Happy Together 25th Anniversary
With the Turtles, Micky Dolenz, Mark Lindsay, the Grassroots, and the Buckinghams
Hard Rock Live, Hollywood
Thursday, July 29, 2010
Those involved in the "Happy Together" assemblage coast along on
memories alone. For the headlining Turtles, it actually represents phase
two in a continuing courtship of Baby Boomer sentiment and, of course,
their Baby Boomer bucks. Their previous sweep through South Florida
occurred under a collective banner dubbed "Hippie Fest" (which continues
sans Turtles via a local date next month), but judging from this
package of performers, "Happy Together" is their franchise to have and
to own. There's something to be said for the sunny vibes and sweet
sentimentality evoked by these reliable road shows, which prove that age alone isn't cause to short-circuit a career.
Despite the fact that every participant in last night's extravaganza has an average age somewhere in the mid-60s, not a single one showed any evidence of diminishing returns. To the contrary, every singer seems as formidable now as he or she was as a youth. Mark Lindsay -- he being the former frontman of Paul Revere and the Raiders -- was especially impressive and practically stole the show. At 68, he sounded as committed as ever while slithering about the stage with a Jaggeresque shuffle, defiantly attired in shades, tight jeans, and a frilly dark blouse that looked like a dead ringer for Jerry Seinfield's infamous "puffy shirt." The old Raiders' hits -- particularly "Hungry," "Just Like Me," "Kicks" and, surprisingly, "Louie Louie" (graced with an unexpected appearance by Herald columnist Dave Barry on guitar) -- still sounded mean and menacing, purveying a punk-like persona that's only gotten edgier with age. Even so, Lindsay couldn't resist a canned comment about his trajectory. "I thought the '60s would never come around again," he noted. "But then one day, I woke up and realized I was back in the 60s. My 60!"
Of course, it's inevitable that time does take its toll. The two original members of the Buckinghams -- guitarist-turned-singer Carl Giammarese and bassist Nick Fortuna -- offered faithful renditions of their hit repertoire ("Hey Baby (They're Playing Our Song)," Susan" and of course, "Kind of a Drag"), but these days, they come across more cabaret than contemporary. Likewise, despite a dynamic arsenal of reliable radio fare ("Temptation Eyes," "Let's Live for Today," and "I'd Wait a Million Years," among them), singer Rob Grill -- the sole holdover from the Grassroots' initial incarnation -- looked like he best belonged on a Vegas stage. As a result, songs that were once riveting and resilient now veer closer to mainstream MOR.
Lindsey changed the tone and provided a nice setup for the tour's most bankable star, none other than former Monkee Micky Dolenz. Dolenz proved he was adept in exercising show biz schtick, as evidenced by the way he took immediate command of the stage and peppered his performance with reliable anecdotes and self-deprecating commentary. After all, he started his a career as a child star on a '50s TV series called Circus Boy and has pretty much worked ever since. Of course, most of his remarks centered on his memories as a Monkee, and in that regard, he wasn't shy about dropping names. He recounted how, during a visit to London, he dropped by a Beatles recording session, and then illustrated his experience with a blustery read of the Abbey Road offering "Oh Darling."
He talked about how he tapped the then-fledgling Jimi Hendrix Experience as an opening act on the Monkees' first American tour and admitted to an embarrassing backlash after exposing them to the unsuspecting teenybopper hordes. Of course, these days, he looks nothing like the playful pop pinup of old; with his black fedora and steely-looking shades, he mostly resembles a classic crooner. Yet, he also offered faithful renditions of his group's timeless hits, from "Last Train to Clarksville" and "Daydream Believer" through "Pleasant Valley Sunday" and "(I'm Not) Your Stepping Stone," the latter of which found him joined by Lindsay following a feigned argument over which of their bands claimed the most credible rendition.
Had Dolenz been the headliner, "Happy Together" would have been joyful enough. But of course, being the ringmasters of this traveling extravaganza, Flo and Eddie, AKA Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan, had to have the final say. With credits that extended far beyond their reign as the folk-rocking Turtles (Note: they were among the first to cover a Dylan song, the veracious "It Ain't Me Babe") -- the two carried their credibility into the modern age as much-in-demand hired guns for Bruce Springsteen, Frank Zappa, Keith Moon, and T. Rex. Today, they celebrate their success by delivering a double delight through their ample arsenal of exhilarating melodies ("She'd Rather Be With Me," "You Baby," "Elenore," and, naturally, the entire tour's signature song, "Happy Together") and well-rehearsed onstage antics.
A slimmed-down Volman retains the bushy, bushy mock Afro he was once famous for (imagine a slightly loopy Art Garfunkel), and Kaylan, with white beard and perched cap, looks more like someone's benign granddad. Happily, though, the duo's vocal rapport finds their presentation as emphatic as ever. Indeed, their goofiness still leaves room for the occasional cut-up ("I'm Adam Lambert's dad," Kaylan boasted, and, pointing toward his partner, "Here's Jordin Sparks!"). Given their 45-year partnership and ongoing enterprise, the two resemble nothing so much as a pair of well-paced Borscht Belt comedians, apparently still happy together, or at least willing to give it a go.
Personal bias: A crack band did a yeoman's job in backing up each ensemble and faithfully replicating every note of their songs. However, DJ Shadoe Steven's bombastic introductions threatened to turn the show into an overarching history lesson. I half expected a pop quiz at the end.
Random detail: Band members celebrated a double birthday last night, precipitating two impromptu blasts of the Beatles' "Birthday."
By the way: The revue was billed as its 25th anniversary. Of what? Has it carried on for 25 years with scant visits to South Florida? It's more like 45 years since these acts first came to prominence. No matter; as a fundraiser for recovering violence victim Josie Ratley, the show was purely in the now.