Archive for January, 2013

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Rick Springfield And Feeling 18 Again

January 29, 2013

RickSpringfieldThere was a lesson in the uncomfortable to see yet impossible to avoid display of affection. A man and woman, appearing to be around 40 years old, standing in the theatre, kissing passionately in each other’s arms, their bodies in a continuous slow sway no matter the music’s tempo.

About 20 rows away, Rick Springfield, the Grammy Award winning icon of 80s pop was on stage…bouncing, strumming, and despite a cold that left him hoarse and congested, apologetically soldiering through his greatest hits including “I Get Excited,” “Don’t Talk To Strangers” and the much loved and karaoke favorite,  “Jesse’s Girl.”

Around 700 of Springfield’s most loyal fans had poured into the Count Basie Theatre in Red Bank, New Jersey. Many of them had seen him the night before in Atlantic City, and some the night before that in Hershey, Pennsylvania. His following is legendary in its devotion and is the subject of the 2012 documentary, “Affair of the Heart.”

The fans on this night, perhaps 70 percent of them women, came carrying handwritten signs to draw the star’s attention, others wore t-shirts embroidered with his picture,  and there were bouquets of roses. Lots of bouquets. It’s a trademark of Springfield’s concerts for him to windmill his guitar with a bouquet sending rose petals descending across the stage.

He teased the audience about giving them his cold as he sang his way into the crowd crossing over theatre seats, where an occasional fan couldn’t hold herself back… hands could be seen caressing his legs or reaching for his chest.

Mind you, Springfield is  63 years old. Similar in age to many of the women seeking their true “Human Touch” moment, 20 years or more older than others who were singing along and shouting his name.

Which brings me back to the couple enjoying their own human touch. Sometimes a concert experience is about the emotions that the music evokes, the memories that it brings back or the feelings the audience has for the artist, even more than the music itself.

Springfield’s music transports people over 30 years of their lives, going back his breakout “Working Class Dog” album  in 1981.  His songs for most of these fans are surely touchstones remembered from life’s big events…proms, graduation parties, weddings. Or the simple pleasures of adolescence… riding (and singing) in the car with friends or nights out in dance clubs in the 80s. Before the kids. Before the grandkids.

I looked at this couple (briefly, as one had to look away) as if they were reliving the high school dance…the music the conduit for their connection. I don’t know if they have been together for years or if this was their first date. And it doesn’t really matter when”Love Somebody” makes you feel 18 again.

PHOTOGRAPH: Rick Springfield at Count Basie Theatre January 27, 2013, courtesy of Heather Cunningham.

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Rockin’ Till The Light Of Day: A Review

January 20, 2013
Darlene Love Performs at Light Of Day, 2013

Darlene Love Performs at Light Of Day, 2013

It’s called the Light Of Day and one wonders if daybreak may come before the last act exits the stage at the Paramount Theatre in Asbury Park.

The annual concert organized by the Light Of Day Foundation to benefit Parkinson’s Disease research has grown into a full fledged city wide music festival in the 13 years since its modest start as a birthday party for Parkinson’s patient and music industry insider, Bob Benjamin.

This year’s main stage shows at the Paramount featuring a multitude of rock acts stretched into a more than seven hour music marathon on Saturday night.

The show had sold  out in less than an hour without any of the talent being announced, largely on speculation that Bruce Springsteen would once again close the show as a surprise guest as he had nine of the previous twelve years.

But the Boss did not show this year, giving fans the heads up on his website the day before that he would “be away with family.”  But there was plenty to satisfy a wide range of musical tastes with performances by some of New Jersey’s favorite musicians.

Stand-out sets included  Garland Jeffreys with an impressive cover of “96 Tears” and his rousing closer, “Hail Hail Rock ‘n Roll.”  An on-fire Willie Nile kicked down the doors with his powerhouse “One Guitar” and despite technical difficulties John Easdale and  Dramarama soldiered through one of the most beautifully sung and emotionally delivered short sets of the evening.

