Too good to be true? Frankie Valli delivers the goods @ Blumenthal
Posted on 27 Feb 2011 by Michael J. Solender
Review: Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons
It was late in the summer of 1962. JFK was in the White House. Ninety miles south of Miami, American spy planes detected the prominent development of missile silos in Fidel Castro’s Cuba. One month earlier, Alan Shepard became the first American in space. The Green Bay Packers won the NFL championship game (the Super Bowl had yet to be established) and The Beatles were two years away from appearing on the Ed Sullivan Show.
Francis Castelluccio, aka Frankie Valli, and the Four Seasons, the original Jersey Boys, performed Sherry on American Bandstand rocking the nation with their smooth styling harmonies, Valli’s falsetto and their signature back-beat. Sherry hit number one on the pop charts weeks later and the meteoric ride of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Famer was off and running.
With 71 chart hits, including 40 in the Top 40, 19 in the Top 10 and eight No. 1’s, coming during the 1960s, is it reasonable to consider Valli relevant to the contemporary music scene?
For Saturday evening’s graying audience of baby boomers (Yes, dear reader, I am one of those) the answer to that question was a resounding yes. Valli is perhaps more relevant than ever.
If youth is wasted on the young, then nostalgia is the prerogative of the aged. Franki Valli tees up precisely what his audiences stand in line for and swoon to when he delivers: A pure, schmaltzy, thick musical soundtrack to their halcyon days.
All our fathers were employed in the 60s, we had no idea where in the world Iraq was, upside down mortgage was a term not yet invented, and social security promised each of us a comfortable retirement future.
Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons were in the jukebox that played 3 songs for a quarter. They were the background music to the sweetness that was our youth. Valli gave us the feel good make-out songs and rousing anthems that made us feel invincible and confident about the era in which we lived.
Who cares if the man is close to eighty years old? Legendary blues singer Alberta Hunter was in her prime well past eighty. Valli still puts it out and delivers yesterday on a plate with charm, finesse and a shiny Carolina blue tie.
Somehow tunes like Dawn and Under My Skin seem even better than the first time around, possibly because we know all the words and have today’s troubles to escape from.
Saturday Valli was accompanied by an ensemble group of players that include new voices alongside the old and help create the imagery and feel that takes us back to our fondly recalled yesteryears. The “new” Four Seasons (Landon Beard, Brian Brigham, Todd Fournier and Brandon Brigham) are four talented, telegenic harmonic accompanists that provide a vocal wave to lift Valli’s steady and solid solos.
His eleven piece band, complete with five horns, two guitars, two percussionists, a solid bass and musical director and keyboardist, Robby Robinson, delivered a tightly orchestrated 90 minute set of more than a dozen Valli standards and several newly recorded 60s era classics that Valli said he always wanted to cover.
Hearing his version of Spanish Harlem, Call Me and a My Girl/Groovin’ medley that got many oldsters out of their seats to dance and sing along, you would have thought that these were his songs all along.
Not a crooner in a classic sense, nor a vocalist with the intensity and projection of many rock and rollers of his day (think Elvis and Chuck Berry), Valli possess a unique audio charisma and timber in his voice that defines him as a troubadour and balladeer that simply sparkles with classic ballads such as his chart topper, My Eyes Adored You and the more up-tempo Tell It to the Rain.
Valli’s legendary falsetto and signature sound that has defined him for decades was nearly as strong Saturday as it was in the 60s with December ’63, Rag Doll and his very first number one, Sherry.
The Four Seasons deliver for their front man with exceptional range and even a bit of vocal trickery as at times they sing under Valli, boosting his voice, smoothing out any rough patches. Pleasing eye candy for the ladies to be sure, Valli’s fab four have all the twirls, whirls, finger snaps and microphone moves from the bygone era down that when combined with the 60s style light show it was easy to believe that a time gone by had indeed returned for the evening.
Valli proved he could deliver the goods all by himself when his definitive number, Can’t Take My Eyes Off You, led into the finale hit medley, followed by Rag Doll and Lets Hang On.
For 90 minutes at the Belk on Saturday, hanging on is precisely what the audience did, rock and roll memories firmly in hand.