More Rock & Roll Acts to See than Money to Spend?

Like most rock & roll fans, I find there are many more shows than I can possibly see. And while nothing can replace the real deal, listening to a cover band can be a lot of fun as well. Following are four such bands I saw over the summer and greatly enjoyed – and all of it for free!

Advertisements

In addition to seeing “real” rock & roll shows, I enjoy going to free summer outdoor concerts, especially when they feature cover bands of my favorite rock & roll stars. While there are many such bands and not all are created equal, some of them do a fantastic job and come pretty darn close to the real thing.

Many moons ago, I played in a band myself, and part of what we did was covers. And while I’m not trying to say we were as good as some of the bands I’m going to talk about, I think I can appreciate the effort that goes into faithfully covering your rock & roll heroes.

Following are four cover bands I greatly enjoyed seeing this summer. Each represents great musicianship and a passion for detail to bring the music of rock & roll legends to fans and help keeping it alive. While I got to see them for free, their shows typically require tickets. Just like for any endorsements in previous posts, I have neither received any compensation for reviewing these bands, nor do I look for any such payments.

The Glimmer Twins

The Glimmer Twins are a Rolling Stones tribute band hailing from Philly, PA. Their name is the nickname Mick Jagger and Keith Richards adopted for their song writing partnership in the late 60s. While unfortunately I missed more than half of their free show in Wildwood Crest, NJ at the end of July, the remainder I saw was worth every minute and the significant amount of time I spent driving there from Central Jersey. Essentially, the band performs the Stones’ greatest hits but there is more to it.

Lead singer Keith Call and guitarist Bernie Bollendorf act like Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, respectively. Keith does a great job imitating Jagger’s moves, his British accent and making the kinds of on-stage comments you’d expect hearing during a Rolling Stones show – it’s kind of hilarious! Bernie, apart from nicely capturing Richards’ guitar parts, adds to Keith’s act by sticking cigarettes in his mouth while playing, just like Richards! And while the remaining members of the band – Mike Rubino (guitar), Chris Bollendorf (drums), Rob Eckstedt (bass), Valorie Steel (vocals) and Bobby Michaels (sax-flute) – don’t look like the Stones and their tour musicians, they do a nice job capturing the sound of the “Greatest Rock & Roll Band in the World.”

The Glimmer Twins have a very active touring schedule that in addition to New Jersey includes various other states, mostly on the East Coast. Some of their upcoming gigs include Leesburg, VA (Oct. 1), Dubois, PA (Oct. 2), Wilmington, DE (Oct. 7 & 8) and Atlantic City (Oct. 14). For more information, see the band’s tour schedule on their home page or visit their Facebook page.

EagleMania

As their name indicates, EagleMania covers the songs of The Eagles. I was able to catch one of their free concerts at Etra Park in Hightstown, NJ in late July. Between their amazing vocal harmonizing and their instrumental arrangements, doing justice to the great music of The Eagles is not an easy task, but these six veteran musicians do a beautiful job.

The band’s slogan, “The World’s Greatest Tribute Band,” reflects their ambition to faithfully capture the sound of the The Eagles note by note. In addition to performing classics like The Long Run, Take It Easy, Desperado and of course Hotel California, the band also covers solo work from Don Henley, Glenn Frey and Joe Walsh, such as Boys of Summer, Party Town and Life is Good.

The band includes Frankie Reno (keyboards & vocals), Joe Gaechter (guitar & vocals), Ken Darcey (guitar & vocals), Steve French (lead vocals), Jon Weiswasser (drums) and Kevin Hummel (bass). They all have played music for many years and some have worked with pretty big names, for example Gaechter with Roger Daltrey and Jack Bruce, and Reno with Marshall Tucker and Ace Frehley.

EagleMania has upcoming gigs in Atlantic City, NJ (Sep 24), Rochester, NJ (Oct 1), Port Washington, NJ (Oct 7) and Groton, CT (Oct 14). For more information, visit their homepage and Facebook page.

Danny V’s 52nd Street Band

Established in New Jersey in 1994, Danny V’s 52nd Street Band is the “world’s longest running tribute to Billy Joel,” according to their web site. I saw them at Waterfront Park in Carteret, NJ at the end of August, which is a nice intimate outdoor venue right by the water.

Listening to Dan Vechesky (Danny V) and his seven-member band comes very close to listening to the piano man himself, which I had the pleasure to do in 2002 at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Vechesky’s way to play the piano and his singing are strikingly similar to Billy Joel. It is obvious he has listened to Joel for a long time and taken great care to learn his songs note by note.

In fact, Vechesky even had a chance to the meet the man in May 1974 while working with the stage crew at a Billy Joel concert. It would take another 20 years before he gathered talented musicians from the New York Metropolitan area to form the 52nd Street Band, named after Joel’s 1978 album.

Appropriately, the band’s performance includes various songs from that Grammy winning album, such as Big Shot, Honesty and My Life. They also pretty much play all the other songs Joel includes in his concerts like She’s Got a Way, Captain Jack, The Entertainer, New York State of Mind, You May Be Right, Pressure and of course Piano Man, to name some.

The 52nd Street Band includes Ed Kuri (guitar, vocals), Troy Rusnack (bass), Keith Droz (drums, vocals), Matt O’Connor (horns, acoustic guitar, vocals), Greg Grispart (horns), Mike LaBuono (keyboards, vocals) and Joe Ferrante (keyboards, vocals). These musicians do a fantastic job backing up Vechesky with great attention to detail, just like Danny.

The band had a pretty busy touring summer (July and August) and as of September appears to have slowed down. The only current upcoming show listed on their web site is in Bordentown, NJ (Oct 15). Visit their web site and Facebook page for more information.

