“Just Awesome!” The Osmonds LIVE! at PNC Bank Arts Center

By Spotlight Central. Photos by Love Imagery

It’s June 13, 2017 and it’s HOT, but that doesn’t stop several thousand New Jersey residents from flocking to the PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel for a free concert featuring the well-known family music group, The Osmonds!

A presentation of the Garden State Arts Center Foundation for New Jersey residents 55 years of age and older, today’s Osmonds show is sponsored by LiveNation, PNC Bank, SiriusXM Radio’s 60’s on 6 featuring Cousin Brucie, Sills Cummis & Gross, P.C./Hon. Jerold Zaro, The Two River Times, Hon. Jerry Langer, Princeton Public Affairs Group, Inc., and Sen. Joseph M. Kyrillos, Jr. — in addition to contributions by individual donors.

The group — originally consisting of brothers Alan, Wayne, Merrill, and Jay — started out as barbershop quartet known as The Osmond Brothers, who were featured on television throughout the 1960s on The Andy Williams Show. They were later joined by their younger siblings, Donny and Jimmy, and changed their name to The Osmonds in an effort to shed their variety show image. Once they made their way to the top of the pop music charts in the early 1970s, they were even given their own Saturday morning cartoon series! The brothers’ only sister, Marie — who wasn’t an official member of the group — went on to have a solo music career, but also had a successful career with her brother, Donny. Millions tuned in to watch the siblings’ late-1970’s television program, The Donny and Marie Show, produced by their older brothers, notably Merrill and Jay Osmond.

As the clock strikes 1:30pm, Merrill and Jay Osmond take the stage to open this afternoon’s show at the PNC Bank Arts Center with a rockin’ version of The Osmonds’ 1972 Top Five hit, “Down By the Lazy River,” complete with coordinated dance steps.

Their voices sounding clear and strong — and accompanied by a talented quartet featuring keyboards, guitar, bass, and drums — the brothers sing the catchy chorus, “Down by the lazy river/ Everybody follow me,” getting the audience in a happy summery groove, despite the simmering heat.

“How’s everybody doing?” asks Merrill, before noting, “For the people who followed The Osmonds over the years, we’re gonna come out in the audience and shake some hands.”

And that is exactly what they do while singing an Osmonds’ song which reached #1 on Billboard’s Easy Listening chart in 1975 — “The Proud One.” Audience members smile, shake hands, and take selfies with the guys while the two brothers stroll through the ampitheatre.

“What a great audience!” exclaims Merrill. “How many of you remember The Osmonds from way back when? Jay and I have been working together for 60 years…” at which point Jay interjects stating, “…and we’re gonna do it until we get it right!”

Following audience laughter, Merrill goes on to talk a bit about his famous siblings.

“In the Osmond family, we have eight boys and a girl,” explains Merrill, going on to joke, “plus one hundred-plus grandkids, and fifty great-grandchildren — and we’re just getting started.”

In talking about his sister, he says, “Marie is the most gracious gal — especially at the holidays. This year, we got a package from her with a big red ribbon on it.”

“What was it?,” he asks rhetorically, before exclaiming, “Nutrisystem!”

Asking, “How many of you remember The Donny and Marie Show?” the crowd responds with avid applause.

Revealing, “Jay and I produced all those shows. And we thought it would great to do something called ‘a little bit country and a little bit rock and roll.’”

Here, the brothers stop the show and split the PNC Bank audience into two groups — the “country side” and the “rock and roll side,” after which they perform their “Little Bit Country, Little Bit Rock and Roll” medley.

Including such rock and roll numbers as their 1971 Top 5 smash, “Yo Yo,” to audience cheers, the guys announce, “Here’s one we recorded with Conway Twitty,” before performing a country number — a bouncy cover version of The Eagles’ “Heartache Tonight.”

Following excited cheers and applause, the brothers look out to see all the occupied seats in the house despite the heat, and humbly say, “Thank you for being here.”

Next, Merrill tells a humorous story about a woman who mysteriously appeared in the very back of the auditorium earlier in the day while the group was doing their soundcheck. As the guys practiced, the woman stood at the back of the amphitheater watching their every move, slowly inching her way down to the front row.

“Are you The Osmonds?,” she asked once she got there, and when Merrill replied in the affirmative, the woman frankly blurted out to him, “You don’t look so good up close.”

With Jay moving over to the drum set, the guys perform a cover version of Chuck Berry’s 1957 classic, “Rock and Roll Music,” after which Jay plays a top-notch drum solo.

As the audience claps along to the beat, Merrill inquires, “Whaddya think so far?”

When the audience cheers its approval, Merrill holds his microphone directly in front of Jay’s bass drum so the audience can easily hear all the impressive double pedal work he’s doing. For that, Jay is rewarded with huge applause.

“We had the best parents in the world,” reveals Merrill. Honoring his father, he and the band slow things down to perform an endearing rendition of his dad’s favorite song, “The Impossible Dream.”

Next, Jay and Merrill introduce their nephew, David Osmond, to the stage.

“My dad is Alan Osmond,” explains David. Revealing that his father — the eldest of the Osmond clan — has been battling multiple sclerosis for 30 years, he tells the audience what his father has always said about the disease, “I may have MS, but MS does not have me.”

Going on to further disclose, “Even though I’m young, I was diagnosed with MS, as well. But I’m out of my wheelchair and walking and singing today,” David credits his and the family’s positive outlook with words his grandfather — Jay and Merrill’s father — often told members of the family: “You can do this.”

Here, David performs one of the highlight numbers of the afternoon — a catchy up-tempo pop tune entitled “I Can Do This.” The audience eagerly claps along as David energetically jumps up and down at the edge of the stage while performing. After inviting the audience to join him on the song’s chorus, David enthusiastically exclaims, “We’ve got singers in New Jersey!”

