Although it’s a chilly Saturday, Nov. 17, 2018 evening in Englewood, NJ, music lovers are lined up outside the Bergen Performing Arts Center waiting to hear classic songs of the ’60s as performed by two quintessential groups of the era — The Buckinghams and Herman’s Hermits starring Peter Noone!
Before the show begins, we make our way backstage at BergenPAC where we have an opportunity to chat with several members of The Buckinghams including drummer Rocky Penn.
States Penn — a member of The Buckinghams for the past nine years — “It’s really exciting to see the crowd and give them the songs the way they remember them — it’s a real thrill for me, and one I never take for granted,” before disclosing that two numbers which he most looks forward to performing each night are “I Go Crazy” and “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy.”
Next, we chat with one of Buckinghams’ founding members, bassist and vocalist, Nick Fortuna.
Says Fortuna, “I’ve been with The Buckinghams since the beginning — my whole life, it seems — since I was 19 years old. It’s a privilege playing for our fans every night! Without our audiences, where would we be? The audience has continued to love our songs for 50 years.”
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“I’ve always felt privileged to be a Buckingham,” adds Fortuna, “and now I get to front the band on some songs.” Explaining, “I was always behind the bass, and co-founder Carl Giammarese asked if I wanted to put down my instrument and take the lead,” Nick notes, “so I had to figure out what I was going to do.”
“I come from an R&B background, and I always liked songs like The Soul Survivor’s ‘Expressway to Your Heart’ and Van Morrison’s ‘Domino’ so I picked them,” continues Fortuna. “They both translate well with what we do and, now, both often get requested by the fans.”
Guitarist and vocalist Dave Zane comments, “I love performing The Buckinghams’ hits and watching the people enjoy them,” relating, “The back and forth between us and the audience is why I love doing this.”
Noting that the group’s cover version of The Beatles’ ‘This Boy’ is his favorite song to perform, Zane reveals, “We even met some fans at a restaurant earlier this evening and they requested it!”
Remarks Buckinghams’ founding member Carl Giammarese about Zane, “Dave has a special talent — he plays with a lot of authenticity, even though he was not an original member of our band.”
Adds Carl — who did start out as the band’s guitarist, and still plays guitar in addition to handling many of the lead vocals — “I never get tired of playing! It’s the response of the audience that gives you the energy.”
Acknowledging, “It’s still a thrill when I hear one of our songs on the radio,” Giammarese declares, “and I also enjoy talking to fans and hearing their stories! These songs have special meanings to so many people. They are part of the fabric of their lives.”
With regards to his own favorite Buckinghams’ songs, Carl discloses, “One of my favorites is ‘Mercy, Mercy, Mercy’ — it has an energy and a groove that’s different from our other songs.”
Recalling, “When we were recording our first album at Columbia, we heard Johnny Guitar Watson’s version of ‘Mercy, Mercy, Mercy’ — it was so soulful! We ended up using his arrangement, and when Columbia heard our recording, they wanted it to be the next single, so even though there have been different lyrics and different versions of that song, The Buckinghams ended up having the biggest hit with it!”
Realizing that it’s just a few moments before showtime, we make our way into the BergenPAC auditorium where a hush quickly comes over the audience as they watch The Buckinghams — Dave Zane, Nick Fortuna, Rocky Penn, and Carl Giammarese, along with keyboardist Bruce Soboroff — take the stage.
One can feel the anticipation as music lovers wait to hear the band’s feel-good music of the ‘60s. At the first sound of a guitar chord, a fan calls out “Wow!” as the Buckinghams open with their 1967 Top Ten hit, “Don’t You Care.” Lush harmonies surround Carl’s Giammarese’s lead vocal and the audience cheers and applauds for the band’s tight sound.
Fortuna’s bass rocks as the audience claps along to the group’s hit from the summer of 1967, “Hey Baby (They’re Playing Our Song).”
After announcing, “New Jersey! It’s great to be here!” Giammarese informs the crowd that, this summer, The Buckinghams will be a part of the 2019 edition of the Happy Together Tour with The Turtles, Three Dog Night’s Chuck Negron, Gary Puckett and The Union Gap, The Cowsills, and The Classics IV.
On The Buckinghams’ rendition of “I Go Crazy,” drummer Rocky Penn counts off and enjoys singing back-up harmonies with Carl and Nick as Dave Zane sings lead. After Carl takes a guitar solo, Dave responds with his own guitar solo, and the audience reacts with enthusiasm!
Nick handles the lead vocal on a rockin’ rendition of The Outsiders’ 1966 Top 5 hit, “Time Won’t Let Me,” as audience members sing along on the tune’s catchy hook.
