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What A Long Strange Trip It's Been...

By Gary Wien

(FRIDAY, JULY 25 - NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ) -- In 1978, two young musicians named Glen Burtnick and Marshall Crenshaw played the roles of Paul McCartney and John Lennon in Beatlemania. Thirty years later - after dozens of albums, world tours, films, and various bands - they found themselves on the State Theatre stage in New Brunswick, NJ playing Beatles songs once again in the 2nd Annual Beatles Bash.

Last year, Glen Burtnick lined up over 40 musicians to perform "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" from beginning to end to celebrate the record's 40th anniversary. This year's challenge was to celebrate the anniversary of the "White Album" - a more straightforward record, but with the added challenge of being a double album and the rarely (if ever) performed "Revolution Number 9."

"This whole Beatles Thing... Someone's got to stop it!" said Glen Burtnick with a laugh. This year's lineup featured Burtnick along with a stellar cast of musicians that include Marshall Crenshaw, Bob Burger and Marc Muller, along with an orchestra led by conductor James Egan, band director at North Brunswick Township High School. Everyone on stage appeared to be having a great time and treated the material with the same respect an orchestra would treat Bach or Mozart.

Every song was done in order and reminded me of two things. First, I had forgotten just how brilliant the album was. And, secondly, I had forgotten that this was one of the few Beatles albums where I thought the sequence of songs were placed in a rather ragged order that emulated anarchy instead of blending songs together into one piece of art. This was the album which revealed the inner workings of the group, one that was literally breaking apart. The songs on this album previewed the solo works to come more than showcased the collaborative genius of prior records.

In fact, one of the evening's highlights for me was "Long Long Long" which gets the prize for best song that radio has ignored through the years. A brilliant piece by Harrison that backs up the argument that Lennon and McCartney were keeping the songs from George down. After hearing this one on the same album as the masterful "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" it's easy to see why he released a triple album as his solo debut. One only can wonder just how many of those tunes were written during the Beatles period.

With so many great songs and so many great performances it's hard to come up with my favorites of the night, but the list definitely includes such numbers as "While My Guitar Gently Sleeps", "Dear Prudence", "Glass Onion", "Bungalow Bill", and "Sexy Sadie". Christine Martucci guested on "Yer Blues" with a rendition that would have made Janis Joplin proud. Joe Hurley, a regular at Glen Burtnick's Xmas Xtravaganza shows, did an impressive take as Ringo on "Don't Pass Me Bye." Tony Shanahan, another Xmas regular, played bass on a few tunes and sang lead on "Mother Nature's Son."

"Blackbird" was truly a song made for Glen Burtnick while Crenshaw's take on "Julia" gave me chills. Bob Burger was the lead for "Honey Pie" and one of my all-time favorites, "Cry Baby Cry" and received loud applause for his efforts.

And, of course, "Helter Skelter" simply rocked! It reminded me why I always wondered why the song is placed so far into the album. It would have been a great kickoff to the album in my opinion. Glen on lead vocals screamed in a way I haven't seen since the "Talking In Code" tour. Crenshaw, who had previously said good night to the crowd after the previous song, couldn't help returning to take a solo during the song.

One of the evening's biggest surprises wasn't the lack of lead vocals by Marshall Crenshaw but the fact that Crenshaw was on drums for roughly 1/4 of the night. Mark Muller and Drew Hill provided wonderful lead vocals for the rest of the numbers.

Glen Burtnick's daughter Sally acted as Yoko Ono and was especially wonderful in her role during "Bungalow Bill."

Many of the songs were enhanced with videos on a screen behind the performers. The videos, a mixture of psychedelic images done in a modern way, were created by a company called Altered Imagines. Highlights included "piggies" - a video that looked like it was created with a computer mouse in one hand and a joint in the other. And an utterly amazing array of images from 1968 kept the audience riveted during the entire performance of "Revolution Number 9." Afterwards, an audience member screamed, "Now play it backwards!" from the balcony.

The conclusion of the double album wasn't enough Beatles for the fans that packed the State Theatre that night. Encores included "Revolution", "Twisted & Shout", "Eight Days A Week", and concluded with "Hey Jude" with Burtnick on piano, just as he was in a photo taken from Beatlemania that once was shown in the Asbury Park Rock 'N Roll Museum.

"You guys seem totally into this, which is cool because it would suck if you weren't" said Burtnick halfway through the show.

Of course we were. We're all Beatles fans. Now and forever. And we're all getting ready for the tribute to "Abbey Road" which hopefully will be one of the highlights of next summer!

