Friday, March 07, 2014

Kitoto Von Hebb performs "Sunny" live at the Apollo Theater Feb 6, 2014

(photo by Joann Kasoff)








     A show so spectacular it could only be held at the Apollo Theater in New York City on the eve of the 50th Anniversary of the Beatles coming to America.  Mary Wilson of the Supremes gave an interpretation of John Lennon's "Imagine" that was sultry, personal and powerful.  Bettye LeVette put her unique spin on "Eleanor Rigby" -  putting the audience into another realm - while Leslie Uggams took "Yesterday" and combined it with "Yesterdays" re-imagining, if you will allow me the poetic license, the music of Lennon and McCartney on a cold winter night that was actually a musical love-fest of the performers as much as it was a tribute to the Fab 4. 

   The 4:30 sound check, when I arrived from Boston, was simply magical.  An audience of maybe 30 people witnessing Lloyd Price taking his immortal "Staggolee" to places you've yet to experience. With a chorus that included Barbara Harris of the Toys and Margaret Ross Williams of The Cookies (they were at the Chevalier Theater in Medford on May 8, 2010) the thunderous live version - with the augmented Brotherhood band providing solid backing - took the golden oldie into the new millennium in a big way.  "Hey Jude" by Lloyd Price and the choir was quite moving in sound check.  During the concert hours later Lloyd started taking the tune into a different direction...and the band...and choir, had to make some quick adjustments to follow the legend's artistic expression.  We got two different renditions, one for the private crowd earlier in the day, another to bring the house down at night.  Lulu flew in from the U.K. to perform "To Sir With Love" and the Isley Brothers' "Shout."   When Lulu belted out the ending of "To Sir With Love" the response came in waves, there was just so much sound to embrace and enjoy that it became an endless party.  Gary U.S. Bonds performed his Bruce Springsteen-propelled hit ("This Little Girl") and, of course, "Quarter to Three."  Bobby Hebb's daughter, Kitoto Von Hebb, gave a loving tribute to her dad with "Sunny" (Hebb toured with the Beatles in 1966 when "Sunny" was #1 in Cashbox and #2 in Billboard, bigger than any Beatles' record during the time of the '66 tour), her voice adding a bit of a Gospel tinge to the pop classic.  Bobby would have been so proud.  Margaret Ross Williams sang on the original "Chains" with the Cookies, covered by the Beatles, while Barbara Harris and the Toys brought "A Lover's Concerto" back to the Apollo, where they had performed it back in the 1960s.   Maybe it was the Apollo stage, or that and the fact that these professionals know how to pull out all the stops, but voice after voice kept hitting notes that seem impossible.  Barrence Whitfield gave "I'm Down" and "Everybody's Got Something to Hide Except for Me and My Monkey" his trademark growl/scream that would give Aerosmith's Steve Tyler chills.  It cannot be emphasized enough, this was an other-worldly event with major musicians in the audience simply in awe of what was going down onstage.

   Being in this historic venue twice in the past two months (for Lou Reed's Memorial on December 16 and this Beatles' event February 6th) was, for a rock & roll fan, completely sublime.  Reed's tribute went over three hours back in December, on February 6th the show went from 7:30 to 11:30 - four solid hours...and if you add the three hours of sound check, well, it was like being immersed in a PBS special for seven solid hours of non-stop fun and exquisite entertainment.

   Frankie Previte, who provided the band, performed the big song he wrote for Dirty Dancin' - "Time of My Life" - and the group hit it out of the park. 

   A day and night of Beatles music and some of the most memorable hits of the Rock and Roll era.  Geraldo Rivera opened the show reading a letter from Beatles' producer George Martin to the producers of the program (Mr. Rivera was very gracious taking pictures with us backstage) and the always lovely Mary Wilson was as charming and cordial as ever.  "I adore you, Mary" I said backstage to the superstar from the Supremes and she said "That sounds like a song title!"  "Can't Hurry Love" was a standout and me...the entire audience adored Wilson when she wrapped her velvety-smooth  voice around that Supremes' classic and the Lennon signature tune, Imagine.

   I can gush all night and all morning about the show.  It was a once in a lifetime event...a labor of love that lived up to its billing.

(Author's note: I brought in some of the acts on the bill, and my name is listed as one of the Artist's Relations people in the program book. That being said, the performers and their collective body of work is all you need to review. This is my personal diary of the event; you can consider whether it is objective or the gushing of a fan of all of the musicians.)

Enclosed is my review of an Apollo album from decades ago 



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