“As Good as it Gets!” The Immediate Family LIVE! at the Count Basie Center for the Arts
By Spotlight Central. Photos by Love Imagery
It’s a drizzly Thursday, January 12, 2023 evening in Red Bank, NJ as music lovers line up outside the Count Basie Center for the Arts’ Hackensack Meridian Health Theatre for a concert by The Immediate Family band.
Like Motown’s Funk Brothers and L.A.’s The Wrecking Crew, The Immediate Family is a group of world class musicians who have worked together in recording studios for years. Known for their long careers backing up such influential artists as James Taylor, Jackson Browne, Linda Ronstadt, Carole King, Stevie Nicks, and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, guitarists Danny Kortchmar and Waddy Wachtel, drummer Russ Kunkel, and bassist Leland Sklar have come together with guitarist Steve Postell to perform new original material — in addition to classic tunes they’re associated with — as The Immediate Family.
Inside the historic Hackensack Meridian Health Theatre, the lights dim and the evening kicks off with the playing of a trailer for a new movie focused on the group. Created by the filmmaker behind the acclaimed 2008 documentary, The Wrecking Crew, the trailer for Immediate Family features interviews with artists including Carole King, James Taylor, Jackson Browne, Linda Ronstadt, Don Henley, Peter Asher, Keith Richards, and Phil Collins, all extolling the virtues of this talented band of musicians.
The audience stands and applauds as guitarists Danny Kortchmar, Waddy Wachtel, and Steve Postell, bassist Leland Solar, and drummer Russ Kunkel take the stage.
“Thank you guys for coming out!” says Kortchmar as Wachtel adds, “You guys are so sweet. Thank you so much!”
Opening with a powerful rendition of Warren Zevon’s “Lawyers, Guns, and Money,” Wachtel sings, “I was gambling in Havana, I took a little risk/Send lawyers, guns and money, Dad/Get me out of this,” while Sklar’s bass and Kunkel’s drums rock steadily behind him.
Audience members enthusiastically stand and cheer and Kortchmar jokes, “We’re kind of a cover band that does all originals,” before announcing, “This next song will be on our new album when it comes out.” Here, Kortchmar sings lead on the driving blues-rock number, “Too Many Irons in the Fire.” Lights flash behind the band as Kortchmar and Wachtel take turns playing wailing guitar solos.
The crowd applauds when Postell says, “We’re glad to be back on the East Coast,” and points out, “This is our new single.” Postell sings lead and Kortchmar and Wachtel add vocal harmonies to “Toughest Girl in Town,” a slowed-down rock ballad filled with pounding drums, guitar power chords, and Sklar’s bass bubbling underneath.
After introducing the members of the band, Kortchmar talks about how he wrote the group’s next song with Don Henley. Sklar gets music lovers to clap to the groove as the band launches into Henley’s 1982 release, “Dirty Laundry.” Three-part vocal harmonies, walking bass, and crisp drumming accompany Kortchmar’s lead vocal. Wachtel plays a bluesy guitar solo and Kortchmar solos, shaking his guitar as he plays.
Wachtel follows up by talking about how the group’s new album and documentary film will be out in a couple of months before singing lead on the upbeat and bluesy rocker, “Nobody Wants You.”
Postell reveals, “Danny Kortchmar wrote this next song with Jackson Browne for the movie, Fast Times at Ridgemont High.” Heads in the audience bop to the beat of Browne’s 1982 hit, “Somebody’s Baby,” as Postell sings “She’s got to be somebody’s baby/She must be somebody’s baby” while lights spin around the stage.
Kortchmar announces, “Here’s another one I wrote with Stan Lynch, the drummer for Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers,” as he and the band play “24/7/365,” a funk tune which features quick tasty guitar licks and three-part vocal harmonies.
Postell discloses, “Danny wrote this with Don Henley about a town right across the river,” as the group launches into Henley’s 1989 hit, “New York Minute.” Postell’s vibrato rings out as he croons, “In a New York minute/Everything can change,” while rays of light slowly sweep across the stage.
A Waddy Wachtel guitar lick kicks off “Rock ’n Roll.” Singing, “A little love, a little drama, and a whole lot of rock ’n roll!” Wachtel and Postell share lead vocals on this Chuck Berry-like rocker which features Leland Sklar’s bass trilling as fog begins to creep across the stage.
The crowd applauds and Wachtel replies, “It’s an honor and a thrill to play for you,” before joking, “This next song is about our constant state of mind.” Here, Postell sings lead on “Confusion,” a slow rocker which features rhythmic instrumental playing propelled by Russ Kunkel’s driving drums.
Kortchmar announces, “I wrote this one for Don Henley. If you feel like getting up and shaking it, do it!” The audience moves to the groove as Kortchmar sings lead on Henley’s 1984 Top 10 hit, “All She Wants to Do Is Dance.” After singing the “All she wants to do is/All she wants to do is dance” refrain, the Immediate Family’s three guitarists channel The Beatles on “The End” as they take turns soloing on their guitars.
The crowd cries with approval as the group starts to play “High Maintenance Girlfriend.” After establishing the song’s pulsating groove, four-part harmonies ring out on the “She’s my high/High maintenance girlfriend now” chorus and Wachtel, Kunkel, Sklar, and Kortchmar rock out together.
The crowd cheers and the musicians thank the audience before exiting the stage. After returning, Postell exclaims, “Thank you so much!” adding, “Fortunately, Danny found this next song for us.” Postell sings lead on wistful rocker, “Thing of the Past,” as rays of colored lights shoot circles onto the floor in time to the music.
For their final number, Wachtel invites audience members to “Howl along with us on the chorus” of a song he helped to write — Warren Zevon’s 1978 hit, “Werewolves of London.” Audience members move to the beat and sing along on the song’s catchy “Ah-hoo/Werewolves of London” refrain before Wachtel impresses with a slide guitar solo.
The crowd stands and cheers and Wachtel declares, “You guys are too kind! Thank you, we love you!” before band members take a bow together.
As music lovers make their way out of the theater, we chat with several in the crowd who share their opinions on tonight’s Immediate Family performance. Exclaims Mary Jean from Lake Como, “I enjoyed this show very much!” and Mary’s husband, Mike, agrees, explaining, “I loved the band and their old time rock and roll songs. These guys really know how do it, and their new stuff is great, too.”
Chris from Ocean Twp. remarks, “I really enjoyed this show. These musicians are living legends who — as you can tell — love performing on stage.” Her husband, Rick, adds, “I thought it was great, too. I loved the hits and I liked the new original songs, too,” before noting, “Waddy Wachtel is one of the greatest rock guitarists of all time, Leland Sklar’s bass playing is just amazing, and I never realized how many great songs Danny Kortchmar wrote — this was one quality performance!”
Sheryl from Freehold declares, “The show was great! I loved it — it was awesome!” Her friend, Shelly from Monmouth, agrees, asserting, “The music was fabulous!” prior to confessing, “I just wish they would have played even longer!”
Lastly, whereas Elaine from Cliffwood Beach remarks, “It’s so great to see these musicians playing out and enjoying life,” her husband, Al, insists, “They are the best of the ’70s musicians and their show is great,” before concluding, “For me, this is as good as it gets!”
To learn more about The Immediate Family, please go to immediatefamilyband.com. For information on upcoming performances at the Count Basie Center for the Arts — including Shawn Colvin, Marc Cohn, and Sarah Jarosz on Feb. 21; The Summer of Love Concert on Feb. 25; and Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue on Mar. 1 — please click on thebasie.org.