recorded by both Paul Revere and the Raiders AND The Monkees.

The banter and story telling was very entertaining, giving both artists the chance to revamp their acts a little bit to accommodate a longer set.  Micky's usual retelling of The Monkees / Jimi Hendrix connection, for example, was nicely augmented by Mark Lindsay telling the audience about the time that The Rolling Stones opened for Paul Revere and the Raiders.  It also gave Mark the chance to explore more of The Raiders' hit catalog, beyond the normal confines of the usual four or five songs he gets to perform during The Happy Together set.  (Lindsay will be back on the road with The Turtles, Chuck Negron, The Cowsills, Gary Puckett and The Association when Happy Together kicks off again in 2018.)

On the big screen backdrop the whole time they were playing, vintage film footage from both The Monkees television series and Paul Revere and the Raiders' show "Where The Action Is" was shown. (They even ran The Monkees Rice Krispies commercial!)

Lindsay's "Indian Reservation" probably got the biggest response overall ... and both he and Dolenz told the audience that they have Native American ancestry.  I'd also have to rate their performance of "Words" as one of the concert highlights ... Micky and Mark sounded great trading off the vocals on this one.  After the "I'm A Believer" big finish, they both came back out to perform "All You Need Is Love" with The Fab Four, a duet on "Daydream Believer" and a rousing rendition of "Twist And Shout" for the grand finale.  A very fun an uplifting show.

8 - Cryan' Shames - Songs and Stories Show  (October – The Arcada Family Theatre at Pheasant Run Resort)

Talk about performing under the most adverse, unexpected and emotional circumstances, original lead singer Tom Doody of The Cryan’ Shames took to the stage alone at The Arcada Family Theatre at Pheasant Run after current Shames head kingpin Jim Pilster had a minor stroke and original guitarist and lead songwriter James Fairs decided not to show up because he didn’t want to play the band’s hit songs in their original arrangements anymore.

Thankfully, Tom had the full support of the regular backing band that today make up The Cryan’ Shames … and let me tell you, they were OUTSTANDING!!!  (As part of the Cornerstones of Rock Show, only Doody, Pilster and Fairs typically perform, backed by The Ides of March … so it was a REAL treat to see the full band in action again … and turning in a top-notch, stellar performance in the process.  The debate about how to perform the songs featured in their set has been going on for as long as they’ve been part of the Cornerstones reunion … Fairs, who wrote most of their hit material, wants to do re-imagined versions of this music, stating that he’s already done them “the other way” and wants to continue to grow and evolve.  As such, some of their best known music is, at times, unrecognizable, and the fans have noticed … and not necessarily in a positive way.  Unfortunately this has sometimes put The Cryan’ Shames in the unenviable position of being “the weakest link” in the Cornerstones line-up.

I am happy to report, however, that for this October show, which featured a full 90 minutes of Cryan’ Shames music, EVERYTHING was restored to its original form … and the fans LOVED it … responding again and again with standing ovations.  THIS is the way THEY want the music remembered and represented. 

From our original review:

It was the best of times ... it was the worst of times ...

In what had to be one of the most difficult performances of his life, Tom Doody ran The Cryan' Shames through their Songs And Stories show at The Arcada Family Theatre at Pheasant Run Resort Friday Night to a packed, sold out house ... but he did so under some extremely taxing circumstances.

Sadly, he was without the support of two other original Shames members as Jim Pilster (Hooke) suffered a stroke and had to be hospitalized 24 hours before show time and Guitarist James Fairs was a no show, apparently too sick to perform.

Tom got choked up a few times at the beginning of the show ... and a few more when relating certain stories and having to mention Jimmy by name.  Pilster has been the lifeblood of this band, keeping it alive for the past 40 years.  He is also a good friend and we hate to see him suffering right now, having already endured a minor stroke a few months back.  (How minor?  He was back out on the golf course about six days later!!!  Jimmy isn't one to miss his tee time!)  Speaking from his hospital bed, his final words of encouragement to Tom Doody just prior to taking the stage were "Just go out there and do a great show."  We wish him a speedy recovery and hope to see him back up on that stage several more times down the road.

That being said, the band was in absolute top form Friday Night as they went through their catalog, playing ALL of the songs that made our Forgotten Hits "Most Requested" list a few months back and, with the absence of Fairs, performing them in their original arrangements which, judging by the tremendous response received, is exactly the way the fans want to hear them.

