Outside Union County Performing Arts Center in Rahway, NJ this December 9, 2017 evening, it’s cold and snowy — the fresh white stuff covering the old-fashioned street lights on Irving Street and creating a storybook winter wonderland effect for all who enter this historic theater.
Inside the inviting UCPAC lobby, however, it’s warm, and folks are excited to be present for a blockbuster night of classic pop and rock music starring such iconic ’60’s performers as The Lovin’ Spoonful, The Hollies’ Terry Sylvester, Jay and the Americans, The Buckinghams’ Dennis Tufano, and The Vogues.
As we take our seats in the spacious UCPAC auditorium, the lights dim and master of ceremonies Emil Stucchio — leader of the well-known ‘60’s group, The Classics — takes the stage to welcome the crowd to tonight’s performance of Stars of the ‘60s.
Up first is the vocal group, The Vogues, who stroll into view singing a swinging rendition of “You’re The One” — a number composed by ’60’s star Petula Clark.
Backed by a top-notch band, tight three-part harmonies flow sweetly over the happy crowd.
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Moving on to the group’s 1968 million-seller, “My Special Angel,” the horn section adds to the lush harmonies of the trio. The audience has an uplifting experience hearing these gifted vocalists harmonize with one another, clearly enjoying this classic group whose music so easily makes them feel young again.
Another tune from 1968 is next — The Vogues’ Top 40 hit, “Till” — the full sound from these talented singers filling the theater with harmony as the music builds in dynamics. The trio masterfully blends their vocals, their diction and tone sounding like a single unified voice.
Following avid applause, the group performs its first million-selling recording, “Turn Around, Look at Me,” the crowd enjoying the nostalgia of this classic hit featuring Vogues’ lead singer Troy Elich.
As heads sway and toes tap, audience members can’t help but sing along, finding it impossible to resist the magical melody of this timeless tune.
The sound of the guitar starts off the group’s final number as the vocalists chant, “Hey” to the famous countermelody of The Vogues’ 1966 hit, “5 O’Clock World.” Singing, “‘Cause it’s a five o’clock world when the whistle blows/No one owns a piece of my time,” some members in the audience recognize this tune from its use on TV on The Drew Carey Show and in movies like Big Fish.
The perfectly executed falcetto descant, “A-da-lay-ee-ee,” perfectly captures the spirit of the original recording and gets the audience rockin’ before the trio segues into a reprise of their opening number, “You’re the One.”
The audience stands and cheers for The Vogues and their excellent performance.
Stucchio returns to the stage to introduce Dennis Tufano, former lead singer of the popular ’60's group, The Buckinghams.
Looking and sounding as great as ever, Tufano opens with The Buckinghams’ 1967 Top Ten hit, “Don’t You Care,” the band rocking out behind him.
An organ swirls on The Bucks’ 1967 Top 20 hit, “Hey Baby (They’re Playing Our Song).” Women can be seen dancing in their chairs and singing along as Tufano serenades them, the back-up band’s solid drums and horns adding to the number’s driving sound.
“We sound pretty good tonight!” exclaims Tufano, who rocks it to the rafters with his stellar version of The Buckinghams’ 1967 Top 20 hit written about a girl named “Susan.”
The happy strains of the keyboard and three-part harmony vocals delight the music lovers in the audience who joyfully join in singing on the famous “I love you, yes I do, I do” and “Love, love, love, love” descants.
A driving beat, a tight booming bass, and the soulful sounds of horns are featured next on The Buckinghams’ 1967 Top Five hit, “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy.” Dancing along to the rockin’ band, Tufano grooves to the guitar and sax solos while infusing the number with his own soulful lead vocal.
Concluding his top-notch set with The Bucks’ 1967 #1 hit, “Kind of a Drag,” Tufano has the audience members on their feet singing and moving, obviously in love with Dennis and his music.
“What a great gift!” exclaims Stucchio before he introduces Jay Reincke, Howie Kane, Sandy Deanne, and Marty Sanders — better known as Jay and the Americans.
Opening with a dynamic rendition of their 1964 Top 20 hit, “Let’s Lock the Door (and Throw Away the Key),” the quartet gets things started with a bang.
Next, they segue into an uptempo rendition of their 1965 Top 20 recording, “Some Enchanted Evening,” from the Broadway musical, South Pacific.