After asking, “Are you all having a good time?” Giammarese and Co. perform a tribute to “some of the great music from the Happy Together Tour,” featuring a medley of tunes which includes Gary Puckett and The Union Gap’s “Young Girl,” The Grass Roots’ “Temptation Eyes” and “Midnight Confession,” Tommy James’ “I Think We’re Alone Now” and “Crystal Blue Persuasion,” and a lively rendition of The Turtles’ “Happy Together.” As The Buckinghams perform, audience members sing along — some even adding their own harmony lines — the music bringing these lovers of ’60s music back to a time of peace and love.
Following cheers and applause, The Bucks perform a song which Giammarese describes as the band’s “second biggest-selling hit,” which made its debut on TV’s The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour — a fun and funky version of their 1967 smash, “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy.” Penn’s drums drive the rhythm behind Giammarese’s and Fortuna’s soulful lead vocals. Audience members’ heads happily bop to the beat and they respond with sustained cheering and whistling at the end.
After Giammarese explains that the group’s next song debuted on The Ed Sullivan Show, Nick Fortuna impersonates Ed Sullivan, the easy banter between the two original colleagues reminding the audience of brothers.
After dedicating their next number to “all the Susans out there,” Giammarese comes down into the audience to sing a lovely rendition of 1967’s “Susan,” as an audience member can be heard commenting, “They sound great! They sound really great!”
Zane says, “It’s my turn,” as he trades microphones with Giammarese and takes center stage with Giammarese and Fortuna to sing lead on his favorite number, “This Boy.”
Accompanied by his expert guitar playing, the three voices provide a lush and heartfelt rendition of this classic Beatles’ number.
After introducing the audience to the members of the band, Giammarese announces, “We are so thrilled and blessed that we can still play our music for you! When I was interviewed in 1967, they asked me, ‘How long do you think you will do this?’ and I answered, ‘I hope a couple of years,’ before adding, “Now, it’s 53 years later, and we’re still doing it because of you!”
At this point, Giammarese introduces the band’s final song for the evening, recalling, “It knocked The Monkees’ ‘I’m A Believer’ off the #1 slot.” Launching into a riveting version of their 1966 #1 hit, “Kind of a Drag,” The Buckinghams leave this happy Jersey audience standing on its feet!
During intermission, we chat with several members of the audience who share their reactions to the show thus far.
First, we chat with Charlie and Debbie from Saddlebrook.
States Charlie, “The Buckinghams were fantastic! I remember them from when I was a young kid, and I was impressed with their vocals.” Acknowledging, “I actually came to hear Herman’s Hermits tonight, but what a surprise it was to hear The Buckinghams! I have a collection of over 5,000 record albums and the music doesn’t come across on those old records the same way as it does here — it’s even better live!”
Charlie’s wife, Debbie, agrees stating, “I was very impressed. Carl Giammarese has a tremendous voice. That’s real music The Buckinghams play — and what a great show they put on!”
Next, we chat with friends Stephanie and Joanne.
Says Stephanie from Virginia about The Buckinghams, “Dave Zane’s rendition of ‘This Boy’ is just amazing — I was in awe!”
Joanne from Montvale agrees before disclosing, “We happened to see Dave Zane in a restaurant earlier and we asked him if he would sing ‘This Boy’ tonight, and he did! It’s just awesome how the group does it — we love it!”
We also chat with a group of audience members — Val, Leslie, Dennis, and Kate — who are all originally from the UK and are here tonight to see Peter Noone.
“This is our fourth time seeing Herman’s Hermits,” reveals Val before Leslie notes, “We’re all English, and Peter Noone and Herman’s Hermits were huge in England in the 1960s.”
“Peter Noone really knows how to get everybody going!” declares Dennis, to which Kate agrees, exclaiming, “He’s such an entertainer — we’re looking forward to hearing him play tonight!”
The lights dim and Act II starts with glow sticks swaying as lights flash and Peter Noone and the other members of Herman’s Hermits — Vance Brescia and Billy Sullivan on guitars, Rich Spina on keyboards/bass, and Dave Ferrara on drums — take the stage to huge applause. With a backdrop featuring an enormous British flag, the group launches into their first number — Herman’s Hermits’ 1964 smash, “Something Tells Me I’m Into Something Good.”
As the crowd happily sings along, Noone and the band segue into their 1965 hit — a remake of Sam Cooke’s 1960 tune — “Wonderful World,” after which Peter and Co. move on to a rockin’ cover version of the Clovers’ 1959 Leiber/Stoller classic, “Love Potion № 9” where the audience sings along on the tune’s title.
Peter welcomes the crowd and in his charming and comical way, entertains them with his rendition of Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues.” As he sings, “I hear that train a-coming,” lights flash and audience members clap along as he dances around the stage.
The crowd cheers for a jaunty version of Herman’s Hermits’ 1966 tune, “Dandy,” and then Noone and Co. follow up with their 1966 recording, “A Must to Avoid.”
