“Do You Like Good Music… Sweet Soul Music…”
By Mark Casasanto
Feature photo courtesy of Jim Villare
Did I miss any?
Here we are, smack dab in the middle of a pandemic. Whoever would have thought? Up until a couple months ago, “Corona” anything was associated with good times, laughs, fun and the sun. Here’s to good friends! Not! Or at least not now…
So, just how in the hell did we get here? Well wouldn’t the world like to know. But for all the uncertainties and soul searching of the last few weeks, there is a resounding take away.
In Italy, coordinated balcony sing-a-longs dotted the internet during their darkest hours. Back here at home, local DJs, bands and vocalists have taken to social media to keep us not only entertained, but mentally, burden free, even if for just three minutes at a time.
I’ve made it a point lately to excuse myself of the news, both locally and nationally. For peace of mind and not having to re-up a long empty prescription bottle of Xanax, I just had too. I get the pertinent local updates by text and that’s enough to filter through the hype, hysteria but, most importantly, keep me informed.
I also reintroduced myself to that big, heavy piece of walnut and ivory furniture that has followed me up and down stairs, from house to storage, apartment to storage and back again. I guess I had the old piano roll blues. Hello Mr. Cunningham…remember me?
Anyway friends, with the renewing of my musical vows, came some deep reflection of just how lucky I have been to be associated with some major musical acts through the years. This global crisis has also shined a light on just how fragile life is, celebrity, superstar or the neighbor next door. Your social standing matters not. In the end, we all go out as we came in, as equals.
Looking forward to good things to come, I’d thought it be fun and interesting to compose a list of some of the long establish touring acts who are perhaps nearing the end of the proverbial “performing” road, but currently still touring and entertaining. In other words, the next tour, could potentially be the last go round, with no encore. So… catch them while you can.
Just a quick note here, reconstructed bands like The Beach Boys, Journey, Chicago and Styx, while still awesome shows, just don’t cut it. With Brian Wilson, Steve Perry, Peter Cetera and Dennis DeYoung out of the respective mix, I’ll pass… thank you very much. Sorry, not sorry. It’s just not the same.
Without further adieu, ladies and gentlemen, please welcome…
Billy Joel- Okay truth be told, every show is a greatest hits show. There is nothing new to be had here. I can practically write the set list out in my sleep. That’s how long a ride I’ve had with “The Piano Man”. The magic remains, however. You know, those iconic songs that take you to another place and time. Pick your favorite and go from there. For me, it gets no better than the one, two combination that closes each show and knocks you into encores- “Scenes From An Italian Restaurant” followed by the ultimate and intimate sing-a -long known as “The Piano Man”. While it seems his annual summer stop at Citizen’s Bank Park has come to an end, his residency up at Madison Square Garden is going strong and booked through 2021. Do yourself a favor… get there.
Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band- Ahh, The Boss. Full disclosure, I’m not a fan at all of mixing political views with entertainment, especially when people are paying to see you perform and to come forget that type rhetoric. For that reason, I won’t personally pay to attend another show, not that I would need too. You see, I’ve traveled down Thunder Road and lived through the Glory Days with those guys. I seriously don’t know if a three and a half hour, mid-eighties Springsteen concert is even relatable in words to anyone who hasn’t had the pleasure. For my money, he’s still (if not the best) touring rock act out there. He puts the young bucks to shame. There’s no better backing band and the set list changes nightly and sometimes on the fly. Experience the power and energy that is “Born to Run” as the house lights power up to full tilt. Simply incredible and still an indelible memory be it your first time or fiftieth.
The Mavericks- The best band nobody knows. When the world shut down, this Tex-Mex, Country-Rockabilly creation was in the midst of their 30th Anniversary Tour. Led by the powerful and personable Raul Malo, a Mavericks show is the ultimate house party. At any point during their high energy set, aisles will be transformed into dance floors and any open space considered fair game for line dancing. In addition to their showstoppers like “All You Ever Do Is Bring Me Down” and “(Just Wanna) Dance The Night Away”, expect cover songs from the likes of Fats Domino, Springsteen and others. When this tour resumes, there should be a rescheduled local stop on the docket. Considering these guys have had moments of musical separations in the past, now would be the best time to partner up with a game wingman (or woman)…they can be the Iceman to your Maverick, then fly, don’t walk and get out to this remarkable musical experience.
Shania Twain- Listen, you don’t need to Feel Like A Woman to enjoy Shania. Even before her record breaking residency in Las Vegas, Shania’s performances were more Broadway worthy stage productions than crossover country-pop concerts. I see a lot of what performers like Pink, Taylor Swift and Michael Buble do in their shows now that directly correlate to Shania circa late ’90s. Despite some serious and potentially career ending medical encounters, this amiable superstar has polished up her boots and is sporadically gigging again. A return to the area might be a hard get but wrap the show around a weekend getaway, somewhere, anywhere and now you’re talking. Let the tender and very theatrically delivered “From This Moment On” and “You’re Still The One” set the table for a special night with that perfect someone.
Jimmy Buffet- I do declare, you must experience Jimmy Buffet and the Coral Reefer Band live in concert at least once. His Parrothead frenzied fans will show up with feathers, thongs, coconut bras and grass skirts. Hey look, it ain’t nothing but a good time and no one will judge. Admit it, we all want that trip to the fantasy island known as Margaritaville. It’s a musical get away from the rigors and reality of life that was…you know, just prior to donning your captain’s hat and affixing that plastic parrot to your shoulder en route to the venue. Maybe it’s the Cheeseburger In Paradise or not knowing where to go when the Volcano blows… but for me, summertime music is The Beach Boys and Buffet. As of now, the annual escape from reality is scheduled as planned for August 6th at B B & T Pavilion in Camden. Don’t forget, before heading out, grab some Grapefruit Juicy Fruit… it’s good for the soul!
Garth Brooks- Good ol’ Garth! For as many times as I had the pleasure, I can still sit through a Garth Brooks show over and over again. He is, without a doubt, one of the most sincere and genuine individuals I have ever met…and I’ve met a lot. The beauty of that statement is, it carries through to the stage. Hit after country hit, he transforms stadiums and arenas into honky tonk bars and roadside haunts. Just you, Garth and the band. It’s quite amazing. Let me put it to you this way. You have to experience “Friends In Low Places” live at least once in your musical Rodeo. Yeah sure, gone are the days when Garth would climb cable runs to the lighting trusses and leap from riser to riser. But the impact of the experience and the musical delivery still abound. Truthfully, there are no Kenney Chesneys or Blake Sheltons in the world if not for Brooks. So grab yourself Two Pina Coladas or a Longneck Bottle and party on with Garth.
Here’s hoping the warmer days ahead are a fun filled return to all the joys of the world and loaded with good music and great friends to lead the way.