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Review: ’60s roar back to life at Proctors

Saturday, March 23, 2013
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— Nostalgia had its day and then some Saturday night at the ’60s Spectacular at Proctors.

Heritage acts trotting out their hits years after the fact can sometimes be a dicey proposition, with tired performers singing songs they don’t really want to be singing anymore. Nothing could have been further from the truth at this show, however.

Before a packed house, the four acts on the bill — Peter Noone and Herman’s Hermits, Mary Wilson (an original member of the Supremes), Jay and the Americans and The Happenings — each performed generous sets of their old favorites, with an energy, excitement and pure joy that was palpable.

Noone and his four-piece band, the evening’s headliners, took the cake in the energy department. Kicking off the set and second act with “I’m Into Something Good,” Noone was all smiles and boyish charm, grinning at the crowd as he crooned the lyrics. He quipped early (and often) about how it was his lifelong dream to play Schenectady, leaving the audience in stitches right before launching into “Love Potion No. 9.”

The band, led by high-kicking guitarist Vance Brescia, provided muscular takes on classic Hermits songs such as “Sea Cruise,” “A Must to Avoid” and “The End of the World.” A low-key rendition of “Mrs. Brown, You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter” late in the set was a highlight, all jangling guitars and Noone’s earnest crooning.

Noone proved himself a vocal wizard throughout, tackling snippets of songs from The Rolling Stones (”Jumpin’ Jack Flash”), Johnny Cash (”Ring of Fire”) and his punk rock followers The Ramones and The Sex Pistols — a quick riff on both “Blitzkrieg Bop” and “Pretty Vacant” — before the show’s absolute climax, a roaring sing-along version of “I’m Henry VIII, I Am.” The song built through at least five verses (all the same, of course), Noone egging the crowd on the whole way through.

Out of the three openers, Wilson, who closed out the first act of the show, brought the most energy and the most spontaneous fun. The original Supreme covered all of the Motown vocal group’s hits, taking on the lead vocals originally handled by Diana Ross. And while she may not be Ross, Wilson was in fine voice and spirits, tearing through “My World is Empty Without You,” “Reflections” and “Come See About Me” with power and precision.

She invited literally anyone who wanted to up onstage mid-set to dance, and a number of audience members took her up on the offer, hamming it up with her through “Baby Love” and “Stop! In the Name of Love.”

Jay and the Americans, veterans to the ’60s Spectacular, played the longest set of the first act, taking the stage second. Microphone issues seemed to plague all three of the opening acts, but the Americans got the worst of it — lead vocalist Jay Reincke often was drowned out by the band as he tried to introduce the songs. He made up for it by singing hard and clean, straining for the notes on the “West Side Story” classic “Tonight,” and really digging in on “Let’s Lock the Door (And Throw Away the Key).”

The Happenings played a short set to open the show promptly at 7. Lead vocalist Bob Miranda was clearly the star of the show here, propelling such hits as “’Til” and “See You in September,” which quickly turned into a sing-along. The group saved the best for last, tearing through “I Got Rhythm” and a powerful version of “God Bless the U.S.A.” to a standing ovation.

 
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