Moving on to their 1963 Top 40 tune, “Only in America,” the group sounds as great as ever, this song featuring lead singer Jay Reincke as he belts out the lead on this classic number.
Their voices pleading out, the quartet performs their first major hit — the 1961 Top 5 single, “She Cried.” They follow that up with their rendition of The Coasters’ “Young Blood,” adding the unique sound of a harmonica to the mix.
After Jay Reineke introduces the various original members of The Americans — “chick magnet” Howie Kane, “Beatlemania musician” Sandy Deanne, and the “songwriter of Joan Jett’s ‘Bad Reputation,’ Marty Sanders” — the group performs a trio of Roy Orbison songs.
Opening with “Crying,” the full sound of the quartet’s vocals fills the theater before ending with a “cha-cha-cha” flourish. Moving on to “Only the Lonely,” the audience claps along, the group’s smooth vocals punctuated by the sound of rhythmic guitars and drums.
Following cheers from the crowd, the group segues into “Pretty Woman.” Singing to all the pretty women in the audience, Jay Reincke looks patrons in the eye as he growls and purrs the song along.
After more cheers and whistles, Jay and the Americans perform a tight harmony version of The Everly Brothers’ “Let It Be Me” before launching into one of the highlight moments of the concert, a stunning live rendition of “Cara Mia.” On this show-stopping number, Jay Reinke hits all the high notes with ease, eliciting applause from the audience and bringing the entire crowd to its feet.
Inviting the audience to sing along, the quartet performs their own version of The Ronettes’ “Be My Baby,” before moving on to a song which was a hit for both The Ronettes and Jay and Americans. With Sandy Deanne calling it his “favorite Jay and the Americans’ song,” the group performs their 1969 Top 20 hit, “Walkin’ in the Rain,” the trumpeting horns adding to the group’s rich, full sound.
After taking time to acknowledge the veterans, first responders, and police officers in the audience and around the country who give of themselves every day, Jay and the Americans perform their 1964 Top 5 tune, “Come a Little Bit Closer.” The band’s drummer conducts with his sticks as the audience sings the refrain on this fun, upbeat song — a number which, we’re told, is currently included on one of the top-selling albums of the year, Guardians of the Galaxy Awesome Mix Vol. 2.
Concluding with their 1968 Top 10 smash, “This Magic Moment,” the audience stands and cheers as the group repays them with one final Jay Riencke chorus of “Cara Mia.”
Before breaking for a short intermission, Emil Stucchio retakes the stage to introduce concert producer Joe Mirrione. Mirrione thanks the audience for coming out in the snow tonight and also announces that a world-famous musician “who played with hundreds of artists, including Steely Dan” happens to be in the crowd tonight — drummer Bernard Purdie.
Following avid applause, during the break, we chat with several members of the audience who comment on tonight’s Stars of the ’60s performance.
Reveals Sarah from Rahway, “These concerts make me feel like a kid again! When I hear the music, I remember every lyric. These songs have a way of capturing me like nothing else can.”
Diane from New Providence remarks, “This show is great. I especially love Jay and the Americans — I think they are amazing!”
Diane’s friend, Joe from Chatham, says, “I know how much Diane loves Jay and the Americans, because I love them, too. Their music makes you feel good,” adding, “It really brings me back in time!”
Out in the UCPAC lobby, we additionally chat with two performers from this evening’s concert.
First up is Dennis Tufano who reveals, “This was my first performance at UCPAC, and the sound here is great,” before adding, “I love East Coast audiences — they have a real connection to the music. When you perform for them, there’s just a lot of power coming from the crowd — you get hit with it and you just gotta use it!”
We also chat with Jay Reincke who talks about his performance with Jay and The Americans, acknowledging, “My favorite song to sing is ‘Come a Little Bit Closer.’”
Adding, “‘Cara Mia’ is always in the middle of each show, because by that time, I’m warmed up,” Reincke explains, “The Roy Orbison songs really help to open me up and get me ready for ‘Cara Mia,’” before concluding, “but I’m very blessed to be able to sing all of these songs!”
The lights dim and emcee Emil Stucchio retakes the stage to introduce Terry Sylvester of The Hollies.
Guitar in hand, Sylvester opens his portion of the evening’s festivities with The Hollies’ first US hit, their 1966 Top 5 recording, “Bus Stop.”