That means we got to hear LP favorites like "Dennis Dupree From Danville," "Cobblestone Road," "Sunshine Psalm" and "We Could Be Happy" ... overlooked singles like "Mr. Unreliable," an excellent up-tempo rendering of "First Train To California" and an absolutely scorching rocker like "Greenburg, Glickstein, Charles David Smith And Jones," a song that absolutely should have been a smash ... especially coming from a type-cast ballads band after releasing hits like "It Could Be We're In Love" and their version of "Up On The Roof," all the more the case since music took a much harder turn in 1968.

They also did some great covers, including "If I Needed Someone," which opened the set and showcased the trademark Shames harmonies, a very cool reggae version of the Cat Stevens / Tremeloes hit "Here Comes My Baby," a beautiful, soulful version of John Lennon's "Jealous Guy" and an ovation-worthy reading of the aforementioned "Up On The Roof."  Naturally, their first big hit "Sugar And Spice" closed the show to a standing ovation.

In between, Doody proved to be a great story teller, relating behind the scenes memories of how some of these recordings came to be made, dispersing some interesting Cryan' Shames trivia and even answering a few questions from the audience ... all in a very spirited, humorous and entertaining way.

A band this good should be playing all the time ... and it's a cryan' shame that they aren't.  Dedicating the show to Jimmy may have helped to spur them on because they truly were outstanding musically ... which is all the more amazing when one considers that they don't perform very often as a unit anymore and only Doody, Pilster and Fairs (when he elects to) participate in the Cornerstones shows.  

 7 - Wilson Phillips  (September – The Genesee Theatre)

I remember being especially intrigued back in 1990 when I first heard that two of Brian Wilson’s daughters (Wendy and Carnie) were teaming up with the daughter of Michelle and John Phillips (Chynna) … and when I heard their first album (which spawned a series of #1 Hits including “Hold On,” “Release Me” and “You’re In Love”), I was hooked.

This would be the THIRD time I had tickets to see them perform live in concert … in the previous two cases, the shows were cancelled at the very last minute … so I never had the chance to do so.  Their on-again / off-again partnership has made me think that they would never stay together long enough to perform in concert again.

So even when The Genesee Theatre announced their upcoming gig I was skeptical … and even warned the promoter that this show was likely “iffy” at best.  “No,” I was assured, “They are really doing this” … and they did … and I am SO glad that we finally had the chance to see them.

An entertaining night filled with hits and covers (“We only made three albums!” they explained) was nicely augmented by what seemed to be some real, genuine affection for each other.  (Let’s face it … they’re all parents with kids of their own by now … going on the road’s gotta be tough … but they made the most of it and put on a very entertaining show.

From my original review:

Third time's the charm!

I've mentioned before how last Friday Night is the THIRD time we've had tickets to see Wilson Phillips live in concert.

The first time, the tour was cut short abruptly and the Chicago date was cancelled.

The second time, the trio actually split up, causing the show to be cancelled (which is why it was a bit difficult to listen to Chynna explain how they'd been together now for 25 years when, in fact, it seems like they've spent more of those 25 years apart than together!)

But this time, they actually made it ... and it was a great show.  (Kudos to The Genesee Theatre for bringing their act to Chicago.)

Their onstage chemistry comes across as "real" ... with Carnie always playing the clown and goofy one, trying to keep things fun, moving and real, Chynna as the rail-thin spokesperson trying to maintain some sense of dignity but constantly cracking up at the antics going on around her and Wendy as the down-to-earth den mother ... the glue that holds it all together.

When you see the number of shows that we do, you begin to develop a pretty strong sense of what is "scripted" and what is spontaneous ... in fact, it's been a bit disheartening on many occasions when you come to realize that the heartfelt dialog you've taken in during a special moment of a particular show is, in fact, repeated word-for-word, night after night, in every city, at every performance and delivered the exact same way to make it all feel (and seem) like it was developed especially for you.

The feeling with Wilson Phillips is that, while they follow a show outline, this isn't necessarily the case ... while there is a set agenda, anything that happens between the start and finish of their show is somewhat up for grabs and, as such, much more is genuinely spontaneous, thus making every show somewhat unique and special in its own sense.

