After 20 years at the University of Oregon, I have retired. So, I will begin posting about my new experiences here and hope you find them interesting.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Hit Men in concert at Three Rivers in Florence, Oregon - Oh, What a Night!!

A music review by  © 2013

Last year my sisters and I had such a great time attending a performance of "Jersey Boys" at Keller Auditorium in Portland that when I saw some of the original "Four Seasons" had formed a new group called "The Hit Men" and were to perform at the Three Rivers Casino over on the coast in Florence, Oregon I couldn't resist booking some tickets.

I was certainly glad I did.  The show sold out and when the group started playing, everyone in the audience, including me, could hardly resist singing along with them and I think there was even dancing going on in the aisles!  They started out with a Four Seasons medley that included the Four Seasons classics "Dawn", "Rag Doll" and "Working My Way Back to You".  Then they kept knocking out hit after hit after hit.

Many of the songs were from the Four Seasons repertoire (some of my most favorite dance music from the 60s and 70s) but the group also includes members who have played with Tommy James and the Shondells, Elton John, Carly Simon and Jim Croce so we were treated to spirited renditions of "Mony, Mony", "Hanky Panky", "Crocodile Rock", "Bad, Bad, Leroy Brown" and "You're so Vain", too.

Apparently, the musicians were inspired to get together again because of the phenomenal success of "Jersey Boys", the Broadway play that tells the story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons and includes many of their hit songs.  Lee Shapiro on the keyboard, who got the Hit Men together, and Gerry Polci, on the drums, were members of The Four Seasons until the 90s.

Gerry Polci was also the lead singer on one of the Four Seasons greatest hits, "Oh, What a Night!".  The song, written by Bob Gaudio and his wife Judy Parker, was originally about the repeal of Prohibition and entitled "December 5th, 1933but after a lyric rewrite at the urging of Franki Valli, the song became a nostalgic remembrance of a young man's first affair with a woman and the rest is music history.When the group performed that song during the concert, Polci once again sang the lead and it sounded as terrific as it did when The Four Seasons first recorded it all those years ago and released it as a single in December 1975.

Not only did the songs sound as good as I remembered but the musicians were all obviously having a great time, too.

“It's really amazing to be reliving my greatest moments in music with the the guys who were there.”
– Gerry Polci, Hit Men drummer and former Four Seasons.

I was also totally blown away by the energy exhibited by the band members as many were at least as old as I am. Russ Velazquez who has not only performed with Sting, Carol King, LL Cool J and Paula Abdul but is a four time Emmy-nominated composer and arranger for his work on TV's Sesame Street,was just all over the stage and had an amazing vocal range.

Larry Gates sang a particularly mean "Mony, Mony" and supplied the distinctive falsetto in many of The Four Seasons' songs. Jimmy Ryan, who has received gold and platinum records playing alongside Paul McCartney, Mick Jagger, Rod Stewart, Elton John, Cat Stephens, Jim Croce and Carly Simon was in absolutely top form, too! Of course as a close friend of Carly Simon, he sang the lead in "You're so Vain." Ryan also frequently told little stories in between sets about the early days of rock-n-roll that were really interesting and certainly turned up the nostalgia factor!

One of Ryan's stories included a memory about a performance when the power went out and they had to sing without amplified instruments.  To show us what it was like, all of the men walked up to the front of the stage leaving their instruments behind, except for Ryan's unplugged guitar.  Then they sang "Silence is Golden", first released by The Four Seasons in 1964.  Their harmony is so sweet they didn't really need their instruments anyway.

I noticed that Don Ciccone, another member of the Four Seasons, is featured in some of the Hit Men videos on YouTube.  He has also appeared with them but did not come on this particular tour.  In addition to The Four Seasons, Ciccone sang with Tommy James and the Shondells and is probably the reason the Hit Men include songs from that group, like "I Think We're Alone, Now", "Hanky Panky" and "Mony, Mony" in their performances.

If you see an advertisement in your area for an appearance of "The Hit Men", by all means, don't pass it up! You, too, will be saying "Oh, What a Night!!"

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