But the star status, with Springsteen not on hand, went to headliner Darlene Love. The Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame member took the stage for a nearly 45 minute set backed by a seven piece band and three singers.

Love proved that not only does she possess one of the richest voices in Rock ‘n Roll, she has one of the tightest bodies… poured into a form fitting gleaming black leotard the audience not only heard her thunderous voice, she left no doubt where it was coming from.

Love, who Springsteen once called a “one woman wall of sound”  kicked off her set with the Phil Spector-produced 1960s classics  about young love “A Fine Fine Boy,” “Wait Till My Bobby Gets Home” and the crowd pleasing, much covered “Da Doo Ron Ron.”

Phil Spector records are featured heavily in Love’s concerts. In a 2010 interview for my program “ON THE SCENE,” on News 12 New Jersey (watch this interview on the Credits page of  johnbathke.com) Love told me that without the work she did with Spector, she believes that she would not have been inducted into the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame. She was under contract to Spector for much of the 1960s, recording lead and  backing vocals on countless records. Most famously, Love’s voice was the lead vocal on the number one 1962 hit, “He’s A Rebel.” But Spector released the song under the name of his more popular girl group “The Crystals” and Love went uncredited for years. This led to lawsuits that Love filed against Spector to obtain credit and compensation.

A tender medley of Marvin Gaye hits including “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” and “What’s Going On,” also a staple in Love’s performances, was well placed in the center of her set before Love returned to Spector-produced material including the improbable but catchy rock ‘n roll version of “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah.”

Love finished with “River Deep-Mountain High,” a record that she had asked Spector to let her record. Instead, he chose Tina Turner for the 1966 recording and Love was relegated to singing back-up, an experience she recalled as “miserable”  in her 1998 memoir, “My Name Is Love.” The session dragged on for hours in a sweltering studio, she said, as Spector demanded that Turner sing the song dozens of times until her voice had the hoarse and weary quality that he wanted. Love said she thought the finished product sounded like “crap” and, in fact, “River Deep-Mountain High” was so poorly received at the time that Spector went into seclusion for years afterward. But the song has become a rock ‘n roll standard and Turner seldom performed a show without it, right through her 50th anniversary tour in 2008-2009. Aside from Turner, Love is now the premiere interpreter of the song that she so badly wanted for her own more 45 years ago.

Love’s performance, as with night’s others, lacked meticulous acoustics which is the most common problem in these multi-act concerts where the stage must be quickly reset between performers without sound checks. But the night was first and foremost for a cause and the Light Of Day Foundation expected to raise 300 thousand dollars.

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Most Viewed of 2012: Randy Harrison; Lewis Black; Jim Norton

January 1, 2013

So before we venture one more day into this new year of 2013, let me say that several interviews that we aired in  “ON THE SCENE” in 2012 got people watching and talking above all others.

My interview Randy Harrison, the actor who starred as “Justin Taylor” on the Showtime series “Queer As Folk”  is the most viewed of my Youtube videos of the past year.  I interviewed Harrison at George Street Playhouse in New Brunswick, New Jersey last February when he was appearing in the play, “Red.” He has an international fan base, particularly in Europe. I discovered this when I noticed  the inordinately high number of views to my blog from foreign countries. I heard from a number of fans eager to know how they could see the interview. Two interviews, in fact, about his performance in “Red” and another about his work on “Queer As Folk” are on Youtube.

My interview with comedian Jim Norton was perhaps my favorite of the year. He’s funny in the interview but what I look for most in an interview with a comedian is whether they reveal something of themselves not for laughs. We cover a lot of territory in the interview including career struggles, dating, life disappointments and triumphs.

And Lewis Black. I interviewed him at George Street Playhouse, also, and he was more than generous with his time and thoughts. A play written by Black, “One Slight Hitch” was getting a run there. He took it out of the drawer after many years, it’s about his breakup with a girlfriend nearly 30 years ago. Viewers weren’t used to seeing Black talk about the playwright side of his career and it was an interesting departure. It, too, can be viewed on Youtube.

MUCH more to come in 2013!