The Bronx Wanderers are in the house this Sunday, June 26, 2022 at Toms River, NJ’s Grunin Center for the Arts for the first of two shows on a single evening. The group — known for its high-energy renditions of classic pop songs from the ’50s, ‘60s, and beyond — is comprised of a father, Vinny Sr., on lead vocals; his son, Vincent John, on keyboards and guitar; and musicians Fernando Tort on bass, Michael Benigno on drums, and Joe Bari on saxophone, keyboards, and guitar.
According to Vinny Sr., even though he grew up in the Bronx — where, over the years, he became friends with such famous local residents as Chazz Palminteri and Tony Orlando — once he was older, he decided to raise his family in Bergen County, New Jersey.
As a young man, Vinny Sr. had dreams of making it big in show business as a professional musician. After talking to several music industry experts in New York City, however, he decided to put his dreams on hold and create a career as a record producer, label executive, and music publisher.
After 35 successful years working with the likes of Jim Croce, Alabama, Reba McEntire, and The Spinners, Vinny Sr. put together a rock band featuring his teenage sons. Since then, the group has gone on to perform in venues across the country in addition to earning themselves a steady gig for the past six years as full-time performers in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Following a video in which Tony Orlando introduces the band, the group takes the stage and opens tonight’s show with “The Wanderer,” a hit by Dion — the individual who introduced Vinny Sr. to the New York City music producers who originally made him a music executive.
Vinny Sr. and the group perform Dion’s tune with all of the energy one might expect for a band which — over the course of their hundreds of shows every year — keeps the flame alive for the classic pop tunes of the ’50s through the ’90s and beyond.
Vinny Sr. addresses the crowd declaring, “It’s great to be home!” before announcing, “Let’s have one big party!” as the group launches into The Wanderers’ medley of Four Seasons’ hits including “Oh What A Night,” “Grease,” and “Who Loves You.”
Vinny Sr., Vincent John, and the rest of the band have fun filling the Grunin Center auditorium with good vibes as the audience cheers and applauds.
Audience members clap along before putting their hands up and swaying them back and forth in the air to the group’s buoyant performance of Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline.”
Music lovers in the crowd also join the band in singing the famous “Sweet Caroline/Good times never seemed so good” chorus, and complete the number with arm pumping on the “So good, so good, so good” refrain before ending with whistles and cheers.
Vinny Sr.’s son, Vincent John, is featured on lead vocal and guitar on Stray Cats’ “Rock This Town” before he and his musical colleagues segue into Queen’s “Crazy Little Thing Called Love,” where heads bop and hands clap on this rockabilly hit which inspires cheers for their electric performance.
Next, the band performs a highlight number of the show — The Bronx Wanderers’ treatment of Billy Joel’s “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant.” On this inspired performance, Vincent John handles the lead vocal and intricate keyboard parts.
He’s supported by Joe Bari’s emotional sax playing, Fernando Tort’s solid bass, and Michael Benigno’s steady beat. The audience responds by standing and cheering for the group’s top-notch performance.
After bringing the audience back in time to 1984 with a video of Vinny Sr. singing Tommy James and the Shondells’ “Mony Mony,” Vinny Sr. retakes the stage in a sparkling jacket to perform “Mony Mony” live.
Audience members sing and clap along to the beat as Vinny Sr. and the band deftly segue into Rick Springfield’s “Jesse’s Girl” and Brian Adams’ “Summer of ’69.”
Vinny Sr. tells the audience, “The next song will be a sing-a-long, so make like we’re all hanging out at the corner in the Bronx,” before he and The Wanderers launch into Dion’s “Teenager in Love.”
As the band rocks, a senior couple in the front row stands up and begins to dance together in front of the entire crowd.
Vinny Sr. asks, “Did you see that couple dancing?” exclaiming, “That guy had a cane and he threw it away to dance!” Then, he asks the audience to be the horn section on the group’s next tune, Frankie Valli’s “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You.”
The audience croons the lyrics of the chorus on this feel-good song and happily joins in vocalizing the horn parts on the “Ba-dap, Ba-dap, Ba da-da dap” horn refrain.
After Vinny Sr. thanks the crowd for doing such a “good job,” he turns the stage over to “the youngsters” to play a medley of surf tunes including The Ventures’ “Walk Don’t Run” and “Theme from Hawaii Five-0.”
Following a Michael Benigno drum solo that brings cheers from the crowd, the musicians come downstage to sway in sync to the infectious beat before audience members rise to their feet cheering.
