Friday, July 13, 2012

Yeah, it's the '60s -- again

Last night, I went to the dress rehearsal of "This is the '60s," partly to see what this "living documentary" would turn out to be -- I can't attend the lone performance in Charlotte, tonight at 8 p.m. at Ovens Auditorium -- and partly to see if the songs would still make me think this was the greatest era in the history of rock.

It did.

Well, of course it did. We all think that about the music of our youth, and I was 6 when the decade started and 16 when it ended. But I wonder what other 10-year span of music could embrace styles as diverse and memorable as the Beach Boys, the Beatles, the Four Tops, Led Zeppelin, the Who and all the other groups crammed into 33 songs and a final mash-up medley.

A '70s tribute band called Smokin' has been hired to play this incredible range of '60s music and has made the transition well. (They're also good sports, donning some outrageous wigs and clothing for the five mini-eras depicted in the show.) Smoky-voiced vocalist Joan Burton plays a mean rhythm guitar on the Yardbirds' "Heart Full of Soul" and sings with plenty of heart: Her version of Melanie's "Candles in the Rain" is even more powerful than the original. The sound mixer had tamed Ovens' notoriously tricky acoustics, and the band was faithful to the original versions without copying them note for note.

The show's greatest potency, though, came from the visual images projected on four screens, sometimes augmented by dancers to either side of the main stage. If you lived through the fire hoses trained on civil rights marchers and the assassinations of three great (or potentially great) figures -- John Kennedy, Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy -- in less than five years, you might find yourself tearing up. You will also find yourself smiling at the TV commercials shown during intermission: The Flintstones smoke happily, and little kids play Army (as I did in 1963) with plastic machine guns.

Old wankers nostalgic about the past can grow tedious, so I'll leave you with a question. Whatever mistakes young people made in the 1960s -- and they made many -- they signed petitions and wrote letters and even walked into the streets to debate issues of public policy that mattered deeply to them. What issues motivate teenagers that  strongly today?


Mike Passmore said...

This Is The Sixties Show was incredible! The show was obviously put together by many talented and experienced people. The testament came from the entire audience as everybody stood up together for an ovation that kept us standing halfway into the encore!
The musicians were fantastic, very experienced to be that versatile. Surprisingly, my greatest moment came from a song I didn't remember by Cila Black, You Are My World. Joan gave me goosebumps with her powerful voice. I listened to it on YouTube by Cila and Joan sang it stronger. She has great range, on pitch and she is powerful. GO SEE THIS SHOW !!!!!

Anonymous said...

The show was amazing. It far exceeded my expectations. The musicians are top notch. The talent and flexibility as they transition from one song to the next will impress you. This is a must see. It is fun and you are getting an education at the same time.

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