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Woodford Times - Peoria, IL
  • Concert review: People of all ages connect at Happy Together concert

  • I've never had more goose bumps at a live performance — except for maybe “The Phantom of the Opera” — as I did at the Happy Together concert at the Peoria Civic Center Sunday night.
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  • I’ve never had more goose bumps at a live performance — except for maybe “The Phantom of the Opera” — as I did at the Happy Together concert at the Peoria Civic Center Sunday night.
    My friend TJ, who was born in 1979, attended the concert with me. Being 11 years his senior, it was interesting to me to get his take on the show and watch his reaction. He thought the show was “awesome” and seemed to be having the time of his life.
    The best moment of the show, besides the actual performers, occurred when I looked to my left and saw TJ standing, singing, dancing and waving his arms at someone down our row. Eight seats down, a man with gray hair was doing a jig, singing and making the same motions with his hands at TJ. They were connected through music, sharing a magical moment, and it was beautiful. I thought about how this music bridges generation gaps and still remains popular over decades. It’s the music my parents listened to when I was a kid. 
    I’ve always loved Three Dog Night — I mean, how can you not? Their hits are endless.
    My mom had a yellow see-through record of Grand Funk Railroad with “We’re An American Band” on it, which I thought was pretty cool.
    I wasn’t as familiar with Mitch Ryder, the first performer, but I recognized two songs he performed: “C. C. Rider” and “Devil with a Blue Dress On.”
    Ryder was also quite humorous. When a crowd member said, “I love you Mitch,” he responded by saying, “I love you too, but I thought we weren’t going to discuss that publicly.”
    Ryder took the stage dressed in all black with a hat and sunglasses, the epitome of cool and rock ‘n roll. Behind him a screen showed moving tie-dyed designs and peace signs.
    Ryder said he’s from Detroit and he stole one of the best guitarists from this area while he was here picking corn. That guitarist was Steve Hunter from Decatur.
    Showing off his vocal capabilities, Ryder belted out part of a gospel song and said he was married to the daughter of a preacher. His father-in-law used to burn his records.
    Prior to his next song, Ryder said years ago he was accused of being dirty for the lyrics. He said the audience could be the judge. As he sang  “Sock it to Me Baby,” it now seems comical that was considered offensive at one time.
    Page 2 of 3 - Before the song I was waiting for — “Devil with a Blue Dress On” — Ryder said it was dedicated to all the women out there and maybe even some men today. 
    After he performed five to six songs, he received a standing ovation.
    Next, Mark Farner came out to play with the five-piece band that remained constant throughout the evening.
    During the introduction, a voice over a loudspeaker said that Grand Funk Railroad had 15 certified gold albums.
    Farner, dressed in blue jeans, a blue shirt and sporting a long ponytail, pranced and jumped around the stage like a teenager as he belted out “The Loco-motion,” “We’re An American Band,” “Bad Time,” “Some Kind of Wonderful,” and “I’m Your Captain.” 
    He said, “It’s good to be here tonight. It’s good to be anywhere.”
    Just as I mentioned to TJ that I hope I have that much energy at Farner’s age, he told the crowd that he has a pacemaker.
    Wow.
    Next, Chuck Negron of Three Dog Night sang “Mama Told Me (Not to Come),” which didn’t quite have the punch I expected compared to the record, but it was still good.
    As he sang “Celebrate,” “Shambala,” “One,” and especially “Eli’s Coming,” there was no mistaking about his vocal abilities.
    During his set, Negron joked about his age. He said he never thought he would still be singing songs in his mid-50s (he’s 72), and later added that it was time to take a nap. But, no one was sleepy when he sang “Joy to the World,” a crowd favorite. Everyone seemed to join in singing.
    Unfortunately, he didn’t sing “Never Been to Spain,” one of my favorites.
    My least favorite act was Howard Kaylan and Mark Volman of The Turtles, simply because their music is a different style from the rest of the performers. It’s more ’60s pop rather than ’70s rock. Still, I enjoyed hearing “Happy Together,” their hit.
    Kaylan and Volman mixed a lot of comedy into their performance, which I didn’t think was really necessary. I think the music speaks for itself.
    Page 3 of 3 - They said, “We’re The Turtles. We missed being The Beatles by three letters.”
    After they assured the crowd The Beatles would not be coming to Peoria, they added, “This is the take what you can get tour.”
    The “take what you can get tour” must be doing pretty well as they are performing in 55 cities this year.
    “And ladies and gentlemen, we’re old,” they said.
    My take on the show matched my friend’s. It was awesome. The only major disappointment was that Gary Lewis, the musician I interviewed prior to the show, did not perform due to circumstances beyond control, according to a sign. 
    Still, I felt the crowd got their money’s worth.
    I went to the show anticipating that Negron from Three Dog Night would be my favorite part of the show; however, it turned out to be Farner from Grand Funk Railroad.
    The best part of the show for me was when Farner sang “I’m Your Captain.” I simply love this song. I broke out into goose bumps during the song. This happens to me rarely with music, but some songs have a powerful emotional impact on me, and that is apparently one of them. I’ve never had goose bumps listening to the song at home, but hearing it live was a different story.
    Another neat aspect of the show was footage of the bands  in their heyday that was displayed on a screen behind them. It was interesting to see them in their youth compared to now.
    Regardless of any physical changes, one thing is for certain — they still rock.
    — Jeanette Kendall is the executive editor at TimesNewspapers and the editor of the East Peoria Times-Courier.

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