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"Over the Top Terrific!" Cousin Brucie Presents Herman's Hermits LIVE! at PNC Bank Arts Center


By Spotlight Central, Photos by Love Imagery

originally published: 06/10/2024

"Over the Top Terrific!" Cousin Brucie Presents Herman

It’s a gorgeous May 30, 2024 evening inside Holmdel, NJ’s PNC Bank Arts Center amphitheater where an audience of over 13,000 music lovers anticipate the start of a free Garden State Arts Center performance of Cousin Brucie Presents Herman’s Hermits starring Peter Noone, Gary Puckett and the Union Gap, and LaLa Brooks.

Garden State Arts Foundation VP Ron Gravino welcomes the large crowd to tonight’s presentation. After recognizing the various sponsors of this event — including Live Nation Entertainment, PNC Bank, and MusicRadio 77-WABC — Gravino also thanks GSAF executive director Cookie Santiago, Bob O’Brien, and others for their help. Lastly, he introduces tonight’s host, radio disc jockey Bruce “Cousin Brucie” Morrow, who takes the stage in his 77-WABC letterman jacket.

"Over the Top Terrific!" Cousin Brucie Presents Herman

“Thank you, cousins, for being here!” exclaims Brucie, who introduces LaLa Brooks, confessing, “I’ve loved this lady since I met her when she was in The Crystals.”

Sounding youthful and powerful, Brooks, 76, wows the crowd with a sparkling rendition of her 1963 Crystals’ hit, “And Then He Kissed Me.”

"Over the Top Terrific!" Cousin Brucie Presents Herman

Recalling, “I started with The Crystals when I was 13 and sang ‘And Then He Kissed Me’ when I was 15,” Brooks adds, “I also recorded this next song when I was 15.” Here, she gives a rockin’ rendition of The Crystals’ 1963 tune, “Little Boy (Let Me Be Your Little Girl),” backed by a five-piece band and two back-up singers who deftly support her effortless lead.



 
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Exclaiming, “This next song put The Crystals on the map!” Brooks performs the power doo-wop ballad, “There’s No Other (Like My Baby),” her vocal pleading for all to listen as she cries, “There’s a story I want you to know/‘Bout my baby, how I love him so.”

As a tribute to her late friend, Ronnie Spector, Brooks performs The Ronettes’ “Be My Baby,” which has the audience cheering for more. She follows up with her 1963 Crystals’ recording, “Da Doo Ron Ron.” On this number, after energetically dancing across the stage to avid applause, she gets the crowd clapping and singing along to the song’s infectious “Da doo ron-ron-ron/Da do ron-ron” chorus.

"Over the Top Terrific!" Cousin Brucie Presents Herman

Joking, “Thank you so much! I know you’re asking how old is that broad!” Brooks quips, “As soon as I get off this stage I’m taking an Aleve!” She launches into her final number of the evening — her rendition of Tina Turner’s “Proud Mary.” Opening slowly with “Left a good job in the city,” by the time the next verse sails around, the tempo increases to a frenzied pace and Brooks sashays down to the ground to cheers, applause, and a standing ovation.

"Over the Top Terrific!" Cousin Brucie Presents Herman

Cousin Brucie thanks LaLa, asking, “How in the hell do you get down that low?” to which she jokes, “The legs come off at night — I screw them off!”

"Over the Top Terrific!" Cousin Brucie Presents Herman

Brooks leaves the stage and Brucie introduces Gary Puckett and the Union Gap. Backed by Jamie Hilboldt on keyboards, Woody Lingle on bass, and Mike Candito on drums, Puckett’s one-of-a-kind voice fills the PNC Bank amphitheater as he opens with his 1968 hit, “Lady Willpower.”

"Over the Top Terrific!" Cousin Brucie Presents Herman

After announcing, “Hey, New Jersey, it’s great to be back!” Puckett follows up with his 1968 Top 10 smash, “Over You.” Crooning, “Why am I losing sleep over you?” the audience happily joins him in singing the song’s melodic “Over you” refrain.

“I love it when you guys sing!” responds Puckett, adding, “Thanks for making these records hits!” before crooning the power ballad, “Don’t Give In to Him.”

