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“Everything I Expected… and More!” Starship and Eddie Money LIVE! at UCPAC

By Spotlight Central. Photos by Love Imagery

It’s a busy Saturday, April 13, 2019 evening at Rahway, NJ’s Union County Performing Arts Center as music lovers make their way inside the historic venue for a rockin’ night of music by ’80s legends Starship featuring Mickey Thomas and Eddie Money.

At the merchandise stand in the lobby, fans are scooping up Starship T-shirts proclaiming “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now,” along with Eddie Money tote bags imprinted with the words, “Money, Money, Money.”

Here, we chat with several concert goers including Jonathan from Brick, who is sporting a Starship hat and T-shirt. A long-time fan of the group, Jonathan recalls, “I’ve followed them for ten years — since I was a kid. I first heard one of their songs on a cartoon show and wondered, ‘Who sings that song?’ And when I found out, I started listening to their other songs and was immediately hooked.”

Continuing, “This is my 10th time seeing them — I like their music because the way Mickey Thomas sings is just awesome,” Jonathan concludes by exclaiming, “If you loved Starship as much as I do, you’d travel anywhere for them.”

Jonathan’s companion, Danielle from Toms River, concurs explaining, “I’ve been a fan of Starship even longer than Jonathan. I’m an ’80s child, and my father would play their records and cassette tapes.”

Noting, “I’m an Army brat, and some of my fondest memories involve roller skating at Army bases to Starship songs,” Danielle acknowledges, “We couldn’t go to Atlantic City last year when Starship was there, so we’re here tonight. I surprised Jonathan with tickets…just because I love him!”

Next, we chat with Lori and Steve from South Plainfield. Confesses Lori, “I never told Steve this, but before I met him, I had a boyfriend and our song was ‘Feels Like the First Time’ by Foreigner. When I met Steve, I needed to find a song for us, but Steve had heard ‘Feels Like the First Time’ and wanted that be our song, but I had to tell him ‘No!’”

“I had always loved the music of Doris Day,” continues Lori, “and I always used to go around saying her phrase from ‘Que Sera Sera’ — ‘Whatever will be will be.’ But as soon as I heard Eddie Money’s “Baby Hold On to Me’ — with the lyric, ‘Whatever will be will be’ — I knew that was going to be our song,” before she concludes by revealing, “And we’ve been together now for 41 years.”

Lastly, we chat with Michael, a dad from Edison. Recalls Michael, “I grew up listening to both Eddie Money and Starship when I was a teenager and in my 20s. Over the years, I’d play their music in the car and at home and both of my kids really took to it.”

Pointing to his 15-year-old son, Michael says, “He’s turned into a real Eddie Money fan.”

Michael’s daughter Emily, 19, however, enjoys the music of Starship, as well, explaining, “I like both bands. I grew up listening to them whenever Dad played them, and I’m really excited to see them live for the first time tonight,” before adding, “I’m especially looking forward to hearing ‘We Built This City’ by Starship and ‘Two Tickets to Paradise’ by Eddie Money.”

We make our way inside the historic UCPAC auditorium where Brian Remo, UCPAC’s executive director, welcomes the crowd and introduces them to tonight’s first act, Starship. The audience cheers as psychedelic music begins to swirl and colored lights shine on the musicians of Starship — Mickey Thomas on vocals and guitar, John Roth on guitar, Jeff Adams on bass, Phil Bennett on keyboards, Darrell Verdusco on drums, and Stephanie Calvert on vocals — as they take the stage.

Thomas and company launch into an energetic rendition of “Layin’ It on the Line,” a lively rocker which features Thomas’ strong lead vocal with backups by Calvert and the band.

Guitars wail and drums beat, filling the theater with good vibes. While Thomas and Calvert keep the rhythm going on dueling tambourines, John Roth rocks out on guitar, the song ending in animated audience cheers and applause.

Next up is “Jane,” a power ballad which opens with a percussive keyboard part by Phil Bennett with counterpoint crunch guitar chords by John Roth. Thomas’ clear true voice sparkles while Jeff Adams plays his bass. Lights swirl in response to the music coming from the stage and John Roth plays a “hairband” electric guitar solo.