Early on, Chynna asked the audience if everything sounded all-right ... a GREAT tact because truthfully, things didn't.  The beautiful blend of their voices was being lost in the mix with the instruments too loud.  The audience responded as such and a move was made immediately that brought the vocals to the forefront ... an EXCELLENT move from my perspective as my initial fear once the concert was underway was that after waiting all this time to FINALLY see them, I'm not going to get the chance to HEAR them at their very best because of a poor board set up.  Thank you, Chynna, for making sure that all of us got to experience the full Wilson Phillips vocal experience.

She also joked about midway thru their set that Wilson Phillips did a lot of covers "because, let's face it, we only had five hits."  Funny ...  but again, very down to earth (and true!)  As such, we were treated to several songs from their "Dedicated" album, which paid homage to their parents John and Michelle Phillips of The Mamas and the Papas and Brian Wilson, the genius behind The Beach Boys.  Readings of "California Dreamin'", "Monday, Monday" and a beautiful rendition of "God Only Knows" by Carnie Wilson, dedicated to her "Uncle Carl", followed.  (Sadly, two covers that I fully expected to hear were left off the set list ... their great take on "Good Vibrations" from the same album and their rousing version of "Hotel California" that they performed as part of their set many times in years past.  I thought for sure they'd be included here or, at the very least, as part of the encore ... but it didn't happen.)

What we got instead was a rockin' version of ELO's "Don't Bring Me Down" and a show-stopping segment where they brought up about thirty members of the audience and did a note-for-note perfect performance of ABBA's "Dancing Queen" which was run into "Does Your Mother Know", a medley that brought the house down.  (Truth be told, they sounded better on "Dancing Queen" than they did on some of their own hits!  It was amazing!)

Along the way, they did the expected hits ("Release Me," "Impulsive," "You're In Love," "The Dream Is Still Alive" and "You Won't See Me Cry," all Top 30 Hits racked up between 1990 and 1992.  (Let me just say, in the spirit of complete honesty and disclosure, that when Wilson Phillips were hot, I was a MAJOR fan and bought everything they did ... I loved them ... but in all honestly, their music hasn't aged well.  Don't get me wrong ... they've still got MAJOR singing and performing chops ... but the material itself just doesn't seem as strong some 25 years later.  This is intended not to take anything away from the show we saw ... they were great ... but is commentary on this music itself, some 25 years later.)  They also responded with audience requests by singing a line or two of Wendy and Carnie's hit "Hey Santa" and hinted that they'd squeeze their version of Elton John's "Daniel" into their encore (but it never happened.)

Naturally they saved their biggest and best known hit for last, once again with Chynna explaining "You'll have to hold on for 'Hold On'," which became their only encore.  (The use of this track in the hit film "Bridesmaids" did a lot to boost a Wilson Phillips revival and the entire theater was up on its feet for this one.)  And deservedly so ... they executed a letter-perfect version that left the crowd wanting more.

Opening for Wilson Phillips was Two Hit Wonder band The Rembrandts, who did their whole show with just the duo of Danny Wilde and Phil Solem playing a couple of acoustic guitars with no band back-up.  This made things sound a little thin on some of their opening, lesser-known tracks ... but they more than made up for it with their big finish of "Just The Way It Is, Baby" (#14, 1991) and "I'll Be There For You" (the theme from the hit television series,  "Friends"), which again had the whole audience up on their feet and singing along.

A couple of Forgotten Hits Readers who won tickets to the show also chimed in with their thoughts on the show ...

That was fucking incredible!  Their harmonies were perfect!  And "Dancing Queen" ... I mean, I knew it would be good but this was SO much better than I ever expected!  Thank you SO much for the tickets!
Bob Burns

It was great to see you and Frannie at the Genesee Theatre Friday night.  Wow!  I had forgotten how great Wilson Phillips sounded ... and still does.  It must be in the genes.  The Rembrandts gave us some great harmonies, too. We were impressed by the theatre as well.  All in all, a great night.
Ed Erxleben

(photos courtesy of Andy Argyrakis)

 6 - Tommy James / The Association  (Genesee Theatre - March)

This was a great double bill and both acts were in top form on this particular night.  (Sure, we've seen them both several times before … and my experience has been that while Tommy  James ALWAYS puts on a top-notch show, The Association either have it that night … or they don't.  A group THIS reliant on harmony … it literally defines their sound … has to be spot on in order to be effective … and when they're not, it's downright painful to listen to!)

Well, I am happy to report that The Association were hitting all the right notes, which made this great night of ‘60’s music and memories.