"Over the Top Terrific!" Cousin Brucie Presents Herman



 
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When a fan yells out, “I love you!” Puckett responds, “I love you, too! I’ve loved you for 56 years now and I hope to have 56 more!” Asking concertgoers to applaud when he calls out their respective age group — “Under 60,” “60–70,” “70–80,” and “over 80” — Puckett reveals, “I’ll be 82 next October!”

Following the folk-rocking “Let’s Give Adam and Eve Another Chance,” Puckett gives an upbeat and bluesy performance of Paul Simon’s “Keep the Customer Satisfied.” Recalling, “1969 was a big year for Gary Puckett and the Union Gap,” Puckett renders a dynamic version of his 1969 Top Ten hit, “This Girl is a Woman Now.”

"Over the Top Terrific!" Cousin Brucie Presents Herman

The crowd joins Puckett in performing an a cappella version of Ricky Nelson’s “Travelin’ Man,” after which he invites everyone to join him in singing his 1968 hit, “Woman, Woman,” where the crowd energetically chimes in on the tune’s famous, “Woman/Woman/Have you got cheating on your mind?” refrain.

"Over the Top Terrific!" Cousin Brucie Presents Herman

Declaring, “Freedom is not free!” Puckett asks veterans in the audience to stand so he can thank them for their service and pay tribute to them with a poignant interpretation of his song, “Home.”

A fan in the crowd presents Puckett with a bouquet of roses and he holds them as he concludes his set with his 1968 million seller, “Young Girl.”

"Over the Top Terrific!" Cousin Brucie Presents Herman

Music lovers sing along on the song’s famous “Young girl, get out of my mind” chorus prior to standing and cheering for Gary Puckett and the Union Gap.

Following a short intermission, Cousin Brucie retakes the stage to announce, “This guy is on his own level. He keeps giving us happiness, he’s fun, and he has great heart and soul,” as he introduces Peter Noone and Herman’s Hermits.

The crowd claps and cheers as guitarists Vance Brescia and Billy Sullivan, keyboardist Rich Spina, and drummer Dave Ferrara take the stage. As a backdrop with a British flag lowers itself from the ceiling, Peter Noone, 76, enters, and he and the group launch into their first number — Herman’s Hermits’ 1964 hit, “I’m Into Something Good.”

"Over the Top Terrific!" Cousin Brucie Presents Herman

The crowd joyfully sings along to the song’s upbeat “Something tells me I’m into something good” chorus before Noone and the band segue into Herman’s Hermits’ 1965 remake of the 1960 Sam Cooke hit, “Wonderful World.”

Noone exclaims, “Good evening, ladies and gentlemen!” prior to moving on to a poignant rendition of “Listen People” where he captivates the audience crooning the song’s “Everybody’s got to love somebody sometime” message.



 
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Noone makes his way down into the audience on an upbeat cover version of the Clovers’ 1959 Leiber/Stoller classic, “Love Potion № 9.” Back onstage, he exclaims, “What a splendid audience! Let’s do some Johnny Cash!” and launches into a humorous impression of Cash’s “Ring of Fire.”

After a crisp interpretation of his 1967 hit, “No Milk Today,” Noone presents a jaunty version of 1966’s “Dandy” and an upbeat rendition of 1966’s “A Must to Avoid.”

"Over the Top Terrific!" Cousin Brucie Presents Herman

In talking about his experiences traveling to New Jersey, Noone deadpans, “Our travel agent in England decided the nearest airport to Holmdel was LaGuardia,” before noting, “On the way, we saw a Starbucks, but we couldn’t get there because it was on the left.”

The audience chuckles, and Noone signs an autograph for a beaming fan prior to launching into his interpretation of The Monkees’ “Daydream Believer.” Then, he humorously changes the lyrics of Gerry and the Pacemaker’s “Ferry Cross the Mersey” to “Ferry Cross the Matawan.”

Standing in between his bandmates, Billy Sullivan and Vance Brescia, Noone delivers a rockin’ version of his 1965 hit, “A Little Bit Better,” where Vance Brescia high kicks as he plays guitar.

"Over the Top Terrific!" Cousin Brucie Presents Herman

Flashlights and glowsticks in the audience sway on Peter’s cue to Herman’s Hermits’ 1965 remake of The Rays’ “Silhouettes,” after which Noone explains, “Almost all Herman’s Hermits songs are uptempo, but this one is a bit of a downer. It’s called ‘The End of the World’ — I hope you like it.”

