As we enter Toms River, NJ’s Grunin Center of the Arts lobby, we notice it’s already filling up with fans this Saturday Nov. 25, 2017 for the first of two shows by the legendary ’60s British pop sensation, Herman’s Hermits starring Peter Noone!
Before we enter the Grunin auditorium, we chat with several devoted members of the official Peter Noone fan club — affectionately known as the “Noonatics.”
Exclaims Joanne from Montvale, “The Noonatics are united — we follow our man!” before acknowledging she’s seen over 100 concerts by Herman’s Hermits starring Peter Noone.
With her today, Joanne holds a copy of a special calendar created by fans to support Peter Noone’s favorite charity — The Unity Shoppe in Santa Barbara, CA — a year-round “free” grocery and clothing store which enables people in need to shop with dignity for basic life necessities including food and clothing.
Every page of the calendar features a different fan-supplied photo of Peter, and each month, Joanne gets that month’s photo autographed by Noone.
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Joanne’s friend, Stephanie from Portsmouth, Virginia, tells us she’s traveled to New Jersey with her husband for today’s concert. Reveals Stephanie, who has seen Peter and the Hermits at least 250 times, “I never was in a fan club before, but I’ve made lifetime friends through this one.”
According to Stephanie, many of the Noonatics wear personalized buttons that say “Lifetime Member of the Peter Noone Fan Club.” Some also adorn their cars with British flags and special license plates and many even bring specific items with them to Noone’s concerts including glow sticks, British flags, Herman’s Hermits’ memorabilia, and more.
Both Stephanie and Joanne say they’re looking forward to both the afternoon and evening performances today at the Grunin Center.
Soon, along with the fans, we enter the Grunin Center auditorium — a cozy performance space featuring great views of the action from every seat.
As pre-recorded marching music begins to play, the Noonatics in the house stand and wave their British flags and glow sticks while each of the Herman’s Hermits’ band members — Billy Sullivan and Vance Brescia on guitars, Rich Spina on keyboards/bass, and Dave Ferrara on drums — take the stage.
The audience claps along with the band members as they anxiously await the arrival of Peter Noone.
Moments later, Noone makes his entrance with an enormous smile singing his 1964 Top 20 hit, “I’m Into Something Good,” encouraging the audience to clap along with him to the music.
Walking over to the edge of the stage and greeting his fans with a heartfelt “How are you?” Noone and the Hermits segue into their 1965 Top 5 remake of Sam Cooke’s 1960 hit, “Wonderful World”
Moving on to a rockin’ rendition of The Clovers’ 1959 Lieber/Stoller smash, “Love Potion №9,” Peter holds his microphone out for the audience and they happily sing along with him.
Following excited cheers, Noone comments, “When we were lads growing up in England, we dreamed of playing here in Toms River at the Grunin Center,” after which he dedicates the group’s next number — their 1966 Top 5 hit, “Dandy — to the Grunin Center’s namesakes, Jay and Linda Grunin.
The audience smiles and claps along before the group launches into their 1966 Top Ten record, “A Must to Avoid.”
Joking that the band has to “look to the audience to lip read if they forget the lyrics,” Noone performs a boot-scootin’ tongue-in-cheek version of Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire.”
Quickly moving on to a rollicking rendition of Frankie Ford’s “Sea Cruise,” the audience sings and dances in the aisles while Noone and Hermits’ keyboardist Rich Spina have fun onstage.
Shouting “The Monkees!” lights wave in the air and people sing along to Peter and the Hermits’ version of The Monkees’ 1968 classic, “Daydream Believer.”
Guitars twanging, the group pays homage to another ’60s group, The Beatles, with a sparkling rendition of “All My Loving,” drummer Dave Ferrara’s head bopping to the beat a la Ringo Starr.
Covering his face with an LP album photo of a young Peter taken on TV’s The Ed Sullivan Show, Noone sings “Leaning On a Lamp Post.”
Descending the stage stairs to stroll through the audience, Noone is given a handmade poster by a teenager featuring a picture of herself as a child with Peter. Labeled “Then and Now,” Peter thanks the young fan for the poster and, in exchange, gives her a current LP and a compact disc filled with Herman’s Hermits’ music.
Next, Noone performs a unique cover version of Gerry & The Pacemakers’ “Ferry Cross the Mersey,” in which he purposely changes the lyrics to “Ferry Cross Toms River,” before singing a rambunctious version of the Jeff Barry/Ellie Greenwich-penned “Do Wah Diddy Diddy.”
Picking up his guitar, he performs an “original” song about being at the Grunin Center, located on the campus of Ocean County College in Toms River, NJ. Ripping his set list off of the floor and attaching it to his microphone stand, he launches into an updated version of the classic Herman’s Hermits’ tune, “Travelin’ Light,” crooning, “Travelin’ light, travelin’ light/I’m at the Grunin Center for the Arts at Ocean County College in Toms River, New Jersey tonight.”
The crowd loving his quirky sense of humor, Noone quickly segues into his 1967 hit, “No Milk Today,” his guitar still in hand.
Dedicating his next number “to all of the fans who have followed us since the beginning,” the spotlight focuses on Peter as he stands center stage and performs a heartfelt and poignant rendition of his 1965 hit, “End of the World.”
Audience members stand and cheer for this emotional performance.
Following up with his rockin’ 1965 hit, “Just a Little Bit Better,” Noone takes his place in between fellow band members Billy Sullivan and Vance Brescia on guitars to see Brescia high kick, much to Noone’s amusement.
