BY ELLIOT STEPHEN COHEN
Whether early 60's hitmaker Bobby Rydell, now 71, considers himself a Rock and Roll oldies act or a polished middle-of-the-road all-around lounge singer was answered quickly when Rydell first approached the stage at McLoones Supper Club in Asbury Park Friday night.
Awaiting him were nine gentlemen, dressed in tuxedos, white shirts and black bowties. This ensemble was a smaller version of the 1940s big bands that Rydell may have remembered as a child. There were three saxophonists, two trumpeters, one trombone player, a stand-up acoustic bass player, pianist and a drummer. Not one electric guitar, electric bass or synthesizer in sight.
Rydell plays it "old school," and that is what the audience members, most of whom seemed over 60, wanted. Looking remarkably well for someone who underwent major kidney and organ transplant surgery last year, and double bypass heart surgery in March, Rydell forsook most of his own hits (although he did perform "Wild One," and "Forget Him'), in favor of covering other artists, including a spot-on Bobby Darin tribute. He also did impersonations and told jokes, with the ease of someone who has been doing this for over 50 years. While his vocal range has lowered, his ability to hold long notes hasn't.
Midway through the show, Rydell sat on a stool as he was interviewed by club owner Tim McLoone, spinning stories about growing up in Philadelphia, playing drums in a band called Rocco and The Saints with fellow teen idol Frankie Avalon, his friendship with TV personality Red Skelton, acting with Ann-Margaret in the hit 1963 film musical, "Bye, Bye, Birdie," and surviving three major operations over the past fourteen months, while encouraging others to become organ donors.. .
The show ended with a rousing sing-a-long of his famous 1960 hit "Volare," and a standing ovation.