From my original concert review:

I found The Association to be in excellent voice Saturday Night ... probably the best I've heard them in years ... and they kept the audience amused with entertaining stories throughout their set. 

This was Tommy's first appearance at The Genesee ... and the place was PACKED!  Tommy opened his show with a story about the first time he ever came to Waukegan back in 1965 ... he was still going by his real name, Tommy Jackson, at the time, and the name of his band was The Coachmen.  They played a small club that no longer exists (in fact, he says, he drove by its old location on his way to The Genesee and found it to be an empty parking lot!) and this trip, for his show on Saturday Night was the first time he's been back since.

What a shame.  Tommy ALWAYS packs 'em in and Saturday Night was no exception.  Tommy is a top-notch showman and the audience had a ball.  The energy was at an all-time high and I heard nothing but accolades from audience members after his performance.

 5 - Burton Cummings - Arcada Theatre  (April)

Burton Cummings has made our Top Concerts List EVERY year since we started running these year-end reviews.  I still maintain that it is impossible to see a bad Burton Cummings show.  He puts everything he's got into every performance and takes the audience for a ride they'll never forget.

From my original concert review:

Fact:  It is IMPOSSIBLE not to have a good time at a Burton Cummings concert.

Before he even takes the stage, the band starts the opening notes of "No Sugar Tonight / New Mother Nature" and they've already sucked you in.

The catalog is SO deep ... and the songs are SO well known ... so much a part of your own DNA ... and Burton sounds every bit as good on vocals as he did the day he first recorded of them (many of which were waxed right here in Chicago back in the late '60's and early '70's) ... you just can't help yourself from being swept away into the moment.

And I'll tell you what ... Burton was having FUN Saturday Night ... it was clear to all on hand that he was having a GREAT time up there ... and that energy came back full force from the crowd ... we loved it. 

I have never seen him so animated (and I have seen him at least twenty times!)  The night was magic ... Burton was entertaining as hell, telling his stories and corny jokes and getting in a dig here and there about the "REAL" Guess Who and his former song-writing partner, Randy Bachman.  The evening flew by.  Cummings puts his all into these performances (there's always a secret pool going on as to how many songs he can sing before he is just drenched in sweat ... I've never seen him make it past three ... which I think was the winning number Saturday Night!)

Great time ... Great performer ... a CAN'T MISS concert event every time he hits town ... so check your calendar and see when he's next headed out your way ... you DEFINITELY want to catch this show!

We've reached the cream of the crop!!!

Here are the shows that knocked us out last year ... 

We bring you THE FINAL FOUR!!!

#4 - Ides Of March Christmas Show  (December / The Arcada Theatre)

We’ve been to a few of The Ides’ Christmas shows now and they’re always a very entertaining evening, mixing holiday music and hits into a well-rehearsed, well-orchestrated show.  (The Ides seem to rise to the challenge every time and have been presenting their Christmas Show for many years now … a whole new set of music, much of it written by Jim Peterik.)

This year’s show was no exception.  And with The Ides represented both here and as part of the Cornerstones show (where they continue to steal the show at every performance), the rank right up there with The Cryan’ Shames with dual representation on our Top 20 Concerts List.

From our original review:

When The Ides Of March perform their annual Christmas Show, this isn't just a sprinkling of a few Christmas chestnuts intermingled with their regular set ... this is a full-blown, one hour production, jam-packed with holiday music (much of it Jim Peterik original-penned tunes), mixed together with some of your holiday favorites.  They typically have special guests (like Megon McDonough this year) on hand to help them along and fans are treated to another side of The Ides that they don't always get to see.  Each band member is prominently featured and The Ides harmonies shine throughout an incredibly beautiful and inspired set.  Jim has told me many times before in the past that he feels truly blessed to have been able to live the life he's had ... and this is conveyed again and again through his memorable music.

And then ... as if this isn't enough ... after a full hour of Christmas Cheer ... the band takes a twenty minute break and returns to the stage for another hour of what Jim calls "full metal jacket" rock and roll tunes ... covering the biggest hits of their own career as well as a series of tunes that Peterik has written for other artists like Survivor and .38 Special.  It's another full hour set of high energy rock and roll as the band rips through everything from "You Wouldn't Listen," "L.A. Goodbye," "Aire Of Good Feeling," and "Vehicle" to .38 Special's hits "Caught Up In You," "Hold On Loosley" and "Rockin' Into The Night" to Survivor classics like "The Search Is Over" and the #1 Smash "Eye Of The Tiger."  (For all their rock-ability displayed throughout the evening, it was Jim's perfect reading of the Survivor hit "The Search Is Over" that was the concert highlight for me ... absolutely beautiful.)

