The idea for this tour was hatched back in 1984 by Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan, two of the original members of the sixties band, The Turtles. They are better known now as Flo (shortened from the Phlorescent Leech for Volman) and Eddie (Kaylan) who achieved huge fame as a comedic musical duo. They felt that they could get iconic acts together from the sixties era and could tour together. To streamline things, avoiding all the time for each individual band to set up every time the next band came up, they decided to have a basic backing group of musicians and just the principal members of the bands would switch. It worked seamlessly and the show moved briskly along. As one band finished, walking off stage, the next was walking onstage, with the one or two key members and perhaps an additional musician, but the backing band remained pretty much the same. As Flo said during their set, “By doing the concert this way we can have you out of here before 11 o’clock!” And he was right.
I was very eager to see this concert as the bands that were playing really were the soundtrack of my life from the sixties, the Buckinghams, the Grass Roots, Gary Puckett, Mickey Dolenz (of the Monkees), and the Turtles. Despite my advancing age, I was probably younger than many in attendance, but it was a very spirited and enthusiastic crowd. They were out to have a good time, get nostalgic, and be entertained. Judging from the audience response all night long, the concert definitely was successful in that regard.
The Buckinghams opened and two of the original founding members performed, Carl Giammarese on vocals and Nick Fortuna on bass / backing vocals. They began with their big hit, Don’t You Care, and after the song thanked the audience for “helping make this one of our big hits.” They followed with the 1965 hit, Hey Baby (They’re Playing Our Song).
In an amusing segment of their show Giammarese talked about how in the summer of love, 1967, they were doing a Soundstage show. When they came on stage they saw that it was decorated with British flags. Because of their name they thought they were a British band! They showed video of the performance on the screen behind the stage and sure enough, it was true. They yelled out, “We’re Italians from the West Side of Chicago! Where’s the sausage and peppers?” They then went into Mercy, Mercy.
Giammarese then went on to introduce “our most recent top 10 single record, from 1968.” There was snickering from the audience. Kiddingly, he then said, “Alright, anyone who has had a top ten hit stand up!” Obviously, no one did. He then mentioned that this song originally debuted on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1968, Susan. He encouraged the audience to since along during the part, “I love you, yes I do, I do” which they did and he was holding the microphone to various members of the crowd who were singing their hearts out.
Nick Fortuna then said, “It’s my turn.” He dedicated the song to his fans and performed a cover of the hit by the Outsiders, Time Won’t Let Me. The crowd was also into this song, clapping and singing.
Giammarese then said, “We are going to leave you with the song that was a number one hit and knocked the Monkees off the number one spot, Kind of a Drag. It was a great version which led to a rousing standing ovation.
The Buckinghams sounded wonderful and Giamaresse did not seem to have lost anything from his voice. I was pretty impressed with the backing band, because as though there were no horns, and horns were a big part of the Buckinghams sound, you could not distinguish the keyboards from actual horns so they sounded fine.
Up next were the Grass Roots. Definitely mixed emotions here. I have to say they sounded great, just like the originals, but herein lies the problem. Rob Grill, the original lead singer had died in 2011, Dusty Hanvey, who played lead guitar, joined the band in 1984 (after their onslaught of hits) and Mark Dawson (a Chicagoarea native), who played bass and sang lead, was pretty young, so it really was not the original band, just a fine cover band. There is a large catalog of Grass Roots hits to select from and they picked some winners. They opened with Wait a Million Years, followed by Sooner or Later.
Then there was a bit of a surprise and definitely one of the highlights of the night. Dusty Hanvey introduced the next selection by saying, “The next song is for all you brave veterans out there and around the world. This is especially for theVietnam veterans, the only vets who came home without a heroes welcome. There is always a cost to freedom.” They then went into the Stephen Stills classic, “Find the Cost of Freedom.” It was beautifully sung. The audience was enraptured and erupted in a huge ovation at the completion of the song.
The ensuing song was Live for Today. When they got to the chorus, they encouraged the audience to chime in, “Help me count it out now, one, two, three, four, sha-la-la-la-la-la-la, live for today!” Dusty Hanvey then launched into an energetic guitar solo which was well-received by the crowd. The audience responded with a standing ovation. He then stated, “I wish this night would never end. Look around-see all the smiling faces all around. It must be the music!” And he was right.
