Excitement is in the air this Saturday, May 20, 2023 as music lovers stream into SOPAC in South Orange, NJ for an evening of music presented by Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Richie Furay. Known by many as the voice of country rock, in addition to his work as a solo artist, Furay is a founding member of three noteworthy music groups: Buffalo Springfield, Poco, and The Souther-Hillman-Furay Band.
Pre-show activities for a select group of fans include attending a meet and greet with Richie Furay. As they enter the sleek SOPAC auditorium, they find Richie and his band — Jack Jeckot on keyboards, Rick Nash on bass, Larry Grano on drums, Marc Intravaia and Jim Soldi on guitars, Dan Skarda on vocals/guitar, and Jessie Furay Lynch on vocals —in the process of doing a soundcheck performing Poco’s “Pickin’ Up the Pieces.”
When the music stops, Richie greets the crowd announcing, “Hey, everybody! Que pasa? We’re almost done with the soundcheck — you’ll get to hear a little more of it,” before joking, “I don’t know what I’m doing — I’m getting old, but this band has a bunch of really nice guys in it, and they’re really patient with me!”
The musicians go on to rehearse six-part harmony vocals on “Stand Your Guard.” The band heats up and audience members clap as the tempo increases and the guitarists take turns soloing.
At the conclusion of the soundcheck, audience members line up for an opportunity to chat with Furay personally and have photos taken with him. Greeting each patron with a “Howdy,” “Nice to see you,” or “How are you?” Furay warmly poses for selfies, signs autographs, and thanks his fans for coming out and supporting him tonight.
When the meet and greet is over, the theater empties, but soon reopens for ticket holders for tonight’s sold-out show. Emcee David Stone welcomes the audience and introduces the evening’s opening act, John Ford Coley, who takes the stage behind his electronic keyboard. A fan calls out “John!” and Coley responds “Yo!” before explaining that, tonight, he’ll play songs he recorded as part of his music duo, England Dan and John Ford Coley.
Opening with “Gone Too Far,” Coley sings, “How it all started, I hardly remember,” as he skillfully accompanies himself on keyboard.
The crowd responds with cheers and applause and Coley invites audience members to join him on the 1978 England Dan and John Ford Coley hit, “We’ll Never Have to Say Goodbye Again.” The crowd happily sings along on the tune’s catchy refrain before Coley straps on an acoustic guitar and strums it while serenading the audience with “Nights Are Forever Without You.”
Music lovers cheer, and Coley retakes the keyboard, talking about his musical background and demonstrating his skill as a classical pianist. After revealing, “I enjoy playing things that have a classical theme,” Coley impresses the crowd with his dexterous piano performance on “Soldier in the Rain.”
Calls of “Bravo!” ring out as Coley launches into the 1976 England Dan and John Ford Coley hit, “I’d Really Love to See You Tonight.” The crowd joyfully sings along on the song’s breezy “I’m not talkin’ ‘bout movin’ in/And I don’t wanna change your life” chorus.
At the conclusion, the crowd hoots and hollers, and Coley responds, “Thank you so much! I’ll do one more,” before dedicating his final number to his long-time partner, “England” Dan Seals. Singing with feeling, Coley gives an emotional performance of the duo’s 1979 Top Ten hit written by Todd Rundgren, “Love is the Answer.”
The audience joins in on the inspirational “Light of the world, shine on me/Love is the answer” chorus before responding with cheers and applause as Coley waves goodnight and takes leave of the stage.
During intermission, several audience members share their thoughts on John Ford Coley’s performance tonight. Remarks Tony from Margate, “He did a wonderful job! I knew all of the songs he played — it reminded me of being back in high school. He was great!” Colleen from Allenwood agrees, adding, “He was awesome; I knew every song!” Chris from Ventnor acknowledges, “I was pleasantly surprised. I’m really here for Richie Furay tonight — I’ve been a fan of his since 1970; he’s my all-time favorite artist — but John Ford Coley is a great storyteller, keyboardist, and performer. I really liked him.”
Music lovers avidly applaud as Richie Furay’s musicians take their places and David Stone welcomes his friend, Richie Furay, to the stage.
After explaining that, just last month, Richie celebrated his 79th birthday, a cake is brought out and Stone has the audience join him in singing “Happy Birthday” to Richie.
Soon, the band starts to play and music lovers begin clapping along to the groove of Buffalo Springfield’s “On the Way Home.” His voice sounding rich and full, Furay sings, “You can tell my dream is real/Because I love you” on an upbeat arrangement featuring top-notch vocal harmonies.
Concertgoers stand and cheer, and Richie and Co. launch into Poco’s “Pickin’ Up the Pieces” where Richie sings, “Well there’s just a little bit of magic in the country music we’re singin’/So let’s begin,” before Jim Soldi impresses with a twangy guitar solo.
