The Rascals were an all-American band who flourished even as the British Invasion surrounded them. They were known as much for their energetic live performances as for their recorded music, a brand of blue-eyed soul that influenced artists as diverse as hard rocker Leslie West (Mountain) and the very psychedelic Vanilla Fudge.
Given their sometimes over-the-top stage presence, it isn't too surprising that a 2013 reunion tour was preceded by a three week run on Broadway. In addition to reuniting the band's original members (vocalist Eddie Brigati, keyboardist/vocalist Felix Cavaliere, guitarist Gene Cornish, drummer Dino Danelli) the show, called Once Upon a Dream was staged against a backdrop consisting of a visual history of The Rascals, and of the music of the '60s. The show was conceived, produced and directed by Steven Van Zandt (E Street Band) and his wife, Maureen.
Never one to pass up an opportunity to relive his misspent youth, guest reviewer Jim Smith booked passage to the show at Hard Rock Hollywood (Florida) on May 26, 2013.
Reader Review by Jim Smith
It was like fulfilling a slew of bucket list bullet points: seeing the movie, reading the book, listening to the anthology album and attending the gig you waited a lifetime to experience. All in one shot, an exercise in time management, if you will.
As a point of fuzzy reference, it was somewhere between 1965 and 1968 that I would literally run home from grammar school to catch this new band on either Where The Action Is or its successor (hosted by Paul Revere and The Raiders) Happening 68. Sure, I dug the Raiders, particularly their front man, Mark Lindsay, and his antics.
But it took a lot more than the Raiders to draw me to the tube like a magnet. It was this "new" band that obviously had a sense of humor (their stage garb was comical) but you can bet the ranch that the attire was not the attraction. The hook was their sound, their message, and (no lie) all the “chicks” of the day were really into them. When in Rome ...
So, what's a few decades among friends?
So, it was a 40+ year wait. In between I had my Rascals jones muted by a bunch of Cavaliere gigs, a few iterations of The Rascals, The New Rascals. While each had their panache and appeal, it just wasn't the same. No twirling drumsticks obscuring Danelli's deft talent, no Brigati tambourines and high harmonies, and no wondering how a white bread like Cornish found a home with this amalgamation of Italian rooted players extraordinaire. Like Chinese food, it was tasty, but there was an ever-present longing for more.
Who else would have the juice to use the Richard Rogers Theater on New York City's Great White Way to do a two-week shakedown of what would evolve into a national tour? Miami Steve Van Zandt, a longtime Rascals aficionado was the instigator, and if he did nothing else during his time on this Earth (hardly the case) he should be considered for sainthood for re-coagulating a band whose music shifted the mindset of a generation with broad-based appeal that made many of the Silent Majority take notice.
Steve and his wife Maureen produced the Once Upon A Dream extravaganza that once and for all brought a sense a closure and serenity for what all too long had been a nagging musical void. For my money (with no slight to Pink Floyd) it was the apex, the quintessential marriage of live concert performance augmented by video. The video was part Fillmore evocative light show, part docudrama and part confessional.
It was like having a shrouded cone of silence surgically removed after decades in a lock down mode. Try as I might, I couldn't stop myself -- like a trippin’ idiot, I just sat there and grinned for almost two hours. It was a bucket list satisfier that I can only hope to mirror when The Beatles reunite. Yeah, it was that good!
Review by Jim Smith