From start to finish it was an amazing display showcasing the true talent (and versatility) of this band. 

 #3 - The Orchestra (November / The Arcada Theatre)

To the surprise of many, these guys topped our Best Concert of 2016 Poll last year … and they put on another amazing show this time around.  (It's anybody's guess as to what kind of year they'll have in 2018 when Jeff Lynne brings over his ELO for a series of US Concert Shows for the first time in 35 years.)

Still these guys have ALL the chops … outstanding musicians  … great vocals … and an incredible catalog of music to choose from … still highly recommended if Jeff Lynne doesn't happen to be hitting your town next year.

From our original concert review:

Last year we named them the Best Show of 2016 ... and The Orchestra will certainly be giving that title a run for the money again this year as well.  They performed their extended set of ELO Classics to pure pop perfection Friday Night at the jam-packed Arcada Theatre to an audience filled with true Electric Light Orchestra aficionados who lapped up every drop.  In a word ... outstanding.  (As a life-long Jeff Lynne fan, I can honestly say that I'd be hard pressed to imagine Jeff putting on a finer performance himself ... and that's a true testament to not only how good and accomplished these singers and musicians are but also an example as to just how much this music really means to them, presenting it in such an honorable and appreciative way.)

We last reviewed The Orchestra in May of 2016 … that was the show that earned them the top spot on last year’s Best Concerts List … and we can assure you that everything written about them then still holds true today ... and then some.  (You can tell that this band really loves and appreciates the crowd at The Arcada Theatre, who awarded them with numerous standing ovations throughout their set.)

They added some new tunes to the mix (the advertisements said that they would be putting a special emphasis on their "A New World Record" album) and even added "The Diary Of Horace Wimp," a track that wasn't released here as a single but was a Top Ten Record in England.  (Likewise, a track that WE consider to be an ELO classic, "Can't Get It Out Of My Head," #9 in The States, wasn't even released as a single in Great Britain.  Thankfully, they performed them both!)

The show ran the full gamut of what you wanted to hear, including stand-out performances of "Showdown," "Turn To Stone," "Sweet Talkin' Woman," "All Over The World," "Hold On Tight" and, of course, "Mr. Blue Sky."

Don't miss your opportunity see these guys live in concert.  (Jeff Lynne just announced that he will FINALLY return for a series of shows here in The States but if he isn’t coming anywhere near your town, please take advantage of the very next best thing ... I promise you will not be disappointed.) 

#2 - Boz Scaggs  ( October / The Arcada Theatre)

I had never seen Boz Scaggs before … but kick myself for missing the tour he did with Michael McDonald (of The Doobie Brothers) and Donald Fagan (of Steely Dan) a few years back because THAT would have been the show to see.

That being said, Boz blew us away … enough so to rank at #2 of ALL the shows we saw in 2016.  He was simply amazing … and his crackerjack band gave him all the support he needed but still allowed him his own moments to shine … which he did throughout the evening.

This was another sold out show at The Arcada Theatre and the audience was mesmerized.  (Once again we ran into Carl Giammarese and Tommy Scheckel at this show who agreed that Boz OWNED IT that night!)

From our original review:

Three Word Review:  Absolutely Top Notch!

From start to finish, Boz Scaggs covered ALL the bases ... blues, jazz, soul, pop, rock ... and everything in between.  You name it ... this guy can do it ... and do it well.

Boz was in excellent voice performing to a packed house at The Arcada Theatre.  His band has to be one of the best I've ever seen, performing EVERY style of music from love ballads like "Look What You've Done To Me" (#14, 1980) and "Harbor Lights" to the soulful pop sounds of "It's Over" (#38, 1976) and "What Can I Say" (#42, 1976) to the biggest of his smash hits like "Lowdown" (#3, 1976) and "Lido Shuffle (#11) ... to extended blues jams with some stellar musicianship throughout.  (Boz is one hell of a guitarist himself ... but I swear HIS guitarist hit notes I didn't even know existed!!!)