The Blues Brotherhood

The Blues Brotherhood from Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley are a tribute band to The Blues Brothers. I saw them in mid-August as part of Musikfest at SteelStacks in Bethlehem, PA, a pretty cool venue at what used to be the home plant of steel giant Bethlehem Steel. These guys are pretty amazing both musically and in terms of their visual presentation.

From the first note to the last tune it is as if Jake Blues and Elliot Blues have come back from the past. The two guys who are performing John Belushi’s and Dan Aykroyd’s parts – Paul Miller and Aaron Hetrick – look and move like Jake and Elliott, and their singing is pretty good, too. They even enact the part of the 1980 movie where they perform at the Palace Hotel Ballroom north of Chicago, greeting the law enforcement officers in the audience – simply hilarious!

The band does an outstanding job backing up Miller and Hetrick and playing classics like She Caught the Katy, Gimme Some Lovin, Everybody Needs Somebody to Love, Sweet Home Chicago and, not to forget, Soul Man. Apparently, they sometimes play with two of The Blues Brothers’ original members, Tom “Bones” Malone (trombone, saxophone) and Alan “Mr. Fabulous” Rubin (trumpet, percussion, backing vocals). Other members of The Blues Brotherhood include Steve “Stevie B” Bridges (saxophone), Barry “The Beast” Schultz (trumpet), Dustin “Credible” Hartman (trombone), Rob Bell (guitar), Ty Hooker-Haring (bass), Bob “B.T.” Thomas (keyboards/piano) and Willie “Too Big” Rose (drums).

According to band’s web site, their tour schedule is currently being updated. You can also check them out on their Facebook page.

 

 

What I’ve been listening to: The Beatles Live at the Hollywood Bowl

For people who know me or have read the blog, it should not come as a big surprise that I would choose the newly released live album by The Beatles. I started listening to The Fab Four almost 40 years ago and never stopped.

Yesterday, the widely anticipated remixed, remastered and expanded version of The Beatles’ live album was released. Live at the Hollywood, which originally appeared in 1977 on vinyl and was titled The Beatles at the Hollywood Bowl, captures episodes of rock & roll history that happened more than 50 years ago. It’s simply a must-have for every Beatles fan, especially folks like me who never got a chance to actually see The Beatles in concert.

The album includes material from three shows The Beatles did at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles, on August 23, 1964 and August 29 & 30, 1965.

Producing a professional record from these performances was no easy feat. The task to produce the initial record from 1977 was given to none other than George Martin, The Beatles’ former producer. His first challenge was to find a working machine that could play back the three-track concert tapes. Once Martin did, he noticed the tape deck overheated while running, threatening to destroy the concert tapes! In addition, the sound quality of the tapes was pretty poor.

Together with recording engineer with Geoff Emerick, Martin came up with the solution to cool the machine with blowing cold air from a vacuum cleaner while transferring the material to a 16-track machine – literally a pretty cool idea! Working with a 16-track machine allowed for filtering, equalizing, editing and mixing the music. I have the original vinyl album from 1977, and I must say the result of Martin’s and Emerick’s work is beautiful. It’s also another impetus to get a turntable, which I currently don’t have!

The remixed and enhanced version of the album was produced by Giles Martin, George Martin’s son who previously collaborated with his now deceased father on the soundtrack for Love, the Cirque du Soleil production based on the music by The Beatles. Following is what he said about the latest production, according to thebeatleseightdaysaweek.com, the companion web site for the forthcoming Beatles film documentary “Eight Days a Week: The Touring Years” by Ron Howard:

“A few years ago, Capitol Studios called, saying they’d discovered some Hollywood Bowl three-track tapes in their archive. We transferred them and noticed an improvement over the tapes we’ve kept in the London archive. Alongside this I’d been working for some time with a team headed by technical engineer James Clark on demix technology, the ability to remove and separate sounds from a single track. With Sam Okell, I started work on remixing the Hollywood tapes. Technology has moved on since my father worked on the material all those years ago. Now there’s improved clarity, and so the immediacy and visceral excitement can be heard like never before.”

So how about the actual music? It is a mix of songs from The Beatles’ first five studio albums Please Please Me (1963), With the Beatles (1963), A Hard Day’s Night (1964), Beatles for Sale (1964) and Help! (1965). The album includes many hits from these albums, such as A Hard Day’s Night, Help!, She Loves You and Can’t Buy Me Love. The new version also features four previously unreleased songs: I Want to Hold Your Hand, Everybody’s Trying to Be My Baby, Baby’s in Black and my favorite of these additional tracks, You Can’t Do That.

While I love The Beatles’ original songs, I have to say I’ve always been particularly fond of their covers of rock & roll songs. A number of these gems are on this live album, including the fantastic stage-setting opener Twist and Shout, Dizzy, Miss Lizzy, Boys, Long Tall Sally and the Chuck Berry classic, Roll Over Beethoven.

I think the best way to finish this post is to take a look at what the great George Martin said in the liner notes to the 1977 original album. Following are some excerpts:

“I was not in favor for taping their performance. I knew the quality of the recording could not equal what we could do in the studio, we but thought we would try anyhow…”

“The chaos, I might almost say panic, that reigned at these concerts was unbelievable unless you were there…The Beatles had no “fold back” speakers, so they could not hear what they were singing, and the eternal shriek from 17,000 healthy, young lungs made even a jet plane inaudible…”

“The fact that [the tapes] were the only live recordings of the Beatles in existence (if you discount inferior bootlegs) did not impress me. What did impress me, however, was the electric atmosphere and raw energy that came over…”

“Those of us who were lucky enough to be present at a live Beatle concert – be it in Liverpool, London, New York, Washington, Los Angeles, Sydney or wherever – will know how amazing, how unique those performances were…And for the others who wondered what on earth all the fuzz was about, this album may give a little clue…” 

Well said, George!