Last Saturday night's show at Philadelphia's Kimmel Center For The Performing Arts was a joyous evening of veteran vocalists who could (and still can) sing without the aid of autotune and other current technological gimmicks.
Hosted the by energetic and ever smiling Blavat, a local radio and TV personality for many years, the program featured Jay Black, Gary U.S. Bonds, Pat Upton, Jay Siegel's Tokens, Eddie Holman, headliner Bobby Rydell and a hot young opening-act band, Low Cut Connie.
Jay Siegel was in fine form, leading his group with hits like "Tonight I Fell In Love," "Portrait of My Love," The Tokens' classic signature song "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" and older Doo-Wop favorites by others like "A Sunday Kind Of Love," and "What's Your Name?"
Pat Upton, best known as the lead singer on Spiral Starecase's 1969 smash hit "I Love You More Today Than Yesterday," before performing with Rick Nelson in the 1980s, admitted being winded after his opening number (for which he was grossly undermiked), but recovered nicely in a short but enjoyable set.
Eddie Holman, who gained fame in 1970 with the falsetto tour de force, "Hey, There Lonely Girl," may have been the surprise show stealer with his still powerful and chilling high register and dynamic stage movements.
Prior to Jay Black's entrance, Blavat related how the singer wanted to cancel his appearance due a severe cold, but was told how much this Philly crowd loves him. Black, who lost the rights to the use of his former group’s name, Jay and The Americans, in 2006, after declaring bankruptcy, certainly looked as though he came straight from a sick bed. His long, white hair was disheveled. While the other acts were sartorially attired, Black came on with a fisherman's vest covering a sweatshirt. After telling the crowd that he recently celebrated his 75th birthday, the singer joked, self-deprecatingly, "Why are you applauding, 'cause I'm not dead yet?"
Despite his appearance, Black proved he can still hit the long, high notes on hits like "Cara Mia," "Some Enchanted Evening," his popular remakes of "This Magic Moment" and "Walking In The Rain," while leading the audience in his familiar sing-a-long on "Come A Little Bit Closer."
Heading the show's second half was Gary U.S. Bonds, the only entertainer that night who can be considered truly contemporary. Leading off with a steaming version of his rocking debut 1960 classic, "New Orleans," Bonds kept with the show's nostalgic theme by reprising his early 1960's hits "Quarter To Three," "School Is Out," "Dear Lady Twist," and "Twist, Twist, Senora," forgoing his more recent Springsteen-produced 1980's hits like "This Little Girl" and his fine current material. (Perhaps Bonds was taking a lesson from Rick Nelson, whose booing at a famous 1972 oldies show for trying to be contemporary was the inspiration for Nelson’s "Garden Party" hit, an incident Bonds recalled in his recent "That's My Story" autobiography.)
That only left the show's headliner, Bobby Rydell, a homegrown Philly legend for more than six decades. The pompadoured 71 year-old former teen idol, who survived double organ transplants less than two years ago, looked fit and spiffy in a charcoal-gray suit, black shirt and tie. He opened with a spirited version of the lightly rocking 1960 hit "Wild One." In between jokes, Rydell offered authentic renditions of past hits like "Sway," "Volare," "Forget Him," and the anthemic Jersey favorite "Wildwood Days."
The show ended with all of the evening's entertainers taking the stage together, and the hugs, smiles, and back slapping came across as genuine as the pure magic served up by a fading generation of true professionals.
Blavat will be continuing his dozen-year tradition of bi-annual Doo Wop shows at the Kimmel Center later this year. Don't miss it.