Glow sticks are waved back and forth as Noone and the Hermits perform their 1965 Top 5 remake of The Rays’ hit, “Silhouettes.” They follow that up with their 1966 #3 smash, “Listen People,” it’s “Everybody’s got to love somebody sometime” message clearly resonating with this Grunin Center crowd.
Following a standing ovation, the group performs a spirited version of their 1965 #2 Billboard hit, “Can’t You Hear My Heartbeat.” As Billy Sullivan and Noone dance around during the instrumental break, the Noonatics in the audience stand during the song to cheer them on.
The entire 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.” Creating a singing competition among various sections of the auditorium, Noone has the audience is on its feet by the end of this energetic number!
To conclude the afternoon’s festivities, Noone and the Hermits entertain the crowd with their final number, a nostalgic rendition of their 1967 Top 5 recording, “There’s a Kind of Hush.” After singing along to this enjoyable feel-good tune, the audience rewards Noone and the Hermits with a final standing ovation!
As audience members make their way out of the auditorium and back into the Grunin Center lobby, we chat with several from the crowd who comment on this afternoon’s performance by Herman’s Hermits starring Peter Noone.
First, we chat with several of the Noonatics, including Colleen from Connecticut who proudly exclaims, “I am a committed Noonatic!” before stating, “This show was wonderful, as usual. The older Peter gets, the better he gets!”
Noonatic Barbara from Pennsylvania agrees adding, “I’ve seen Peter Noone and Herman’s Hermits over 200 times — I’ve been a fan ever since I was a kid.”
Although Janice from Long Branch acknowledges, “I’m not a card-carrying Noonatic,” she nonetheless adds, “but I am a fan. My father was a big rock ‘n’ roll fan, and we used to listen to Peter Noone in the car. We’d roll down the windows and turn up the volume and sing along,” before disclosing, “I rediscovered Peter Noone in the last couple of years and that’s why I’m here today.”
While Joan from Toms River remarks, “Peter Noone is still adorable after all these years and his voice still sounds great!” Bruce from Parsippany states, “I love how he incorporates the local town into the show and makes the town a part of the show” noting, “I saw him once before and had to come back to see him a second time.”
Patti from Brick comments, “I loved this show — it was so much fun. Peter Noone’s energy is incredible,” before admitting, “I’ve been in love with him since I was eight years old.”
Amy from Jersey City exclaims, “It was a great concert!” adding, “Not only am I going to both shows today, but I’m going to two more tomorrow in Sellersville, PA.” Likewise, Caroline from Howell calls the performance, “Fantastic,” noting, “My mom is from England, so I have a connection with Peter Noone. I’d never seen him before and I really enjoyed the show.”
Ken from Sayreville declares, “I’m a big fan. I love Peter Noone. I love his sound and all the songs he sings,” before adding, “This is the fourth time I’ve gotten to see him.”
We also chat with a family who traveled from Pedricktown to see Peter Noone and Herman’s Hermits today. Daughter Jacalyn is the teenager who gave Peter the handmade poster during this afternoon’s performance.
Says Jacalyn, “Altogether, I’ve seen Peter Noone in concert about seven times. In fact, I’m wearing the same shirt I got when I saw him at the Wildwood Convention Center when I was seven years old — the shirt was huge then, but it fits me perfectly now. For that show, I made Peter a poster, and he took it and displayed it in front of the drum set.”
Continuing, “It’s been about five years since I’ve seen Peter, so it was really nice to get to see him today,” Jacalyn adds, “For this occasion, I made a poster for him with a picture of me and Peter taken on that special day in Wildwood, and Peter asked if he could keep the poster.”
Concluding, “I love Peter Noone, just like my dad,” Jacalyn introduces us to her father, Jack, who acknowledges, “I’ve been a fan from the beginning. When I was a kid, all my friends wanted to be John Lennon or Paul McCartney of The Beatles, but I wanted to be Peter Noone. I’ve always liked Herman’s Hermits’ music the best, so I passed that along to my daughter by playing his songs and taking her to concerts the entire time she was growing up.”
Jacalyn’s mom, Rita, confirms this, noting, “We’ve always enjoyed Peter’s concerts — for us, his songs never get old, and it was especially nice seeing his show in this theater,” before also commenting, “It was a very personal show this afternoon thanks to the small size of the venue.”
Rita’s friend, Alice, from Clayton agrees stating, “I was excited to see Peter Noone and Herman’s Hermits today,” pointing out, “I really loved how close we were to him.”
We additionally get a moment to chat with another family in the Grunin Center lobby. John from Tinton Falls tells us he brought his young daughter, Angela, to her first concert today because he knew it would be appropriate for her. Explains Dad, “Angela knew all the songs and sang along,” to which Angela replies with an energetic thumbs-up!
Lastly, we chat with Peter Noone himself, who is happily signing autographs for his legion of fans hanging out with him in the lobby. When asked about this afternoon’s performance here at Toms River’s Grunin Center, Peter exclaims, “The band and I really loved the sound in this theater,” before concluding with a smile, “and the audience had a lot of energy,” emphasizing, “This crowd was really great!”
To learn more about Herman’s Hermits starring Peter Noone, please click on peternoone.com. For information on upcoming programming at Toms River’s Grunin Center — including An Intimate Evening with Rickie Lee Jones on March 22, 2018, and Peter, Paul and Mary’s Peter Yarrow on May 11, 2018 — please go to grunincenter.org.Photos by Love Imagery
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