Review by Danny Coleman
December 30, 2016 – Many bloggers, columnists, entertainment writers and journalists use their final columns of each year as a “Best Of” or a “Recap/Year In Review.” Well, rest assured this is not one of those.
This offering will be different, starting with Tiffany at the Wonder Bar in Asbury Park, NJ. Not only was the iconic 80’s pop star a straight shooter in an earlier preview/interview prior to the show but she was also very engaging both on and off stage as well. Tiffany thrilled the small yet vocal crowd which awaited her arrival (delayed by a tour bus malfunction) with a mixture of both old and new material, backing tracks and a trio of musicians who fit her style to perfection.
Now to see a show at the Wonder Bar is always an interesting event; made as such by the lack of seating and an odd bar configuration but on this night it didn’t matter as most attending were pushed up against the stage; something she seemed to relish.
Climbing the steps and onto the stage to a roar of approval from the denizens, most of whom instantly revisited the days of big hair, anklet socks and “Members Only” jackets; she flashed a large smile, followed by a wave and a hello. The one time shopping mall concert queen let it flow from the opening notes of “History,” to the closing notes of “I Think We’re Alone Now.”
Stopping often between offerings to tell a quick story and even poking fun at herself for “Loving to shop” and “Knowing a thing or two about shopping malls;” she had the charismatic touch which increases the comfort level between star and fan that very few possess.
Make no mistake, this is no longer the 14 year old girl who made her way with remakes and cute looks; this is a confident woman who has a powerful voice, much to say and puts on a surprisingly dynamic show featuring mostly her own material. This was definitely one of the best kept secrets and surprises of 2016.
Another would be the resurgence of classic rockers Foghat. With the release of “Under The Influence,” and a foray into their own wine; Roger Earl and the boys can still rock the house with the best of them.
Such was the case with the New York City release of the disc at BB Kings. Opening with their classic, “Fool For The City,” instantly bringing the capacity crowd to its collective feet; these blues rockers ripped off two hours of hit after hit.
Joining them on stage for several tunes were former Savoy Brown guitarist and Earl band mate Kim Simmonds, along with the very talented Scott Holt. Punctuated by an Earl drum solo in the middle; this 16 song set list rocked from start to finish. Several highlights included, “Upside of Lonely” off of the new disc, old standards “Sweet Home Chicago” and “I Just Want To Make Love To You” along with an encore of “Slow Ride” which turned 40 years old, yet still sounds as fresh as the day it was born and is included on the new album as a remix.
A third surprise was the return of Jon Anderson, Rick Wakeman and Trevor Rabin who are collectively known as ARW. These three Yes alumni still have gas left in their proverbial tanks and a recent show at The Count Basie Theatre in Red Bank, NJ showed just how much.
From the symphonic beginning and into “Cinema” and “Perpetual Change,” the music was vintage Yes; just without the entire cast. Although he’s slowed a bit, Anderson’s voice is still as potent and capable as it was during his former band’s hey day; none more evident than when they did, “I’ve Seen All Good People-Your Move.” Where if one closed their eyes, it was as if you could see them “In The Round” once again.
Wakeman, the master, was dressed simply in jeans and a tee shirt but adorned his trademark cape. The cape was present and its regal look evoked the days of yesteryear once again as he performed like the wizard of the keyboards; a well deserved title. Several exceptional solos served as reminders that age is truly just a number as Wakeman and Rabin ripped off lick after lick and along with top notch bassist Lee Pomeroy and drummer Lou Molino III transformed “The Basie” into a progressive rock party. Making it more festive was the fact that it was also Jon Anderson’s birthday; a fact not lost on Rabin as he led the crowd in a loud rendition of “Happy Birthday” as Anderson seemed overwhelmed by the outpouring of affection.
Playing their favorite selections from all eras of the Yes catalog, they picked songs from all of the configurations of the band; even allowing a tribute to the legendary Chris Squire as Pomeroy did a tremendous job on “The Fish.” A very nice use of the harp by Anderson really set the tone throughout for Rabin’s haunting guitar and Wakeman’s synthesizers during the classic “Awaken.”
“Owner Of A Lonely Heart,” was followed by an encore of the monster that is “Roundabout” and if the house wasn’t shaken before, it was now. The appreciative crowd sang both the vocal and musical parts back to the band and when done; they begged for more. Alas, it was not to be on this night, the approximate two and one half hour set was going to have to be enough as the five piece unit took a collective bow and walked off stage.
These three shows were the surprises of 2016 as what was old was new again. These acts proved that if the music lives within one’s self, then it shall live forever. “You’re never too old to rock ‘n’ roll,” is a quote that is rooted in those who choose to stay young at heart and dance to the music which makes up the soundtrack of their lives. We are all sound engineers and producers, able to create our own symphonies; so dance my friends and support live local music and musicians and the arts.
Thank you Joe and the entire Concert Blogger staff for allowing me to be part of your fine publication!
I wish all who read this a very happy, healthy and prosperous new year!
Danny Coleman (Danny Coleman is a veteran musician and writer from central New Jersey. He hosts a weekly radio program entitled “Rock On Radio” airing Sunday evenings at 10 p.m. EST on multiple internet radio outlets where he features indie/original bands and solo artists.)