The crowd enthusiastically applauds and Furay responds, “Thank you, all! I love coming here — it’s a great place to make music.” After recalling the 1960s as “One of the best eras for making music,” Richie and the group launch into “We Were the Dreamers,” a song which transports listeners back to 1969 when Poco first performed on the stage of one of L.A.’s premier music destinations, The Troubadour.
Following the title song from an album he recorded in 1979, I Still Have Dreams, Furay performs “A Child’s Claim to Fame,” a classic tune he wrote for Buffalo Springfield. Then, Jack Jeckot gets the audience clapping along to the feel-good worship song, “Wake Up My Soul,” on an arrangement which features multiple acoustic guitars all strumming together.
Furay introduces his band members before spotlighting drummer Larry Grano singing lead on a song Richie wrote called “Goodtime Boy.” As Furay happily watches from the wings, Grano and the band have fun playing this funky and driving tune which also features keyboardist Jack Jeckot on harmonica. The crowd reacts with a standing ovation and Furay has Grano take a bow before acknowledging Jack Jeckot as a “Jersey Boy!
Launching into the title song from his album, Hand in Hand, Furay sings with passion, “I couldn’t love you anymore/I couldn’t tell you anymore/But every time I see you/The more I know I need you.”
Richie and his daughter, Jesse Furay Lynch, blend their voices on Furay’s Buffalo Springfield classic, “Kind Woman,” where the audience happily sways as Furay sings, “Kind woman/Won’t you love me tonight?” on this beloved country waltz.
The crowd stands and cheers, and Furay announces, “That was a medley dedicated to my wife, Nancy, who is in the audience. We’ve been married for 56 years, and I think love her more now than I did when I first said ‘I do.’”
Daughter Jesse is featured on “Satisfied,” where she’s supported by strumming guitars and driving drums which crescendo and build as she sings with power and feeling.
Following the country ballad, “Someone Who Cares,” Furay introduces “Chalk,” a song from his latest album, In the Country. Guitars ring out on this slow, passionate number as Furay sings with emotion, “All our words are written down in chalk/Out in the rain on the sidewalk/If all our heartaches were in a stack/They’d go all the way up to heaven and back.”
The crowd avidly applauds as Jesse is featured singing lead on “(Goin’) Wild for You Baby.” Marc Intravaia impresses with an electric guitar solo before echoing Jesse’s vocal lines on this poignant Bonnie Raitt song.
A Jack Jeckot keyboard solo swirls on the Southern rocker, “Believe Me,” before his harmonica and keyboard playing rock the house on the upbeat “Some Day” where Jim Soldi and Marc Intravaia trade guitar riffs and the band explodes in a cacophony of sound.
Music lovers erupt in cheers and leap to their feet as Furay and the band conclude their performance with “America, America.” The crowd hoots and hollers, and Furay says, “God bless you — thank you so much!” before he and the band take bows and exit the stage.
The crowd continues to stand and cheer and the musicians return to perform an encore of “Stand Your Guard.” Music lovers clap in time and sing along with Richie on the catchy “Oh darlin’, hold on/Take it another step further along” chorus before ending with hoots, hollers, cheers, and applause.
Fans shout out song requests, but Richie quiets them down when he unplugs his guitar and stands at the edge of the stage without a microphone singing “I’ve Got a Reason.” His voice calling out emotionally on this 100% unplugged performance, Furay cries, “I’ve got a reason for living each day,” captivating concertgoers and bringing them to their feet.
Following his song of praise, “Overflow,” Furay invites John Ford Coley back onto the stage for an encore performance of Poco’s “Good Feelin’ to Know” where the entire crowd stands and sings “Oh, it’s a good feelin’ to know/Somebody loves you” with Richie on this audience favorite.
At the conclusion, Furay exclaims, “I love you guys!” as he and the band take well-deserved bows and exit the stage.
As audience members make their way out of the SOPAC auditorium, several comment on Richie Furay’s performance tonight. Remarks Bill from South Orange, “He was awesome, as usual,” explaining, “Richie is an amazing performer. I never get tired of listening to him!”
Danny from South Carolina agrees, stating, “Tonight was great! I’ve been a fan since Buffalo Springfield and Poco. It was worth the trip here to New Jersey from South Carolina to see him.”
Claire from Westfield asserts, “Richie was excellent and so was his backup band! I like how his musicians are keeping the rock tradition alive. The entire show was a real treat!” Richie from Westfield concurs, adding, “This is real music, and the musicians were having so much fun, too,” before Bob from Eatontown concludes by summing up tonight’s show in a single word:“Tremendous!”
To learn more about Richie Furay, please go to richiefuray.com. For information on upcoming concerts at SOPAC — including The Best of the Eagles on June 24, Journeyman’s Tribute to Eric Clapton on Sept. 15, and The Weeklings on Oct. 13 — please go to sopacnow.org.
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