Following avid applause, Thomas welcomes the crowd to UCPAC before introducing the group’s next song announcing, “This is a bittersweet love song — get your hankies out!”

Here, he and the band launch into their #1 hit from 1986, “Sara.” As arms wave to the beat, Thomas croons the familiar lyrics, “Sara, Sara/Storms are brewin’ in your eyes.”

Jeff Adams shows his enthusiasm for the music as he dances while he plays his bass and happily joins Calvert in singing back-up on the “No time is a good time for goodbyes” lyric to wild audience cheers.

Thomas asks the crowd, “How’s everybody doing tonight?” before declaring, “I saw on social media that it was 40 years ago yesterday that ‘Mickey Thomas joined Starship on April 12, 1979.’ At the time, I said I’d give it two albums and three years and then thought I’d be on to something else, but I’m still doing it,” before adding, “And not only that, but if I hadn’t stuck around, I would never have recorded a song like this one.”

Here, Thomas and Co. perform their 1987 #1 hit, “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now.” The audience sings along on the famous, “And we can build this thing together/Stand this stormy weather/Nothings gonna stop us now” power duet which features the crisp harmonies of Calvert and Thomas.

John Roth plays a swirling guitar solo and the crowd claps overhead to the infectious rhythm before leaping to their feet while Thomas vocalizes on the song’s coda.

After reminding the audience, “This summer is the 50th anniversary of Woodstock,” Thomas announces, “In honor of Jefferson Airplane — who performed at Woodstock — we’ll do a couple of Jefferson Airplane songs.”

On the first number, Stephanie Calvert is featured on a dynamic rendition of “White Rabbit,” her voice pleading as she belts out the well-known “One pill makes you larger, and one pill makes you small” lyric. Singing with her entire body, she gives a dynamic performance filled with emotion and soul.

Segueing into “Miracles,” Thomas joins in and trades vocal leads with Calvert as they croon, “If only you believe like I believe, baby/We’d get by,” the music sounding as fresh and alive as the day it was originally recorded.

Next up is “Count On Me” where Thomas energetically handles the lead accompanied with five-part vocal harmonies on the rockin’ “You can count on me/Count on my love” chorus.

Lastly, Calvert dazzles the crowd as she channels Grace Slick on a mind-blowing performance of the Jefferson Airplane’s rocker which Rolling Stone magazine called one of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, “Somebody to Love.”

On this classic psychedelic rocker, Calvert is on fire as she sings directly to audience members who clap and sing along before leaping to their feet and erupting into cheers and applause for her stellar performance.

She high-fives Thomas before thanking the audience stating, “I love East Coast crowds! I’m from Connecticut!” as one audience member enthusiastically screams out, “Great job on the Airplane, guys! Great job!”

Thomas takes a moment to say a few words about the artist with whom he’s sharing the stage tonight — Eddie Money — when he announces, “When I first met Eddie, I was singing this song with Elvin Bishop.”

Here, he and the band perform “Fooled Around and Fell In Love,” a 1976 Top Ten hit for Bishop on which Thomas originally sang lead.

Sounding clear and strong, Thomas cries out the famous, “I must have been through about a million girls” lyric before the audience happily joins him in singing the ubiquitous “But then I fooled around and fell in love” chorus.

John Roth takes a guitar solo down front — wailing and sliding up and down his fretboard, bending the strings and picking with his teeth — much to the crowd’s amazement before they rise to their feet with excited applause.

Then, a funky beat permeates the theater as Thomas grabs an acoustic guitar for “Stranger,” a number which features Thomas’ and Calvert’s harmony lead vocal.

“Stranger” also features a Phil Bennett keyboard solo — where the tempo accelerates and brings the song to a frenzied pace before abruptly stopping and starting again — along with a fast and furious John Roth guitar solo which ends when he throws his guitar pick into the crowd.

“Find Your Way Back” is a power rock ballad which has Thomas singing at the edge of the stage encouraging the audience to sing and clap along.

Joining in on the catchy “Find your way back” chorus, the background shifts colors as the members of Starship sing together in six-part harmony.

The audience rises to its feet just as Thomas and Starship conclude their set with their 1985 chart-topper “We Built This City.” While the crowd claps and sings along to the famous “We built this city/We built this city on rock and roll” chorus, John Roth and Jeff Adams run across the stage as they play while a man in the front row can be seen standing and enthusiastically playing his tambourine at the edge of the stage.