The closing songs for their set were Temptation Eyes and Midnight Confessions, which was greeted by cheers when it began. The audience really got into this set and were singing on nearly every song. The band garnered another standing ovation and as they were walking offstage, Dusty said, “There ain’t no party like aWaukegan,Illinois party!”
The Grass Roots did give an outstanding, energized performance and the audience loved it. The lead singer did an admirable job and really did sound like the original vocalist. They were not original members, they carried the name, but they were different. But as I sat there the reality was sinking in to me….yes, we were reliving the sixties and all those wonderful memories the songs elicited, but things have changed. These guys have gotten older, many have died, and these bands are just not quite the same. I hated to be so morose, but I was staring reality right in the eyes.
I was hoping to break out of my mental funk, especially when I knew Gary Puckett was coming up next. His voice never ceased to amaze me, his soaring vocals were something to behold, and I used to sing along to his music, badly, but I did sing my heart out. It always used to amaze me as the songs that he sang were about sordid subjects (Young Girl, Don’t Give In to Him, Lady Willpower, etc) but the way he sang them they were like a religious experience!
He came onstage and he looked terrific, fit and energetic. He opened with Lady Willpower and although he sounded “pretty good” he had lost his range. In fact, the more he sang, I was visualizing him as a lounge singer. Instead of holding the notes like he used to, he would go into a vibrato, which became a bit annoying. The more he was singing, the more my heart was breaking. The good news was that he was the consummate showman. He was trying to engage the audience, which he successfully did. He was very demonstrative when he was singing and really seemed to enjoy performing. The audience sang right along with him.
He followed with Over You, Don’t Give in to Him, This Girl is a Woman Now, and Woman, Woman. He mentioned that “You can hear the road in my voice tonight.” Probably trying to explain why he was not in such good voice this night and he realized it.
He then asked to have the houselights turned up. He also asked to have the spotlight taken off him, as he could not see the audience (and that spotlight was very bright so I know what he was talking about.) When it was turned off, he said, “Great, now I can see you now. If you are a veteran please stand up.” Several veterans were in attendance and did stand up. There was a fine round of applause. He continued with, “What I want to say to each and every one of you is that we should walk up to each of you and thank you. Because of you vets, it is why freedom lives. I want to honor you vets with this song.” He then proceeded to perform Home, a song about soldiers and their longing to return home. A very emotional song, an emotional moment and another highlight of the evening. Following a nice ovation he said that the veterans should visit his website, garypuckett.com and “click on an area for veterans, as there are benefits there for you that you need and deserve.”
He closed with Young Girl and the crowd was really into this song. He said, “Let’s sing this together!” In fact, Gary Puckett kept holding the microphone over the crowd as they were singing enthusiastically. He received a standing ovation as he walked offstage.
Sadly, mixed emotions again. I wanted to really love his performance, but his voice, his trademark, was not there tonight. He tried his best, really was trying to entertain and the audience responded, but the mental image of a lounge singer, a parody of himself just never left me.
After a short intermission, Mickey Dolenz came on stage. Well actually, he ran onstage. He was in black, wearing a hat, sunglasses, sneakers, and carrying a tambourine. He led off with I’m Not You Stepping Stone. Following the previous disappointment, I was so happy to see that Mickey Dolenz still had it. His voice sounded just fine, he was moving all over the stage, posing, mugging, gesturing, full of energy….like he was teleported from the sixties to right now. He was just like I remembered him. He continued with That Was Then, This Is Now, and She.
He then talked about the great stable of songwriters for the Monkees (and it was an impressive group), Neil Diamond, Neil Sedaka, Neil Armstrong (kiddingly he said he wrote “Blue Moon”), Carole King, David Gates, Carol Bayer Sager, and Boyce and Hart. He said Boyce and Hart produced the early records and were responsible for the Monkee’s sound. He said, “This is the one that started it all.” He then dove into Last Train for Clarksville. The audience all stood and began singing and dancing. They just loved him and his performance.
I was wondering if he was going to address the death of Davy Jones and he did. He talked about his passing and continued with, “it was quite a shock, he was a great guy, like a sibling, a brother to me. I would like to dedicate the next couple of songs to the late great Davy Jones.” He then sang two of Davy Jones’ hits, Daydream Believer and A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You. During these songs they projected images of Davy Jones with the Monkees on the video screen behind the stage. He sounded especially good singing these songs and the audience gave him a standing ovation.