Quickly moving on to an upbeat and driving rendition of Frankie Ford’s “Sea Cruise,” Peter and keyboardist Rich Spina have fun onstage.
Glow sticks sway in the audience on the group’s cover version of The Monkees’ “Daydream Believer,” before Noone holds the microphone out to the audience and invites them to sing a chorus all by themselves.
On his rendition of The Beatles’ “All My Loving,” Noone races out into the BergenPAC audience announcing, “This is like my New Jersey home!” After seeing a theatergoer in the aisle walking back to his seat, Noone jokes, “Are you rushing the stage?”
While out in the audience, Peter performs “Leaning On a Lamp Post” — all while covering his face with an LP album photo of a young Peter taken on TV’s The Ed Sullivan Show.
After entertaining the crowd with stories and jokes, Peter and The Hermits perform their rendition of Manfred Mann’s “Doo Wah Diddy Diddy,” and they follow that up with a humorous twist on “Ferry Cross the Mersey,” which has audience members singing and clapping along on “Ferry Cross New Jersey.”
Confessing, “I never have so much fun as when I’m onstage!” Noone promises to sing a new song tonight before ripping his set list off the floor and attaching it to his microphone stand. He grabs a guitar and launches into an updated comedic version of the classic Herman’s Hermits’ tune, “Travelin’ Light,” crooning, “I’m at the Bergen Performing Arts Center in Englewood, NJ, tonight.”
After the crowd shows their love for his quirky sense of humor, Noone quickly segues into a stellar rendition of his 1967 hit, “No Milk Today,” his guitar still in hand.
Announcing that his next song comes from his first album which, he jokes, “was called The Best of Herman’s Hermits,” the spotlight focuses on Peter as he performs a heartfelt and poignant rendition of his 1965 ballad, “End of the World.”
Standing between his guitar mates, he and the boys perform The Hermits’ rockin’ 1965 hit, “A Little Bit Better.”
Glow sticks sway on Herman’s Hermits’ 1965 remake of The Rays’ hit, “Silhouettes.” The group follows that up with their 1966 smash, “Listen People,” it’s “Everybody’s got to love somebody sometime” message clearly resonating with the BergenPAC crowd.
Dancing around the stage saying, “My dad is Mick Jagger and my mom is Elton John!” Noone performs a comedic rendition of The Rolling Stones’ “Jumpin’ Jack Flash.”
Next, he segues into a spirited version of the Hermits’ 1965 #2 Billboard hit, “Can’t You Hear My Heartbeat.” As Billy Sullivan and Noone dance around during the instrumental break, the audience claps in time to the music.
The crowd sings along on the group’s 1965 #1 smash, “Mrs. Brown You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter,” and they also join in on another 1965 Herman’s Hermits’ #1 hit, “I’m Henry the VIII, I Am.” With lights flashing to the tune’s driving beat, Noone has the audience standing, singing, and swaying by the end of this energetic number!
To conclude the evening’s festivities, Noone and the Hermits entertain the crowd with their final number, a nostalgic rendition of their classic 1967 recording, “There’s a Kind of Hush.”
Announcing, “Goodnight. God bless. Drive safe!” Noone leaves the stage and walks straight up the aisle and out into the BergenPAC lobby to greet fans, take selfies, and sign autographs.
As audience members follow Noone out to the lobby, we chat with several members of the crowd who share their opinions of tonight’s show.
Says Sarah from Ramsey, “Peter Noone was extraordinary! I’ve seen him before. He put even more into his performance tonight. You can’t do that without being real. He knows how to attach himself to the audience. He’s got it all — music, comedy — and he makes you feel good; he makes you feel as though there is promise in the world.”
“I also loved The Buckinghams!” declares Sarah, explaining, “To get up there and present themselves the way they do after 53 years — I respect that level of talent.”
We also chat with John and his adult daughter, Melissa, from Sandyston.
Says John, “This show was great! I loved hearing Herman’s Hermits perform ‘No Milk Today.’ I had the 45rpm record and ‘No Milk Today’ was the flip side of ‘There’s a Kind of Hush,’” before adding, “It was really cool how Peter Noone got the whole crowd going — I got goosebumps!”
Daughter Melissa agrees stating, “We go to a lot of shows. I usually pick the show and say, ‘Dad, I’m the chauffeur — we’re going!” before concluding, “Tonight’s performance was excellent — The Buckinghams and Hermans Hermits were fantastic! How can you not love them?”
To learn more about The Buckinghams, go to thebuckinghams.com. For further information about Herman’s Hermits Starring Peter Noone, please go to peternoone.com. For more on upcoming shows at BergenPAC — including Brian Wilson with Al Jardine and Blondie Chaplin on Dec. 4, David Crosby and Friends on Dec. 5, and Kenny G’s Miracles and Holiday Hits show on Dec. 7 — please go bergenpac.org.Photos by Love Imagery
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