Moving on to another huge Hollies’ hit, “The Air That I Breathe,” the easy groove of this 1966 Top Ten number brings back fond memories to many in tonight’s crowd.
Greeting the audience, Sylvester says, “A lot of Hollies’ songs are in movies. This one comes from Remember the Titans,” before launching into the group’s 1972 multi-million seller, “Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress.”
Smiling faces can be seen on the audience members’ faces as they sing and clap along to the rhythmic groove, whistling and cheering by the end of the tune.
Announcing, “If everyone could live their lives by the lyrics of this next song, the world would be a better place,” Sylvester provides a touching and poignant rendition of The Hollies’ 1969 Top 10 classic, “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother.”
Following huge applause for Terry Sylvester, Stucchio retakes the stage. Before introducing tonight’s final act, however, he points out another celebrity in the UCPAC audience tonight — Joe Long, a former member of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons.
The crowd excitedly applauds, and then Stucchio welcomes a group of five musicians to the stage — Joe Butler, Steve Boone, Mike Arturi, Phil Smith, and Murray Weinstock — The Lovin’ Spoonful.
Opening with their 1966 Top Ten hit, “You Didn’t Have to Be So Nice,” The Spoonful rocks out with founding member Joe Butler on lead vocals strumming his autoharp.
Immediately segueing into 1968’s country-flavored “Never Going Back,” the overhead lights shift to the driving rhythm of the music.
Moving on to a song which reached #1 on the Billboard country charts in 1966, the country feel of “Nashville Cats” gets the audience tapping their toes, whistling, cheering, and “Yahoo-ing.” Spoonful founding member Steve Boone deftly plays bass on this number, supported by the group’s latest addition, Murray Weinstock on keyboards.
Tight breaks are featured on 1966’s catchy “Jug Band Music,” a song which is followed by a spectacular precision drum solo by Lovin’ Spoonful drummer Mike Arturi.
Following huge applause, the group launches into a rollicking rendition of their 1965 Top 5 single, “Did You Ever Have to Make Up Your Mind,” which they follow up with their 1966 Top 5 hit, “Daydream.” The audience whistles along to the easy groove of this classic ’60’s tune.
The unusual feel of 1966’s “Six O’ Clock” is next. After singing, “There’s something special ‘bout six o’clock/In the morning when it’s still too early to knock,” the tune features a tasty Phil Smith guitar solo.
Moving on to a favorite Lovin’ Spoonful hit — the group’s 1966 #1 smash, “Summer in the City” — Butler solidly handles the lead as the instrumentalists rock out.
Concluding with their 1965 Top Ten classic, “Do You Believe in Magic,” the audience stands and cheers, one man in the crowd standing and screaming, “One more! One more!”
As the lights come up and the audience makes its way out of the auditorium, we take a moment to chat with Joe Long of The Four Seasons who provides his take on the show, commenting, “I loved this concert. The music is eternal,” before adding, “The music from the late 1950s to the 1970s is great. What you saw here tonight brought back a lot of memories for me.”
We also chat with The Hollies’ Terry Sylvester — originally from Liverpool, England — who remarks about performing here in the Garden State, “I know this area quite well! My regular band I play with is from Freehold, and I do a lot of shows in the area.”
Lastly, we chat with a music lover in the audience, Jerry from Hazelton, PA, who exclaims, “This was an incredible night! Dennis Tufano is such a professional — he sings from the heart — and all of the other artists were great, too. For each group, you hear a song, and you can remember what you were doing when you first heard it, so in a show like this, you really get to do something amazing — you get to watch your 45s come to life!”
To learn more about future shows like Stars of the ’60s, please go to poprockdoowopp.com.
For more on The Lovin’ Spoonful, please go to facebook.com/lovinspoonful65. To find out more about Terry Sylvester, please click on terrysylvester.com. For further information about Jay and the Americans, go to jayandtheamericans.net. For more on Dennis Tufano, please check out dtsings.com. For further info on The Vogues, be sure to click on facebook.com/TheVoguesUSA.
To learn more about upcoming shows at Union County Performing Arts Center — including Jon Secada on Feb. 24, 2018, and A Night of Music and Memories starring Charlie Thomas’ Drifters, The Flamingos, Shirley Alston Reeves, Vito Picone and The Elegants, The Capris, and John Kuse & The Excellents on May 12, 2018 — please go to ucpac.org.Photos by Love Imagery
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