Monday, July 16, 2012

'Happy Together Tour' brings Summer of Love nostalgia to Pacific Amphitheatre

My Happy Together Tour review originally ran on The Orange County Register Soundcheck blog on Sunday, July 15, 2012.

Pacific 2012: Happy Together Tour's nostalgia trip back to Summer of Love clicks with cheering fans

With ’60s hit-makers from the Turtles and Monkees lead singer Micky Dolenz (seen on the right) to the Grass Roots, the Buckinghams and Gary Puckett all teaming up for the Happy Together Tour this summer, it’s no surprise that a near-capacity crowd gathered at Pacific Amphitheatre Saturday (July 14, 2012) to catch the fun-spirited, relatively inexpensive event on a beautiful summer evening.

What’s not to like about a two-hour show during which several dozen bona fide classics of the era, staples of oldies radio, are performed with gusto by some of the decade’s marquee names?

The success of the event, with stops in 42 cities this year, is simple. The Turtles, led by founding singers Mark Volman (seen on the left performing a bit of tambourine juggling) and Howard Kaylan (better known as Flo & Eddie), headline a roster that one by one plays a handful of hits. At the end of the night, the lineup comes together as a single ensemble to perform each act’s biggest smash, upping the excitement even more.

The formula worked Saturday. And while there was a touch of sadness during Dolenz’s heartfelt tribute to Davy Jones (who died Feb. 29), the atmosphere of the fast-paced evening was mostly about good vibes, celebrating the spirit of the ’60s and its enduring music.

That said, the Turtles threw most of the crowd into an amusing (if temporary) state of bewilderment when they performed a bit of Frank Zappa’s groundbreaking instrumental gem “Peaches en Regalia” (the vocalists worked with the innovative iconoclast at the turn of the ’70s).

But Kaylan and Volman redeemed themselves with faithful fans by offering up shining versions of their staples for this delighted audience, including their cover of Bob Dylan’s “It Ain’t Me, Babe” and subsequent singles from the group, including “You Baby,” “Elenore” and “She’d Rather Be with Me.” Naturally they had the crowd on their feet for the finale, a rousing version of the tour’s namesake, “Happy Together.”

Dolenz’s appearance in Costa Mesa came almost a year to the day since the Monkees’ final show in Los Angeles as part of their 45th anniversary tour. The actor-turned-singer, who calls Southern California home, may well have had that in mind during his spirited set here.

Performing most of the hits he sang with the Monkees – “(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone,” “She,” “Last Train to Clarksville,” “Pleasant Valley Sunday” – he also took a well-timed detour midway through his set to acknowledge the recent loss of Jones, who he noted was like a brother to him.

He then effortlessly sang one of Jones’ signature tunes, the John Stewart-penned “Daydream Believer,” while video screens projected a number of photos of Davy and the rest of the Monkees to powerful effect. Dolenz ended things on a brighter note, however, leading the standing crowd through a rousing take on “I’m a Believer.”

Those sets shone brightest on Saturday (along with the backing band’s drummer, Steve Murphy), yet there was little shortage of singalongs to keep people tuned in all evening.

The Buckinghams, much like the Monkees and the Turtles, had a big Summer of Love, and the Chicago-spawned group brought back that fabled year of 1967 with strong versions of “Kind of a Drag,” “Don’t You Care” and “Susan.” There also was little doubt that the crowd loved the uptempo mix of soul and psychedelic rock from the Grass Roots. “Let’s Live for Today,” “Midnight Confessions” and “Temptation Eyes” were among the standouts that garnered strong cheers.

And while Puckett’s once-glorious voice is no longer always a thing of beauty, he did prove to be an energetic and engaging performer during his five-song turn. Opening with “Lady Willpower,” he had many fans clapping and moving to the beat during his takes on “Woman, Woman” and “Young Girl.”

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