Moving on to a number the brothers call “one of the first songs we ever learned,” Jay, Merrill, and David beautifully harmonize together on an old barbershop tune entitled, “The Auctioneer.”

After announcing the birthday of an audience member who turned “97-years-young” today — in addition to announcing the anniversary of a couple celebrating 69 years of marriage — The Osmonds dedicate a medley of love songs to these folks on this — their special day. The medley includes such well-known songs as The Beatles’ “Something,” featuring lead vocals by Jay.

The medley continues with Marvin Gaye’s “How Sweet it Is” and Percy Sledge’s “When a Man Loves a Woman.” It also includes Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell’s “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” a number featuring top-notch vocal harmonies, not to mention instrumental accompaniment by David on keyboard, Jay on conga drums, and the rest of the band soulfully rockin’ out on guitar, bass, and drums.

Moving on to a medley of rock songs, lead vocalist Merrill is featured on The Beatles’ “I Saw Her Standing There,” Elvis Presley’s “I Can’t Help Falling in Love With You,” and a song written “by a friend of ours who said he wanted to be an Osmond,” explains Merrill — “Neil Diamond.” Launching into the audience pleaser, “Sweet Caroline,” the crowd adds all of the appropriate “so good”s at all the right times!

Concluding Act I with a number Merrill describes as “the biggest selling song, worldwide, The Osmonds ever had,” the group provides an exciting rendition of their 1972 Top 20 hit, “Crazy Horses.”

Following a short intermission, the group comes back with a vengeance to perform a bouncy version of Sam Cooke’s “We’re Having a Party,” as audience members laugh, smile, and clap along to the joyful sound of Jay and Merrill’s split lead vocal.

They follow that up with The Osmonds’ 1976 selection, “I Can’t Live a Dream,” the band solidly accompanying the song’s lyrics, “But I can’t live a dream/Any more than I can live forever/Any more than I can climb a mountain to the sun.”

“Our mother loved that song,” reveals Merrill, at which point nephew David takes the stage, surveying the open-air PNC Bank Arts Center and exclaiming, “I didn’t know it was this hot in Jersey!”

In tribute to his grandfather — a staff sergeant — and to all of the audience members in attendance today who served in the armed forces, David sings a poignant rendition of “Danny Boy, “ accompanying himself on the guitar.

Deftly supporting David’s falsetto voice, the band interweaves a cleverly-arranged instrumental interlude of “Amazing Grace,” which is followed by David’s voice as it rings out over the crowd, eliciting a standing ovation from many present.

Jay and Merrill return to the stage for an “acoustic medley” of Osmonds’ songs including “Where Does an Angel Go When She Cries?,” “Never Ending Song of Love,” and “Love Me For a Reason,” the latter featuring the exciting sound of a sitar.

With the addition of nephew David, The Osmonds sound like a typical “boy band” on their next piece — a “brothers’ medley” of songs — which includes such classics as The Mills Brothers’ “Up a Lazy River,” The Everly Brothers’ “Bye Bye Love,” and The Doobie Brothers’ “Long Train Runnin.’”

The guys even get the audience chuckling with their version of The Blues Brothers’ “Soul Man” when they dance donning black fedoras!

Following up with The Righteous Brothers’ “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin,’” trademark Osmond harmonies abound.

The vocal trio excites the crowd with its version of The Bee Gees’ “Too Much Heaven,” prompting cheers, hoots, and hollers, thanks to the guys’ impressive falsetto voices!

Then, they take things even further as they sing The Jackson Five’s “I Want You Back,” with Jay’s voice up in the stratosphere channeling a young Michael Jackson’s original lead vocal!

The group concludes their “brothers’ medley” with an Osmonds’ song which Merrill says was the brothers’ “first gold record” — their 1971 #1 hit, “One Bad Apple.”

Sounding as good as ever, they segue into a song which features delightful Osmond harmonies — their cover version of The Hollies’ “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother” — which inspires yet another standing ovation for the group!

“Thank you,” say The Osmonds, before moving on to their final number of the program. On this piece, they impress the audience with their close jazz-influenced harmonies on a lovely rendition of the Frankie Laine 1950’s-era classic, “I Believe.”

Following the fourth standing ovation of the afternoon, the Osmonds show their appreciation to the crowd by wishing them a heartfelt “Goodbye, and thank you!” before leaving the stage.

As audience members make their way out of the ampitheater, we take a moment to chat with several of them about this afternoon’s performance.

Robin from Hackettstown — who admits she’s been a fan of The Osmonds since she was twelve — tells us she “loved it!” whereas Joni from Sayreville calls the show “fantastic!”

Jamie from Bloomfield agrees, before further revealing, “I saw The Osmonds for the first time in 1970 right here at the Arts Center in my brand new bell bottom jeans!”

Although Lorrie from Brick — appropriately dressed for today’s concert in her Donny Osmond T-Shirt — explains she’s seen Donny and Marie Osmond perform many times on stage, this is her first time getting a chance to experience the Osmond “brothers” in concert.

“I wish the whole family could perform together in one show,” says Lorrie, before adding with a smile, “but I’ll still like any show with any Osmonds in it!”

Similarly, Eileen from Toms River says she enjoyed how this production “brought two generations of the Osmond family together.” Noting how special it was “to see a group that is able to make such a wonderful connection with the audience,” Eileen likely speaks for many here today when she concludes that, despite the heat — for her — this concert was “just awesome.”

To learn more about The Osmonds, please see osmond.com. For information on future Garden State Arts Center Foundation concerts at PNC Bank Arts Center — including The United States Army Field Band and Choir on June 29, 2017 — please go to gsafoundation.org.