Novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald once famously declared “there are no second acts in American lives.” But the writer didn’t live long enough to see The Rascals prove him wrong.
The hit-makers are back together again and have been given a millennial makeover in a hybrid rock-n-roll concert, Broadway show, theatrical experience called “Once Upon A Dream Starring the Rascals.” The week-long engagement goes nightly until Sunday, Oct. 20 at the Orpheum Theatre, 203 W. Adams St., Phoenix. Tickets range from $62 to $128 and can be purchased by visiting TicketMaster.com, or calling 1-800-745-3000.
It’s first time the Rascals, America’s classic blue-eyed soul band, have played together in more than four decades. Original band members Felix Cavaliere (keyboard and vocals), Eddie Brigati (vocals), Dino Danelli (drums) and Gene Cornish (guitar) will present a complete concert performance including songs that captured the spirit of America in the 1960s, such as their hits “Good Lovin’,” “Lonely Too Long,” “It’s a Beautiful Morning,” “How Can I Be Sure” and “Groovin’.” The 28-song production will also feature the history of the iconic group told through archival footage, narration, and dramatic film segments viewed on the latest LED screen technology.
The two-and-a-half-hour show is a technical marvel put together by world-renowned designer/director Marc Brickman, who has staged productions with Bruce Springsteen, Pink Floyd, Genesis, Keith Urban and Paul McCartney. He said he likes the show because it engages the audience and attempts something new.
“You never see a band playing with historical footage, and then stop, stand there, and start talking to you like they’re your friends. That part’s never been done. Believe me, I’ve done everything in this business but I’ve never heard of this concept before,” Brickman said. “This is all in addition to the fact that this is an iconic band playing real music with the four original members, and reuniting after 40 years. All of this makes for a very special evening.”
“Once Upon a Dream” is a concept by musician/actor Steven Van Zandt, who has made several attempts since 1982 to get the Rascals to reunite again. Van Zandt penned the concert/theater hybrid and co-directs and produces the show with his wife, Maureen, and Brickman. Van Zandt finally assembled the group in 2010 for a charity event, and everyone was knocked out by the group’s sound.
“Steven Van Zandt was the only person that could have pulled this off. He is a believer, a fan, a friend. He saw more in us than we saw in ourselves,” said the 67-year-old Brigati. “The greatest compliment Steven ever gave us was when he said, ‘The music never went dark. You guys might have gone dark, but the music never did.’”
After seven albums, 13 Top 40 singles, an estimated million miles of travel and thousands of dates and appearances, the original group went dark in 1970. They claim the unrelenting demand for product from their record company coupled with years of being on the road left them “fried.” There were also petty jealousies, ego clashes, strained relationships and professional mismanagement — all of which are reflected in “Once Upon A Dream.”
“It was a pretty heavy time in terms of what was going on with the group and what was happening in America,” said Cornish, 69. “President Kennedy had just been killed, The Beatles invaded America, The Vietnam War and civil rights were in full fledge, followed by the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert F. Kennedy. That’s a quite a load to handle and it changed us.”
After the group’s dissolution the Rascals sold off their lucrative publishing rights for a pittance, a move that most likely cost the band millions in potential royalties over the years. They say those years left them disillusioned and embittered. But with the passage of time, their 1997 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and a renewed sense of camaraderie, they’re enjoying the second act of their lives and career and savoring every moment.
“It’s a happy reunion and we are family regardless of what has happened in the past,” Cornish said. “We are family and our records are our children.”
For more information, visit http://rascalsdream.com.
• Marshall Terrill is a freelance writer living in the Phoenix area. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By the time he got the Rascals to agree to a reunion after 30 years of trying, Little Steven felt the situation called for something more prestigious than a straight nostalgia tour. The Rascals were his childhood heroes, after all, and all four original members — Felix Cavaliere, Eddie Brigati, Dino Danelli and Gene Cornish — were on board for their first tour since 1970.
As the E Street Band guitarist explained to the Republic, “They wouldn’t have done it just to do the oldies circuit, you know what I mean. So I needed to create a more artistic reason than nostalgia.”
So he wrote a show around it, calling in Marc Brickman, who’d worked with Paul McCartney and Pink Floyd, to help him produce and direct a multimedia extravaganza titled “Once Upon a Dream Starring the Rascals.”
The tour hit Phoenix Monday night, Oct. 14, for the first of five performances at the Orpheum Theatre. The classic lineup has been fleshed out for the tour with the addition of a bassist, a second keyboardist handling a lot of the orchestration and three backup singers who definitely underscored the gospel-flavored soul side of the Rascals’ sound.
But that was just the music. The production also featured a historic Rascals narrative stitched together from archival footage, narration by “Sopranos” star Vincent Pastore, a Little Steven introduction, interviews with all four members and dramatic film segments with actors portraying the Rascals as kids and young adults.
For all the bells and whistles, though — and the fact that the narrative does place everything in context while sharing the most compelling aspects of the Rascals’ story and building to a life-affirming climax about the optimistic ideals of the ’60s dream — the thing that really stood out Monday at the Orpheum was the performance.