"Over the Top Terrific!" Cousin Brucie Presents Herman

The spotlight focuses on Peter as he performs this heartfelt and poignant rendition of his 1965 ballad on the steps leading to the stage before going deep into the PNC Bank Arts Center amphitheater and pretending to steal a concertgoer’s shopping bag along with climbing over a railing and calling back to his bandmates, “Hey, fellas, I’m almost back at the hotel!”

Returning to the stage, Noone and the Hermits perform a spirited version of the group’s 1965 #2 Billboard hit, “Can’t You Hear My Heartbeat,” before segueing into a rollicking rendition of Frankie Ford’s “Sea Cruise” where Noone and keyboardist Rich Spina have fun performing together on stage.

"Over the Top Terrific!" Cousin Brucie Presents Herman

Billy Sullivan plays a guitar solo on an energetic rendition of The Beatles’ “All My Loving,” and Noone jokingly pays “homage to my dear old dad” — Mick Jagger — strutting back and forth across the stage on The Rolling Stones’ “Start Me Up.”

Audience members sing along with Peter on his 1965 #1 smash, “Mrs. Brown You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter,” and also join in singing on a raucous rendition of Herman’s Hermits’ 1965 hit, “I’m Henry the VIII, I Am,” where Noone energetically directs the festivities.

"Over the Top Terrific!" Cousin Brucie Presents Herman

After Noone shows the audience his socks with flags on them — one British and one American — the crowd stands and sways as he and the Hermits perform their final number, a nostalgic rendition of the band’s classic 1967 recording, “There’s a Kind of Hush.”

“Goodnight, drive safely!” says Noone before Cousin Brucie retakes the stage to remark, “I loved tonight’s show. How about you?” The crowd roars its approval and Brucie concludes by stating, “Let’s all learn to love one another again. Music is the answer. Music is love!”

"Over the Top Terrific!" Cousin Brucie Presents Herman

As concertgoers exit the PNC Bank amphitheater, several comment on tonight’s Cousin Brucie Presents performance. Exclaims Doris from Colts Neck, “It was excellent! Marvelous! Wonderful! LaLa Brooks was great; her music brought back a lot of memories! Gary Puckett was good, too, and Peter Noone’s energy was unreal — he did hit after hit and he still sounds exactly the way he did when I was 15!”

Doris’ husband, Santiago, agrees, asserting, “I thought the show was absolutely wonderful! It brought me back to my high school days. I remember so many of those songs; it was a real trip down memory lane.”

Alice from Manalapan proclaims, “This show was awesome — it really rocked! LaLa Brooks was amazing — she’s the new Tina Turner — and Gary Puckett has still got it. Plus, Peter Noone is a riot — he’s really great! All three performers brought back a lot of memories for me.”

Bruce from Parsippany insists, “LaLa Brooks was amazing — I’d never seen her before — and I just saw Peter Noone two weeks ago in Pennsylvania and wanted to see him again because he’s so talented. His energy is amazing — I got tired just watching him — and his songs are all classics where you can sing along with every one of them.”

Marilyn from Monroe declares, “I thought tonight’s show was fabulous — the best one of the past few seasons! It’s really amazing how they can provide these programs to New Jersey residents at no cost,” before explaining, “I love Cousin Brucie — I listen to him all the time on the radio — and I can’t believe how LaLa Brooks can still move like that! Gary Puckett was really good, too, and Peter Noone’s energy was just unbelievable.”

Marilyn’s husband, Larry, concurs, adding, “It was a terrific concert! It’s hard to believe Cousin Brucie is now in his 80s — he still does such a great job — and the show he put on tonight featuring Peter Noone was over the top terrific!”

"Over the Top Terrific!" Cousin Brucie Presents Herman

To learn more about Cousin Brucie, please go to facebook.com/YourCousinBrucie. For information on LaLa Brooks please go to facebook.com/LaLaBrooksOfTheCrystals. For more on Gary Puckett and the Union Gap, please go to garypuckettmusic.com. For further info on Herman’s Hermits starring Peter Noone, please click on peternoone.com. To learn more about future Garden State Arts Foundation concerts at the PNC Bank Arts Center please go to gsafoundation.org.

Photos by Love Imagery



 
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