Bandstand Legends Rock the Event Center at SugarHouse Casino
by Mark Casasanto
Local boys- or should I say the neighborhood guys- returned to a hometown sell-out crowd last night on the banks of the Delaware River at Philadelphia’s newest live performance venue.
Around here, Frankie Avalon, Bobby Rydell and Fabian are more than just household names. Their past hit making hysteria harkens back to simpler times where a guy wants a girl and a girl wants a guy; hug, a kiss and happily ever after they go. On these, the very streets of South Philadelphia from which they once played, both literally and figuratively, they are legend.
Known collectively as the performing and touring entity of Dick Fox’s Golden Boys, the trio still possess the charm, charisma and quick corner wit to keep an audience amused, entertained, singing and dancing. Through an admittedly fun, perfectly paced and well conceived ninety plus minute show, the audience gets to take a nostalgic musical journey back in time when anything worth a damn musically originated from the talent lined streets of Philadelphia.
With the house lights down and side screens chronicling their respective rise to stardom, each of the vocalists were introduced separately until all three stood at center stage before bouncing into Barry Manilow’s “Bandstand Boogie”. The familiar theme song queued the beginning of American Bandstand where the young talent of the era garnered their biggest and best exposure under the watchful eye and influence of Dick Clark.
Reminiscent of Frank, Dean and Sammy’s Rat Pack days, the good natured ribbing and nightclub cliche of one liners and rim shots soon gave way to individual sets with Rydell batting lead off.
In an eerie sense of deja vu, I was easily brought back to a mid-seventies Palumbo’s performance during Rydell’s set. Effortlessly, he interacted with a sometimes overly enthusiastic crowd that would just randomly shout out requests, greetings and whatever else was on their mind that they thought he and everyone else in the showroom should know. He genuinely engaged them, sometimes even speaking Italian, as if to give all the paisani their say. And Rydell had a few things to say as well, joking on how he and “Fabe” grew up on 11th Street and Frankie on 9th Street. We didn’t like the kids from 10th Street so we threw them at Frankie..”
To his credit, Rydell still has the golden pipes, evident as he clearly and crisply delivered on what he correctly calls his signature song, “Volare”. For my money, and even though I am a huge Dean Martin fan, Rydell’s “Volare” is the only “Volare”. As far as showstoppers, you can make a case for “Wildwood Days”- the capacity crowd literally erupted into a ball of vocal energy in what has become an unofficial summer anthem “’round these here parts”. “Wild One” sounded as pumped up tonight as it did back in 1960, and dare I say, maybe even more so? Paying homage to Frank Sinatra, he delivered a spot on rendering of “I’ve Got The World On A String” and his own million seller, “Forget Him”, was as poignantly touching as ever.
Fabian continued the dance party if you will, covering Buddy Holly’s, “Oh Boy”, Frankie Ford’s “Sea Cruise” as well as his own hits, “I‘m A Man” and “Turn Me Loose”. At one point he had at least twenty audience members up on stage with him twistin’. Displaying an often unseen expressive side, Forte thanked the room for always supporting him and his family and remarked how “nice it was to be home”. He seemingly enjoyed the jokester role played well in the middle set of the three taking “little blue pill”, “doctor” and “denture” cracks at his off stage cohorts.
Avalon followed and open with the catchy theme song to the movie of the same name, Beach Blanket Bingo. Keeping it light, he recited all the beach movies, referred to himself as The Big Kahuna, worried he wouldn’t be recognized without his swim trunks and made tender mention of the late actress, friend and co-star, Annette Funicello. Avalon also delivered “Beauty School Dropout” from Grease with the opening intro coming directly from a movie clip shown on the side screens.
“Venus, Why” (sung from the audience and sneaking a kiss from his sister and cousin), “Ginger Bread” and “Dede Dinah” all hit the mark, but the highlight of his set, was a three song medley of Everly Brothers hits, “Bye Bye Love”, “All I Have To Do Is Dream” and “Wake Up Little Susie”. Don Everly’s son, Edan Everly, also serves as Avalon’s guitarist (Frank Avalon, Jr. is also with the band as his drummer). With Edan taking his Uncle Phil’s high harmony part and Avalon delivering on Don’s, the unlikely pairing delivered the standout moment of the evening.
For the finale, the three neighborhood chums gathered back on stage to run through classics such as Bobby Darin’s “Mack the Knife”, Bill Haley’s “Rock Around The Clock” and The Righteous Brothers’ “Rock and Roll Heaven”. But before dropping the curtain on a great night of music, laughter and good clean entertainment, a little audience participation was needed to send everyone off into that great, yet very hot and humid, goodnight. The outstanding eleven piece band drifted quietly into The Mickey Mouse Club’s Alma Mater (closing theme song)…. Yes, that song. Hey, I didn’t care to ask, but it fits the bill and somehow it actually works.
M I C… See you real soon…
K E Y… Why because we love you.
M O U S E…