He then said that he had released on album, “King for a Day,” which was a tribute to Carole King. He then performed a song from that album, Pleasant Valley Sunday.
Then in what was a very amusing moment he asked if there were any kids in the audience. Well, not many as this was an older crowd. He said, “I want all you little kids out there, if there are any, to know I sang this song before Shrek did!” Referencing the fact that at the end of the movie Shrek, the characters all sing the song, I’m a Believer. He gave a rousing rendition, dancing all over the place, and it was like he never had aged. He was rewarded with a standing ovation, saying as he walked off stage, “Thank you,Waukegan!”
Mickey Dolenz gave the best performance of the night in my opinion. He was enthused, hyperkinetic, just like he was and obviously still is. He looked like he could walk right on to the set of the Monkees TV show from the sixties and not miss a beat. Great job.
The closing act was the other act I was eager to see. I had seen Flo and Eddie at Oakbrook Terrace Days over twentysomething years ago. They were humorous, but Eddie’s vocals just weren’t there. I had seen some youtube videos of them performing recently and he did not sound too bad.
As they are almost more into comedy than music, I did not know what to expect. Well, they did not disappoint as they came out in capes, dancing to Lady Gaga music. They were wearing wigs and the music almost seemed to morph into Israeli folk dancing. They then said, “What have they done to our music, man! It never used to sound like that. It used to sound like this” They then flowed right into She’d Rather Be with Me. Flo was dancing and beating on a cowbell. Eddie’s vocals were pretty good, but it seemed like they had sped up the tempo of the song. After the song, Flo was bouncing his drumsticks off the floor and trying to catch them….he finally succeeded after the third try.
They then went into an up tempo You Baby. During this song Flo was flipping tambourines around, he put one on his head like a crown and was dancing around and mugging for the crowd.
Eddie said, “we’re old, we’re in our sixties. We are dying before your eyes. It’s good to be here, actually at our age, it’s good to be anywhere when you’re sixty five.” They then (I believe kiddingly) told the audience that they were recording the next song so they wanted them to cheer loudly at the start, pretend we’re somebody you like and sing along. They introduced their cover of a Bob Dylan tune, It Ain’t Me Babe. They encouraged the crowd to sing along with the part “No, No, No” which they did the entire song. Flo was mugging around like crazy. He was encouraging loud cheering at the end of the song and then said, “OK, shut up, we got it.”
The band was then introduced. Flo then said he was going to do a song he wrote and it was a crazy bastardization of Doors lyrics. They then introduced the next song by saying that in 1969 they were surprised it was such a big hit, arranged by Sammy Cahn and Nelson Riddle (another joke), You Showed Me. Following that they yelled ZAPPA! and went into some crazed Frank Zappa music. (They had both been part of his band)
The next song was their big hit, Eleanor, which received a nice ovation. Eddie then said, “If you can stay near your seats for two minutes and forty eight seconds you will see something you’ve never seen.” He began singing Happy Together and the audience was standing, singing and dancing, enthusiastically singing along with the “Baa Baas” in the song. Flo yelled out, “It sounds like a Justin Bieber concert!” Eddie then began counting out, 45, 46, 47,48! and they began the finale.
The finale consisted of each band reprising their one of their big hits and remained on stage until all performers were present. The Buckinghams performed Kind of a Drag, the Grass Roots Midnight Confessions, Gary Puckett Young Girl, Eddie then led out Mickey Dolenz by the arm who was stooped over acting like an old man who then sang I’m a Believer, and then Flo and Eddie led everyone in Happy Together.
All in all, it was an entertaining evening and the crowd walked away happy. Sadly, one of my favorites, Gary Puckett, had an off night vocally, but he tried mightily to be entertaining. The Buckinghams were solid. The Grass Roots, though not the originals, did an admirable job recreating the classic hits. Mickey Dolenz was hands down the best of the evening. Flo and Eddie were definitely fun, but it almost seemed like the music was taking a back seat to the comedy. As I left the concert, I was nostalgic, in the true meaning of the word. Nostalgia comes from the Greek word meaning “return home” and it denotes “sentimental yearning.” I did have sentimental yearning for those days, but had the realization that you can never go home again. But for those magic moments in this concert when everything was working, I was back in that time once again.
Reviewed by Peter S. Sakas on 8/4/12