The Arcada stage looked incredible Tuesday night - opened up to its fullest view with a beautiful backdrop that lit of the mood of every song Boz performed.  His 90 minute set included a three song encore that concluded with a KILLER version of Chuck Berry's "You Never Can Tell (C'est La Vie)" that brought the house to its feet, with folks in every aisle twistin' the night away, Pulp Fiction style.

We spent a moment backstage before the concert began and the last thing he said before I went to go out and take my seat was "I hope you enjoy the show."

Boz ... I did ... and then some.  A GREAT night of music.  (kk)

 #1 - Olivia Newton-John   ( August / The Genesee Theatre)
If for no other reason than pure courage and commitment to her fans, I’d have to rank Olivia Newton-John’s show at The Genesee Theatre this past ___ (after a three month postponement when her breast cancer returned) as a worthy candidate for our Forgotten Hits Show Of The Year.

But there’s so much more to it than that …

She just took charge of the stage and gave a command performance as good as any I’ve ever seen, basically spitting in the eye of ANY ailment that might have prevented her from doing otherwise and putting the fans ahead of any and all distractions she may have been feeling to put on the show of the year, taking the audience along with her on an incredible journey through her incredible career.

Every phase of her career was showcased … from the early country hits like “Let Me Be There” to the “Grease” soundtrack tunes like “Hopelessly Devoted To You” and her two duets, “You’re The That I Want” and “Summer Nights” … to “Xanadu” hits like “Magic,” the title track and another duet, “Suddenly” … to her ‘80’s #1 Smash “Physical” (presented with an entirely new interpretation that I absolutely LOVED) to an “unplugged” acoustic segment that while somewhat out of character really raised the benchmark as to what this girl can do.

I said it that night in the audience … “It’s going to be tough for ANYBODY” to beat this performance as Show Of The Year” … she won it hands down and deserves every bit of this honor.

From our original review …

We caught the Olivia Newton-John concert on Friday Night at The Genesee Theatre.  This was her rescheduled show after a three month postponement due to the return of her breast cancer.  (Honestly, I was concerned that she should be out performing at all ... but it just goes to show what a trouper she is ... she is a very brave woman with a lot of faith in the healing process and her loyalty to her fans who brought tickets literally all over the country to see her is unmatched.) 

Her show at the Genesee was only the second one she's done since postponing those dates back in May ... and she was nothing short of brilliant.  She looked and sounded AMAZING ... and played a perfect 90 minute set packed with hits to a packed and enthusiastic and appreciative theater of fans.

She kicked things off with three hits from her film "Xanadu," starting with the #1 Hit "Magic" followed by the title track and then the duet she originally did with Cliff Richard, "Suddenly."

After "Deeper Than The Night," the entire group ensemble (which consisted of Mark Beckett on Drums, Dane Bryant, her Band Leader on Keyboards ... which included an absolutely huge grand piano, Marlen Landin Chapman on Background Vocals, Kerry Marx on Guitar, Matt McKenzie on Bass, Steve Nieves on Horn, Sax, Flute, Percussion, Background Vocals ... and, as Olivia pointed out, just about everything else and Steve Real y Vasquez, Background Vocals ... and Olivia's Male Duet Partner on hits like the aforementioned "Suddenly" and the still to come "You're The One That I Want") came forward, center stage, and did an "unplugged" set of some of the country material that first launched Olivia's career here in the States including "If You Love Me (Let Me Know)," "Don't Stop Believin'" (no, not the Journey song ... the one that Livvy released several years earlier that virtually never gets played anymore despite its very catchy chorus!), "Have You Never Been Mellow," "Please Mister Please" and "Let Me Be There" (which is essentially "If You Love Me (Let Me Know)" all over again.)  She hit some incredibly high notes during this little mini-set, proving that despite any medical setbacks she may be dealing with right now, she's still got her chops ... some of these had to be tough to hit 40 years ago when she was in her prime!)

To close the set, she did an amazing, acoustic "bossa-nova" version of "Physical," which was the biggest hit of her career.  This is a pretty bold move and a bit of a gamble for ANY artist ... but let me tell you, it worked PERFECTLY in this new arrangement and the crowd absolutely loved it.  (She should consider re-releasing this track ... it just might find a whole new audience in the process!  After all, we're all a bit older now ... and this sounded SMOOTH!!!  Plus, the lyrics that sounded so risque back in 1980 are pretty tame by today's radio standards!)

