Live Review: The Rascals in Uncasville, CT
For fans of America's pioneering rock and roll groups, the biggest news since last year's Beach Boys 50th Anniversary Tour was revealed earlier this year when it was announced that all four original members of The Rascals would hit the road, bringing their diverse and often blissfully optimistic catalog to concert halls nationwide this summer.
Eddie Brigati (vocals), Felix Cavaliere (keyboard, vocals), Gene Cornish (guitar) and Dino Danelli (drums) brought the band's "Once Upon a Dream" tour to Connecticut's Mohegan Sun Arena on Monday Aug. 30.
Produced and directed by Steven Van Zandt and audio/visual master Marc Brickman the "Once Upon A Dream" experience is described on its website as a hybrid of a rock concert and a Broadway show. In addition to the concert experience, the history of The Rascals -- and the '60s -- was greatly enhanced through the 30 song set by a combination of narration, filmed scenes of actors portraying key moments in the band's history, news footage, and archival footage that played out across a stage-spanning video screen.
Brickman's work is well documented with acts including Bruce Springsteen, Pink Floyd, Paul McCartney, the Blue Man Group, and Roger Waters' recent 'The Wall' tour, as well as ceremonies at the Barcelona and Nagano Olympics.
Van Zandt was also represented in a mock, pre-concert announcement where he encouraged audience members to stand up and dance, take pictures, tweet, and to basically "...do whatever the fuck you want."
The Rascals, formerly known as The Young Rascals, performed well-known singles including "How Can I Be Sure," "Come On Up," "You Better Run," "I've Been Lonely Too Long" and "Beautiful Morning," along with their No. 1 hits "Good Lovin'," "Groovin'" and "People Got to Be Free."
After burning brightly for several years, the band members went their separate ways in the early '70s, finally reuniting for one night in May of 1997 when Van Zandt inducted them into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
This appearance was the apparent ignition point that eventually inspired the foursome to bury their past differences and to make at least one more go at a tour. What is most interesting is how its members, a Doo-Wop lover, a Soul singer, a rockabilly guitarist and a Big Band aficionado, ever were able to create any chemistry in the first place.
But that chemistry was still alive and well during the band's Mohegan Sun set. One of the other pleasant aspects of the show was the fact that most of the music was coming from the core four members.
While they brought along a second keyboard player and bassist, and three backup singers, The Rascals sound was not overwhelmed by a huge backing ensemble like The Beach Boys and other nostalgia acts seem to rely on to get their material across as it was originally performed.
It could be argued that each of the Rascals had plenty of opportunities to shine during their two-hour-plus show, but Danelli seemed to be the one that the audience, and the rest of the band, responded to best.
With a style falling somewhere between Buddy Rich and Neil Peart, Danelli employed a minimal drum kit by today's standards. But he made the most of it showcasing his gregarious and deliberate manner of play on virtually every number.
Cornish displayed his talents by ripping several short and sweet guitar breaks on "What Is the Reason," and "Do You Feel It." He also covered the rhythm parts admirably, even picking out the acoustic parts on "Sueno," and adding the subtle harmonica lines for "Groovin'".
Cavaliere, sporting a jaunty hat, was equally engaging as he handled much of the lead keyboards and B-3 organ work with ease, while at the same time delivering spot-on vocals. "You Better Run," which was eventually covered by Pat Benatar, was a nice surprise, but Cavaliere really left his mark on "Beautiful Morning," "Lonely Too Long," and the inspiring "People Got To Be Free."
That selection played out against images of the historic March on Washington, which celebrated its anniversary just two days earlier.
Even though Brigati seems to have lost a little top-end range, and some of the warmth of his younger days, he was the picture of enthusiasm for virtually the entire show. Dancing and spinning around with his two-fisted tambourines, he brought the crowd to its feet on several occasions.
Brigati's voice was often blended with the backup singers, but he proved he could still carry the lead work on some of the band's deeper album cuts like "Baby Let's Wait," "If You Knew" and the psychedelic masterpiece "Away Away."
The Rascals Once Upon a Dream tour picks up again in October with a trio of rescheduled shows in Baltimore, before heading to California and bouncing back to wrap up their 2013 reunion trek at Atlantic City's Borgata Casino on Nov. 29.