Three Dog Night and Firefall bring back the 70s with classic hits

Live Review

Three Dog Night. Photo by Chyrisse.

By Chyrisse Tabone, Rock At Night Tampa

Live Review: Three Dog Night and Firefall – Ruth Eckerd Hall, Clearwater-December 2, 2022

Jock Bartley of Firefall. Photo by Chyrisse.

There’s been a new revival of 70s style music called New Classic Rock. It was great to see the original ‘classic rockers’ on Friday night at Ruth Eckerd Hall, Clearwater, Florida. Baby Boomer fans who grew up in the 60s and 70s were gifted a double-header—Three Dog Night and Firefall.

Making their way into the soft rock radio in the mid to late-70s, Firefall dominated FM airwaves with such hits as “You Are the Woman” and “Strange Way”. On Friday night, the lineup consisted of founder Jock Bartley (guitar, vocals), Sandy Fica (drums), Larry Burnett (guitar, vocals), Steven Weinmeister (guitar, vocals), James Waddel (keys, sax, flute), and John Bisaha (bass, vocals). Waddel replaced long-time multi-instrumentalist David Muse (and Palm Harbor resident), who passed away in August. Bisaha, also in The Babys, replaced long-time bassist Mark Andes.

Sounding very CSNY-like with spot-on harmonies, Firefall whizzed through a short set of hits, including “Livin’ Ain’t Livin’,” “Goodbye, I Love You,” and “So Long.” Highlights included the interlude during “Strange Way,” which took on a Latin beat, garnering a standing ovation.

Steven Weinmeister of Firefall. Photo by Chyrisse.

Before diving into “Mexico”, Bartley told the story of the band recording the song in Criteria Studios in Miami. It was a famous studio that recorded the likes of Stephen Stills and Bee Gees. After performing a lead solo on guitar, he was summoned to the control room where his idol Eric Clapton had been observing his playing—and he approved.

Next up was a childhood favorite—Three Dog Night. The current lineup consists of original vocalist Danny Hutton joined by Paul Kingery (guitar, vocals), David Morgan (guitar, vocals), Howard Laravea (keys, vocals), Pat Bautz (drums, vocals), and Timothy Hutton (bass). Missing original members were Michael Allsup (guitar) and Corey Wells, and Jimmy Greenspoon, who passed in 2015. Chuck Negron now has a solo career.

Danny Hutton of Three Dog Night. Photo by Chyrisse.

The audience was treated to mega hits like “Black and White”, “Shambala,” and a personal fav’ “Out In the Country.” The band’s harmonies were flawless as they sang “Celebrate” and a recently-penned and poignant tune, “Prayer of the Children.”

Hutton joked that the band’s songs are now heard at supermarkets, inside elevators, and in doctors’ offices. He recalled the band’s recording of their first album in 1968 (“in four days”). The band released a song called “Nobody,” but it never gained traction on the radio. They were puzzled by requests for Harry Nilsson’s slightly sad song “One.” They released it as a single, watching it skyrocket into pure gold.

David Morgan of Three Dog Night. Photo by Chyrisse.

The media has often criticized Three Dog Night as a band that did not compose their music. Hutton explained that the band was given songs by notable songwriters that were not Top-40 hits–essentially duds. Being gifted musicians, they rearranged the songs, resulting in 21 top hits in a row.

Not wanting to be pigeonholed, Hutton said, “We are not a pop or rock group. You have to find or create a great song. Screw what genre it is.”

Hutton explained that each vocalist would pitch a song to the label, so he chose one with an unusual chorus for the second album. The band tore into “Liar,” highlighting Laravea’s nimble keyboard playing and members’ guitar solos.

A few women in the audience stood up and danced to “Mama Told Me Not to Come” and “Celebrate,” which earned a standing ovation. Then, “Eli’s Coming” turned the theater into a rock gospel party. Ending the evening was crowd favorite “Joy to the World.”

You can’t go wrong with music (and bands) that still sound great 50-plus years later.

PHOTO GALLERY

Chyrisse Tabone, Ph.D.
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