At the song’s conclusion, Thomas and the band take a bow and throw guitar picks to the crowd to energetic screams and applause.

During intermission, we take a moment to chat with vocalist Stephanie Calvert who is out in the UCPAC lobby meeting and greeting with Starship fans.

When asked what it’s like to perform Jefferson Airplane songs in concert each night, Calvert exclaims, “It’s amazing! It’s like a dream. It’s an honor to get to go out and sing these songs,” before adding, “And audience was great — I love East Coast audiences — they’re my roots. I’d come back here any time.”

When the lobby lights blink, we head back into the auditorium to hear UCPAC director Brian Remo announce, “Make some noise to welcome Eddie Money to the stage!”

The lights dim and an audience member screams out, “Go Eddie!” as musicians take their places. Soon, Eddie Money comes out dancing and playing the tambourine as he throws his sunglasses into the crowd singing his 1978 hit, “Baby Hold On.”

While crooning the celebrated lyric, “Baby hold on to me/Whatever will be will be/The future is ours to see/So baby hold on to me,” audience members sing and clap along before responding with huge applause.

After welcoming the crowd, Money thanks the audience declaring, “What a great place to rock and roll! New Jersey, we love you!”

Announcing, “Here’s a little rock and roll just for you,” Money performs “Wanna Be a Rock and Roll Star,” a rockin’ shuffle on which Money sings harmony with his daughter, Jesse.

Next, Money plays cowbell on “We Should Be Sleeping.” On this slow pounding rocker, he sings, “Don’t say bye bye bye bye baby,” while inviting the audience to sing along. The audience loves the participation, and many in the crowd begin cheering and screaming, “Eddie! Eddie!”

Reminding the audience how critical it is for Americans to support our troops, Eddie and Jesse sing “One More Soldier Coming Home.” On this poignant number, father and daughter vocalize, “I heard the news today/You’re finally coming home/You’ve been gone for way too long/But you went off to war/Know what you went there for/You fought to keep our country strong.”

Jesse waves an American flag as veterans in the audience stand and salute the flag before red star bursts fill the screen behind them.

After introducing his band — which not only includes daughter Jesse on vocals, but son Desmond on guitar and son Julian on drums — Money introduces his next number stating, “This song comes from back in the ’80s when you would call a girl on the telephone.”

Here, he and the band perform “Endless Nights,” a rhythmic rocker on which Money sings, “When you gonna call/I think it’s worth the time/How you gonna change/All these endless nights.”

Calling his band a “family affair,” Money — who currently stars with his family on the AXS reality television show, Real Money — introduces his son, Desmond, saying, “Des is going to do a tune from his new CD.” At this point, Eddie leaves the stage and the band rocks out with Des singing lead on “Tonight.”

Returning to ask, “Where would I be without the kids?” Money recalls, “The members of Tower of Power were good friends of mine. They were supposed to play the horn part on the record of this song, but they never showed up, so I’ve been singing it as ‘Na na na’ for all these years!”

Inviting the audience to help him sing the “horn part” with him, Money performs “Walk on Water,” as the crowd joins in, their heads bopping and hands clapping overhead to this rockin’ tune.

Following avid cheers and applause, Money exclaims, “I do this for you!” before picking up his harmonica and launching into “No Control.” The crowd dances as strobe lights flash on this funky number. Exclaiming, “This ain’t no TV show — are we live tonight? Everybody say ‘Yes!’” Money plays a bluesy harmonica solo while the band creates a wall of sound which envelopes the audience.

After joking, “I’ve sold 40 million records — I should have saved the money. Who knew?” Money and the band perform the reggae-inspired “Trinidad.” On this lively number, the audience claps while Money plays his saxophone and then gets the audience singing on the “Gotta say bump, bump, bump” interlude.

Acknowledging, “I wrote this song a long time ago in New Jersey,” Money launches into “I Wanna Go Back,” the audience singing along as Eddie continues to wail on his sax. Women can be seen dancing on the side of the stage as he croons, “I wanna go back and do it all over/But I can’t go back I know,” and a couple in the front stands up and dances while waving a drumstick in the air before being acknowledged by Money.