For more by this author, click here

State Theatre New Jersey presents Cirque Dreams Holidaze
(NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ) -- State Theatre New Jersey presents Cirque Dreams Holidaze on Friday, December 7 at 8:00pm, Saturday, December 8 at 2:00pm and 8:00pm, and Sunday, December 9 at 2:00pm. Cirque Dreams Holidaze, a division of Cirque du Soleil, has become a critically acclaimed, state-of-the-art Broadway musical, and a fun-filled, holiday family show. Tickets range from $35-$98.
NJSO presents 2019 Winter Festival, 'Music Speaks'
(NEWARK, NJ) -- A trio of renowned guest artists with distinct musical voices—pianists Emanuel Ax and Daniil Trifonov and soprano Dawn Upshaw—headline the NJSO’s Winter Festival, “Music Speaks,” in January 2019. The Orchestra’s signature artistic event takes place across three weekends, January 10–27, in six New Jersey venues.
RVCC Chorale to Perform Annual Holiday Concert on December 8th
(BRANCHBURG, NJ) --The RVCC Chorale will give its annual holiday concert on Saturday, December 8 at 8:00pm in the Welpe Theatre at Raritan Valley Community College’s Branchburg campus. The program will feature Johann Sebastian Bach’s cantata, Das Neugeborne Kindelein, as well as a cappella pieces from by Sergei Rachmaninov, Zoltan Kodaly and Giuseppe Verdi. The program also will include an audience singalong of traditional carols.
Classic Stones Live! The Complete Rolling Stones Tribute Show Comes To SOPAC
(SOUTH ORANGE, NJ) -- The Rolling Stones, the greatest Blues band of all time, couldn’t make it to SOPAC on their 2018 tour. Instead, the acclaimed tribute band Classic Stones Live! makes an appearance on the SOPAC stage December 15 at 8:00pm for those who like to hear their Rolling Stones hits live.
Tony Trischka Presents "Of a Winter's Night" at the Morristown Unitarian Fellowship
(MORRISTOWN, NJ) -- Of a Winter’s Night is Tony Trischka's acoustic celebration of the holiday season. Based on his CD release of the same name, this concert features Trischka’s considerable melodic inventiveness on a wide variety of seasonal tunes. He turns his inventiveness loose on bluegrass and Americana music for the holidays. This one of a kind concert will take place at the Morristown Unitarian Fellowship on Saturday, December 8 at 7:30pm.

"An Amazing Musical Genius!" Brian Wilson LIVE! at the State Theatre
In the music room in the back of our house, there’s an electric bass and amp, two acoustic guitars, a microphone and PA speakers, several pieces of music recording equipment, and a bookcase filled with books on music, not to mention a slew of assorted music memorabilia. But, perhaps, one of the most highly prized items in the room is hanging directly above the piano next to the college music diplomas.
Jazz Saxophonist Don Braden LIVE! at Toms River’s Grunin Center
It’s a breezy day for a new installment of the Jazz On a Sunday Afternoon concert series at Toms River, NJ’s Grunin Center of the Arts this Sunday Oct. 27, 2018 afternoon. Today’s special 3pm performance is entitled Earth, Wind and Wonder and is presented by jazz saxophonist Don Braden.
Charlie Thomas’ Drifters, The Classics IV, and The Brooklyn Bridge LIVE! at The Strand, Lakewood
The stars are out this Saturday Oct. 26, 2018 evening in Lakewood, NJ for a “Golden Oldies” concert featuring Charlie Thomas’ Drifters, The Classics IV, and The Brooklyn Bridge!
PODCAST: Grammy Winner Terri Lyne Carrington At TD James Moody Jazz Festival
Drummer, leader, and composer Terri Lyne Carrington made history as the first woman to win a Grammy for Best Instrumental Jazz for her album “Money Jungle: Provocative in Blue.” Now, she brings her interpretation of Duke Ellington’s “Money Jungle” to the TD James Moody Jazz Festival at NJPAC on November 11, 2018, as part of a program called “Jazz Vinyl Revisited.” Producer Susan Wallner talks to Carrington about her connections to the jazz greats Clark Terry and Max Roach; her newest project, the Berklee Institute of Jazz and Gender Justice; and why she thinks drummers make natural leaders.
Sha Na Na LIVE! at the Newton Theatre
The audience is streaming into the Newton Theatre auditorium in Newton, NJ this Friday, Oct. 19, 2018 for a live concert starring Sha Na Na!

Event calendar
Thursday, Nov 15, 2018


New Politics @ House of Independents, Asbury Park - 8:00pm

THE REPUTATIONS @ The Saint, Asbury Park - 7:30pm

TOTO @ Mayo Performing Arts Center (MPAC), Morristown - 8:00pm


An Actor's Carol @ Cape May Stage, Cape May - 7:30pm

ANNIE, The Musical @ Axelrod Performing Arts Center, Deal Park - 8:00pm

Apples In Winter @ Centenary Stage Company - Kutz Theater of the Lackland Center, Hackettstown - 7:30pm

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat @ The Levoy Theatre, Millville - 7:30pm

Spring Awakening: The Rock Musical @ Black Box PAC, Teaneck - 8:00pm


PARSONS DANCE @ State Theatre New Jersey, New Brunswick - 8:00pm


Crybaby Matinee: March of the Penguins @ Hopewell Theater, Hopewell - 11:00am

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