These guys brought their A-game after sitting out four decades worth of rock, whether working their way through such spirited R&B covers as the Larry Williams classic “Slow Down,” the Miracles’ “Mickey’s Monkey” and their chart-topping version “Good Lovin’” or the more experimental psychedelic turn the show took after intermission. And the backing vocals helped a lot, but all four members more than held their own, with Cornish as the major revelation of the night. Most people, when they talk about the Rascals, tend to focus on the Hammond B-3 organ work of Felix Cavielere, the drumming of Dino Danelli, a man both Little Steven and Danny Zelisko, on separate occasions in the past few weeks, have called the greatest drummer in the history of rock and roll, and the fact that they have two great singers — Cavielere and Eddie Brigati — trading off lead vocals. But Cornish tore it up. Repeatedly.
After setting the tone with a comic recording of Little Steven welcoming fans to the show, the curtain fell and the Rascals launched into the 1967 hit “It’s Wonderful,” psychedelic projections enhancing the mood. “I’ve Been Lonely Too Long” was even better, fueled by Cavielere’s soulful vocal, and they followed through “What is the Reason” and a hard-rocking “You Better Run” before seguing into their early days as an R&B cover band via “Carry Me Back,” with its lyrical cue “I’m going back where I come from.” And then, they loosely followed their career trajectory a bit through such obvious highlights as “Baby Let’s Wait,” “If You Knew” (which featured Cornish on acoustic), a very funky “Hold On,” the Brigati-led performance of their debut single, “I Ain’t Gonna Eat My Heart Out Anymore” and a climactic set-ending performance of “Good Lovin’.”
The second set started off strong with the one-two punch of “Love is a Beautiful Thing” and “Groovin’” (with Cornish on harmonica) before exploring the more psychedelic and at times experimental aspects of their legacy as the peace and love theme began to emerge. “It’s a Beautiful Morning,” “A Girl Like You” and “How Can I Be Sure” all sounded great. But the entire set, including the narrative, seemed to be building to “People Got to Be Free,” a rousing performance that sounded as much like a spirited call to arms in 2013 as it did at the time. The finale was steeped in a sense of nostalgia for the ’60s with the narrative saying, “We were the love generation. We almost got there. We just ran out of time.” The message of the show, it seems, is that there is still time if people still believe. As John Lennon would say, “War is over! If you want it.”
Details on remaining dates: Wednesday, Oct. 16; Friday, Oct. 18 and Saturday, Oct. 19. 5 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 20. Orpheum Theatre, 203 W. Adams St., Phoenix. $62-$253. 800-745-3000, ticketmaster.com, rascalsdream.com.
By Valerie Hoke Thursday, Sep 26 2013
Danny Zelisko has so much concert memorabilia that some of it is even boxed up by artist, sometimes untouched for years.
He may not know exactly what is in there, but based on the remainder of his extensive collection of signed posters and shirts, it’s bound to be impressive. Zelisko, founder of the concert-promoting business Evening Star Productions, began his work in the live-music industry in 1974 and estimates that he has since been involved in the production of between 9,000 and 10,000 concerts. He began promoting straight out of high school, starting with local smaller-venue shows, and now has put on productions for artists as huge as Paul McCartney and Billy Joel.
From that multitude of shows, Zelisko has kept every artist contract, backstage pass, ticket, setlist, T-shirt, and anything else that he has been able to secure afterward. His collection is spread over various locations, between his office, warehouse storage, and even Alice Cooper‘sTown restaurant.This is a guy who definitely has trouble throwing stuff away. In the back of one of his storage units are several large boxes, each filled with rolled-up oversize posters that once were on display at Comerica Theatre to promote upcoming shows. Zelisko began keeping these posters instead of allowing them to meet the sad fate of a dumpster, and he maintains the same mentality when it comes to saving other concert memorabilia, past and present. Not only does he have boxes from small local concerts spanning his entire almost-40-year career, Zelisko has stacks of framed posters from larger shows, the majority of which are signed by the artists themselves. (When Zelisko promotes a show, he always gets an autograph.)
Among the mass of Zelisko’s framed posters are a few standouts, most notably several signed Bruce Springsteen posters, one of which was among the very first events ever put on at the newly inaugurated America West Arena. Many of the posters advertise shows at venues that either no longer exist or since have been renamed, showing the connections that live music can have to Phoenix history. Performances by artists from Cher to Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band are listed at venues such as the University Activity Center at ASU and Glendale Arena, places that modern concert-going Phoenicians don’t experience any longer. It would take multiple pages to list every musician or band featured on Zelisko’s posters, but it’s easy to tell that he is particularly fond of vintage posters and memorabilia featuring Pink Floyd, the Grateful Dead, and Jeff Beck, among many others.
To Zelisko, the most satisfying aspect of keeping his collection is knowing the story of each piece and sharing it with others who are interested. “Everything’s got a value to somebody!” he says with a smile.