Give Me That Old Time Rock and Roll

Give Me That Old Time Rock and Roll

by JasonBryan / Jul 30, 2015 / 0 comments
Date: 
Sunday, 26 July 2015

The Happy Together Tour leaped its time machine from the 60’s right into the Pacific Amphitheater at the Orange County Fair in Costa Mesa, CA on Sunday night. However instead of bringing you performers from the dawn of rock and roll, you got a bunch of geezers that were trying to transplant the venue to the ethereal summer of love. Featuring The Turtles with Mark Volman (Flo) and Howard Kaylan (Eddie). They haven’t been able to use their real names in association with the Turtles since a contract dispute in the 60’s. They’ve been doing the Happy Together Tour since 1984 with varying acts from the golden era of rock. This years tour the surviving Turtles were accompanied by Mark Lindsay, front man of Paul Revere and the Raiders, as well as The Association, The Grass Roots, The Cowsills, and The Buckinghams.
Being a huge fan of oldies I was excited to see songs I’ve been listening to my entire life performed by some semblance of the original artists. First up were the Buckinghams. Their performance was the exact opposite of “Kind of a Drag”. The two original members, Carl Giammarese (lead vocals/guitar), Nick Fortuna (bass/vocals) stood in front of the hired hands, and gave a solid performance. The Buckinghams started off with a four song set, and everyone new all of them. Throughout the night the jumbotron showed images from the late ‘60’s and would cut to vintage footage of the band performing from their heyday.
The first act set the tone for the four song set theme. When I saw that the show started at 8pm, I was like how are six bands going to play before two to two and a half hours? When the Cowsills took the stage I got my answer. A house band. The same musicians accompanying The Buckinghams played with the Cowsills and every act that followed. This illuminated the time for breaking down and setting up in between acts. The house band was accompanied by additional guitar and bass by the members of the named acts. The announcer came on introducing The Cowsills (the real life inspiration for the Partridge Family) and the three performing members (Bob, Susan, and Paul) went right into it with their set. I’d forgotten how funny their song “Hair” was, and it was even funnier as the big screens showed vintage hair product commercials. Four songs went by quickly and they were off the stage.
The Grass Roots (my favorite of the bands in the line-up) were next. They were the rockiest band on the ticket. The deeper voices of Mark Dawson and Dusty Hanvey accompanied with thicker guitar licks remind you that the music people think of as oldies and psychedelic rock are happening at the same time, and even by the same bands. They started off strong, but I was slightly disappointed in how they slowed down the break down on “Live For Today.” It’s one of my all time favorite songs, so it’s a personal preference, not a quality of performance comment. Three bands into the show, and to no detriment to the performers, but it was apparent to me, that the house band could have used some backing vocals. The Cowsill’s got by alright with the three of them, but both The Buckinghams and The Grass Roots who have songs with a full band singing back up lyrics, just didn’t carry the same weight with one guy singing the lead and another doing the backing vocals.
The Association was next. They took the stage dressed in white on white suits, a throwback to the early days of rock and roll when bands dressed the same. They started off with “Wendy.” After the song they stated how normally on the Happy Together Tour only three members had been performing (Original Members Jim Yester and Jules Alexander, and the new guy from 1972, Del Ramos, who’s older brother is an original member), but tonight they had Jordan Cole and Bruce Pictor accompanying them for vocals. It’s one of the perks of seeing a band play in Southern California where so many entertainment professionals call home. And it was a nice additional insight into how this tour was orchestrated. Despite having five guys they still couldn’t quite deliver the harmonies like they could fifty years ago, but they are still having fun with it, and it hammers in how much an ensemble show could benefit from a few additional house singers.
Mark Lindsay was next, at first I hadn’t gotten over my disappointment that The Grass Roots weren’t the second to last band of the night. But Lindsay despite being in his 70’s was the most vibrant of any of the performers. He encouraged the house band to let loose, physically pushing them towards the edge of the stage to a more prominent position. When he belted out “Cherokee people” in “Indian Reservation” it was every bit as solid as it was in 1971. In the end, his performance stood out as the best, and probably has a lot to do with him playing in the prime spot on the line-up.
It wouldn’t be the Happy Together Tour without the band who sings the titular song. Flo and Eddie of the turtles take the stage with Flo dressed as Olaf the Snowman from Frozen. The duo did a lot of staged jokes that were so corny they made dad jokes seem cutting edge. Finally Eddie (Howard Kaylan) went into song, and his voice was very much as solid as it was on the original recordings. I’ve always loved their version of Dylan’s “It Ain’t Me Babe” and they performed it with that same hint of anger that resonated so well in the late ‘60’s. For the encore they brought every band out to do a quickly medley of a verse from one of their hits, which despite having just heard these bands earlier was actually very fun. They then went into “Happy Together” with everyone on stage, but for some reason they only did the chorus and the “bom bom bom” part with the audience. I would have like to have heard the whole song. I guess I’ll just have to imagine me and you, and you and me hearing it in its entirety.
Overall the Happy Together Tour is a really fun blast from the past that any fan of the early years of rock and roll will truly enjoy. For the people from my parents generation that relate these songs, not as oldies, but as the rebellious rock of their youth, having the chance to see so many hits in one night can make them feel fifty years younger. I’m still waiting for the time machine so I can catch them all at the original Woodstock.

Rating out of 11: 
7