By Chyrisse Tabone, Rock At Night Tampa
Live Review: Happy Together Tour – The Cowsills, The Vogues, The Buckinghams, The Association, Gary Puckett, Ron Dante, The Turtles – Ruth Eckerd Hall, Clearwater, Florida – June 1, 2022
The Happy Together tour, which was created by David Fishof in the mid-eighties, has become a tradition for many baby boomers who crave the music of the sixties. Every year the tour, which consists of The Turtles (Flo & Eddie) and numerous other 60s pop bands, rolls into cities across the U.S. Patrons often show up in tie-dye attire and hair-challenged men wear hippie wigs. Adding to the atmosphere, vendors sell vintage records, cassettes, scented candles, clothing, and pop art memorabilia.
The tour has become a Rock At Night tradition in the last decade. Thanks to COVID, the world hasn’t experienced the tour since 2019 (our last show experience was 2017). So the kick-off of the tour at Ruth Eckerd Hall, Clearwater, had a special significance as baby boomers again met to break bread with their favorite sixties artists.
As I arrived to the theater on June 1st, the lobby was buzzing with boomers. Having spent a lot of the last two years masked and indoors, it was nice seeing this many seniors out and about—smiling and full of life. A few crochet vests, boots, and of course, tie-dyed shirts were observed, but this year, people seemed to be wearing mostly street attire. Only a few wore face masks since the requirement has been lifted in our state.
The first band that appeared promptly at 7 p.m. was The Cowsills, which consisted of Bob, Paul, and Susan Cowsill. During the evening The Cowsills sang hits like “The Rain, the Park, And Other Things,” “Indian Lake,” “We Can Fly”, and “Hair/Let the Sunshine In” (from “Aquarius”). During the “Hair” song the videos on the screen behind the band included ads for Dippity Do, Glemby Girl Salons, and hair styles of the day.
Between songs the band quipped and said, “We changed it up. We’re telling jokes.” Susan Cowsill asked, “Why did the alligator wear a vest?” As the audience shook their heads, she responded, “Because he was an investigator.” After hearing a roar of “ah’s’ and laughter, I knew it would be a nostalgic evening of music and “Dixie Riddle Cup” jokes.
After a short 20-minute set, The Vogues performed crowd favorites like “Special Angel”, “You’re the One”, and “Five O’Clock World”, which was the theme song of the The Drew Carey Show. For the tour, The Vogues consist of Troy Elich, Royce Taylor, and Shawn Stevens. Elich conversed with crowd, saying “As we passed The Cowsills they said, ‘young crowd’.” The last song was a 1968 mega hit for the band, “Turn Around, Look At Me”, which was featured in a Volkswagen commercial in 2019.
The Buckinghams came out looking extremely youthful singing “Hey Baby (They’re Playing Our Song)”, which had everyone dancing in their seats. Original members Nick Fortuna on bass and Carl Giammarese on vocals noted they have performed together for 55 years “because of you allowed us to make our music.” They told stories about performing on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, the Ed Sullivan Show, and backing The Monkees. They performed “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy” and a personal favorite was 1967 hit “Kind of a Drag.”
There was an approximately 20 minute intermission before The Association entered the stage. The harmonies were beautiful and sounded just like the records I remembered, with hits like “Cherish”, “Windy”, and “Never My Love”. The Association noted there was controversy when they released their song “And Then Along Comes Mary, which by today’s standards would be a non-issue. There were plenty of jokes about being “old” during the evening as the band thanked the crowd for “staying up late.”
Gary Puckett came on stage looking extremely fit as he belted out hits like “Lady Willpower, “Over You”, and “This Girl is a Woman Now”. He noted, “I can’t hit the high notes now” but his voice was actually powerful and spot on. Before introducing “Young Girl”, he thanked the crowd for “making it a humongous hit by putting out your 49 cents” and added “I am a neighbor and live here in Clearwater.” He said his personal favorite song is “Woman, Woman”—and one cannot argue with that.
Last up, The Turtles came on stage, with Flo (Mark Volman) wearing a vest comprised of Snoopy and Peanuts characters and saying, “We missed you. My paycheck went out the window and I haven’t seen it since you left.” Flo was hysterically funny as he played the old, absent-minded curmudgeon most of the evening. Unfortunately, Eddie (Howard Kaylan) was not present but Ron Dante, a master in his own right, filled his formidable shoes. The crowd was even treated to “Sugar, Sugar”.
Flo explained, “We had our first hit song when I was 17 years old and in a surf band called the Crossfires. We did a Bob Dylan song. We didn’t understand the lyrics at the time—and either did Bob. It’s a really confusing song and we were too young to appreciate it.” He noted, “We were younger then but older than that now.” He asked the audience to participate by singing “No, no” and jumped into “It Ain’t Me, Babe.”
Flo introduced the phenomenal band which backed every artist during the evening: Godfrey Townsend (guitar), Manny Faocarazzo (keys), Greg Smith (bass), and Chris Camilleri (drums). Finally, The Turtles broke into crowd favorites “Eleanor” and “Happy Together”, which brought the audience to their feet dancing. The finale included all the featured bands together on stage.
I really enjoyed the show—and so did the audience which gave many standing ovations during the evening. The performances were truly amazing and I was blown away by the voices–real, pure, and without Auto-Tune, people. It truly is WORTH going to see the Happy Together tour so I urge people to catch it this summer. Go alone or bring your parents for an evening of sing-along songs and AM radio nostalgia–I did!
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