Revealing, “My wife is from Nashville and knows the Cash family,” Money excitedly announces, “Johnny Cash performed this song!” before asking, “Are there any rock and roll cowboys out there?” Here,the audience sings along with Money on his country- rocker, “Give Me Some Water.”

Declaring, “We’re going to feature Jesse next,” daughter Jesse dances and sings as she handles the lead on a new song, “Should Have Known Better,” while being accompanied by her brother, Desmond, on drums.

Following avid applause, Jesse sings the famous Ronnie Spector “Be my little baby” lyric on her father’s classic rocker, “Take Me Home Tonight.” On this audience-pleaser, Eddie sings lead as he goes around shaking hands with fans before excitedly exclaiming, “There’s just something about New Jersey!”

Guitars swirl as the musicians launch into Money’s signature 1978 hit, “Two Tickets to Paradise.” The audience sings along on the famous “Waited so long/Waited so long” bridge and then joyfully joins in on the famous “Two tickets to paradise” chorus.

With the audience on its feet cheering, Money and the band leave the stage as Eddie declares, “You are the best crowd ever!”

As the fans chant “Eddie! Eddie!” Money returns the stage to perform a rockin’ version of his catchy tune,“Shakin,’” which has everyone dancing and swaying their arms back and forth as they sing “She was shakin’ (Oh oh ooh oh)/Snappin’ her fingers.”

Announcing “Give it up for the UnionPAC!” Eddie and the band take bows while throwing guitar picks to fans out in the crowd.

As audience members happily make their way into the lobby, we chat with several in the crowd who share their opinions with us about tonight’s show.

First, we chat with Bob and Eleanor from Avenel — the couple that danced and waved a drumstick during Eddie Money’s performance of “I Wanna Go Back.”

States Bob, “This concert was a lot of fun — rock and roll is my life,” before adding, “so it was really cool that I got a set list and a drumstick from Starship tonight!”

His wife Eleanor reveals, “Tonight’s show was my birthday present. It was so much fun when Eddie Money looked right at us when I started waving Bob’s drumstick. It was amazing!”

Next, we chat with John from Staten Island — the fan who played tambourine with Eddie Money in the front row of the audience. Wearing a shirt that reads, “Of course I’m awesome — I play the tambourine,” John explains how this came about.

“We’re huge Eddie Money fans,” reveals John, “and we just happened to notice Jesse Money and her brother having dinner at a local Chinese restaurant before the show. After taking a picture with them, I asked if it would be ok if I played my tambourine at the concert and they said, ‘Yes!”

“This is our seventh time seeing Eddie Money in concert,” notes John, before exclaiming, “He has a great band that plays full-force rock and roll!”

John’s wife, Sandy, agrees recalling, “He’s fantastic — and a great guy, too. When we saw Eddie perform in Atlantic City, I bought a pocketbook that was made out of one of his vinyl record albums and he was so happy, he came over to have a picture taken with me because he donates money from the sale of his merchandise to help the veterans.”

We also chat with Sue from Iselin who says, “This was a wonderful show — just great; I loved both Eddie Money and Starship.”

Chimes in David from Jackson, “It was awesome — a real throwback to the ‘80s!” while his wife, Jeanine, remarks, “Both bands were spot on, and Eddie Money’s kids were great too — they’re the next generation of rock and roll.”

Ron and Nora from Hillside agree, with Ron adding, “Starship was so much fun — and Mickey Thomas still sounds great!” before Nora explains, “We love Starship. We saw them on our first date. We’re ’80s babies, but we love the ’60s too,” declaring, “Someday we’re going to get a Winnebago and travel the country and listen to their music.”

Lastly, we chat with Joanie from Bridgewater who sums things up by simply stating, “Starship and Eddie Money were amazing tonight — they were everything I expected…and more!”

To learn more about Starship, please go to starshipcontrol.com. For find out more about Eddie Money, click on eddiemoney.com. For information on future performances at Rahway’s UCPAC — including the Pop 2000 Tour with Lance Bass, O-Town, Aaron Carter, Ryan Cabrera, Tyler Hilton, and more on July 20 — please go to ucpac.org.

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