Vincent John shows his vocal range and personality singing Paul Anka’s “Good Night My Love.” Then, Vinny Sr. follows with a tribute to Jay and the Americans’ Jay Black crooning “Cara Mia,” hitting the high notes with ease and inspiring a standing ovation.
Vincent John tells the crowd, “There’s one song that means more to me as I go through life, and I want to dedicate it to my Mom and Dad.” Here, he is featured on vocals and guitar on Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide” where he’s soon joined by Joe Bari on guitar, Fernando Tort on bass, Michael Benigno on shaker, and Vinny Sr. on keyboard.
The crowd cheers for his touching rendition. Then, the group gives one of its most impressive performances of the evening — a stunning live version of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Featuring Vincent John on lead vocal and piano, the group’s interpretation brings the dazzled audience to its feet.
Vinny Sr. follows up with his tribute to Elvis Presley, “If I Can Dream.”
As images of Elvis appear on the screen, Vinny Sr. sings a duet with Elvis’ pre-recorded voice.
After thanking the staff at the Grunin Center, Vinny Sr. has his “boys” perform “Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)” by the Backstreet Boys before segueing into a raucous version of the Mark Ronson/Bruno Mars hit, “Uptown Funk.” Featuring Vincent John and Fernando Tort, the group’s energetic performance thoroughly entertains the packed house.
For a grand finale, The Bronx Wanderers perform their own unique version of “Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band” where audience members cheer and fans dance in their seats before the group segues into electrifying performances of Queen’s “We Will Rock You” and “We Are the Champions.”
As scenes from the film, Back to the Future, play behind them on screen, the Wanderers rock out to Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode.” The group concludes this evening’s show with a high-energy rendition of The Beatles’ “The End.”
Audience members stand and cheer and Vinny Sr. declares, “We have one more! Stay on your feet! Let’s have a high school dance,” as the entire audience sings, claps, and dances along to the sounds of Dion and the Belmonts’ “Runaround Sue.” Vinny and the boys thank the audience and take a bow together as they wave goodnight to the standing crowd.
As audience members make their way out of the Grunin Center, we chat with several music lovers who share their opinions of tonight’s show. Declares Kathleen from Monmouth County, “It was wonderful — amazing! We saw The Bronx Wanderers in Las Vegas, and they are very, very talented.” Sharon from Monmouth County agrees, adding, “I’ll keep coming to see their shows for as long as they do them.” Janet from the Bronx reveals, “I grew up in the Bronx — on 187th Street — and I loved this show. I can’t wait to come back to see The Bronx Wanderers again.”
Robin from Brick Township remarks, “I could really feel The Bronx Wanderers’ energy — especially here in this theater. It’s my first time at the Grunin Center, and it’s a lovely place to enjoy a concert.” Missy from Point Pleasant concurs, adding, “I’ve seen The Bronx Wanderers a million times and I’m sure I’ll see them a million more,” recalling, “I saw them years ago at Jenkinson’s in Point Pleasant and at Windward Beach in Brick, too, when Vinny Sr.’s kids were little and running around without their shoes and shirts.”
Frankie from the Bronx comments, “I think this was the best show I’ve seen. The production, the music, the story, the history — it was really well done,” adding, “My parents grew up on a lot of this music, but I liked how they worked in so many new songs, too. With Vinny Sr.’s backstory in the music industry and all the talent the group has on stage, it all works together perfectly. The show really moves along, and I especially love the chemistry between Vinny Sr. and his son, Vincent John.”
Patricia from Florida remarks, “The Bronx Wanderers’ show is great, and I especially love the backstory.” Cheryl from Barnegat acknowledges, “I saw The Bronx Wanderers several times in Westchester. I love their story, and, of course, I love the music.” Dennis from the Bronx concurs, adding, “I love oldies music, and I love this group’s talent.” Roger from Barnegat — who is originally from the Bronx — calls the group’s show tonight, “Fantastic,” noting, “It’s one of the most professional shows I’ve ever seen.”
Whereas Sandy from Toms River declares, “It was such a fun show — everyone was happy, and the performers were such great musicians,” Virginia from Manchester asserts, “Vinny Sr.’s son, Vincent, is a real showman.” Lastly, we chat with Norm from Manchester who says, “‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ was fantastic — spot on. I can’t imagine anyone who wouldn’t enjoy this production — this show is pure enjoyment!”
To learn more about The Bronx Wanderers, please go to thebronxwanderers.com. For information on upcoming events at Toms River’s Grunin Center — including Paul Reiser on October 8, The Sixties Show on October 15, and Judy Collins on December 11 — please click on grunincenter.org.
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