She talked a little bit about some of the alternative healing procedures and medicines she was exploring and then played a couple of tracks she had written that were designed to project a more pro-active state of consciousness that would do more to save and protect our planet environmentally ... these worked extremely well with the accompanying videos.

And then it was time for "Grease"!!!

Olivia brought the house down when she and her male duet partner, Steve Real (who also took the male lead in "Suddenly" earlier in the evening), sang "You're The One That I Want" ... the entire audience was up on its feet.  (Is there ANYBODY out there who hasn't seen "Grease" at least 20 or 30 or 50 times?!?!)  She next did the film's ballad "Hopelessly Devoted To You," which brought some members of the audience (male and female) to tears.  Next, she brought out Didi Conn, who starred with Olivia in the film as "Frenchie" nearly 40 years ago.  Didi had flown in from New York City ... and looked great in her Pink Ladies jacket.  Together they launched a full-on audience sing-along to "Summer Nights," easily the highlight of the evening.  EVERYBODY participated, again with the entire audience up on its feet, singing and clapping along.

She closed her show with "I Honestly Love You," a #1 Hit in 1974 ... and then returned for an encore of "Somewhere Over The Rainbow," accompanied only by her pianist / musical arranger Dane Bryant.

I've seen Olivia in concert before and I can honestly say I've never heard her better ... a remarkable achievement in light of all she's been going through these past few months.

As I write this, today is August 26th ... and let me tell you ... it is going to be next to impossible to top this show as our Concert Of The Year ... this was just an OUTSTANDING evening of entertainment.  Olivia Newton-John ... we honestly love you.  (kk)

Another GREAT season of some GREAT shows gracing the stages here in Chicagoland (and 2018 looks just as promising with SO many great acts already booked to hit our fine city in the months to come.)

Headed to The Arcada Theatre over the next six months we’ve got:

January 21st – The Buckinghams with Denny Seraphine (original founding member of Chicago) and special guest Bill Champlain – playing an evening of Chicagoland favorites

February 9th – The Fab Four – one of the ultimate Beatles tribute bands, performing on the 54th Anniversary of the night that The Beatles made their first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show (we’ve got tickets to give away to this one!)

Sunday, February 11th – The Grass Roots, Gary Puckett and the Union Gap and The Cowsills … ALL great entertainers and providers of ‘60’s music classics

February 23rd – Mickey Thomas and Starship

March 3rd - The BoDeans

Uriah Heep on March 11th

Foghat with Savoy Brown on March 16th

Frankie Avalon – March 18th

March 31st – Sweet

Michael Bolton – April 4th

April 8th – Ann Wilson of Heart

April 15th – Lou Christie with Bobby Rydell

April 28th - Mark Farner (founder of Grand Funk Railroad)

April 29th – The Cornerstones Of Rock (featuring The Buckinghams, The Cryan’ Shames, The New Colony Six, The Shadows of Knight and The Ides Of March)

May 3rd – Gene Simmons of Kiss

May 4th – Chuck Negron with The Box Tops

May 5th – Engelbert Humperdinck

May 6th – Dweezil Zappa

May 11th – Josh Turner

May 13th – Peter Noone and Herman’s Hermits

June 8th - .38 Special

The Genesee Theatre has:

The O’Jays appearing on Thursday, January 25th,

Followed by Richard Marx (with special guest John Waite) on Friday, January 26th

On Friday, February 2nd, Priscilla Presley brings her “Elvis And Me” Q&A Show to The Genesee (I wonder who’ll be seated up there with her asking the questions??!?!)

February 10th it’s Dennis DeYoung, performing the hits of Styx (including the complete “Grand Illusion” LP in its entirety

February 15th – the ALWAYS entertaining Peter Noone and Herman’s Hermits

March 4th – The Million Dollar Quartet (always a good show)

March 22nd – Boys II Men

April 13th – Daughtry

April 14th – Jay Leno

April 19th – Dave Davies of The Kinks (with The Smithereens)

Taking the stage at The City Winery we’ve got:

Judy Collins – Sunday, February 4th

J.D. Souther – February 11th

Sergio Mendes – February 25th

A.J. Croce – March 7th (Jim Croce’s son)

Howard Jones – March 8th

Los Lonely Boys – March 17th and 18th

The Zombies – March 19th and 20th

Stanley Clarke – March 21st

Christopher Cross – March 31st

Remember … new dates are being added all the time …

So be sure to check out each theater’s online box office for the latest information …