Spotlight Central
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Spotlight Central

The 2022 Happy Together Tour LIVE! at MPAC

By Spotlight Central. Photos by Love Imagery

Inside Morristown, NJ’s MPAC auditorium this Thursday, June 23, 2022 evening, music lovers can be seen dancing to the sound of happy ’60s tunes played on the house PA system as they make their way to their seats. After a two-year postponement, fans of classic 1960s hits are all here for tonight’s 2022 edition of the Happy Together Tour starring The Turtles, Gary Puckett, The Association, The Classics IV, The Vogues, and The Cowsills.

Radio DJ Shadoe Stevens’ pre-recorded voice counts down, “2 minutes…1 minute… 30 seconds…,” before the crowd cheers, the lights dim, and the Happy Together musicians — Greg Smith on bass, Chris Camilleri on drums, Manny Focarazzo on keyboards, and musical director Godfrey Townsend on guitar — take the stage and tonight’s show begins.

The Cowsills — featuring siblings Susan, Paul, and Bob Cowsill — are up first. “Hello, Morristown!” exclaims Paul, “1967 was the summer of love, and this is for all the flower girls out there!” The group opens their set with a buoyant rendition of their catchy ’67 hit, “The Rain, The Park, and Other Things” (aka “The Flower Girl”).

The happy strains of this joyful tune fill the air as audience members move to the ’60s groove at their seats.

Following enthusiastic applause, the group performs their 1967 hit, “We Can Fly,” as blue lights rain down and create rays that criss-cross above the soaring sound.

The audience claps along to the song’s snappy melody and the siblings’ tight vocal harmonies.

Susan, 63, introduces her brothers, Bob, 72, and Paul, 70. Then, The Cowsills perform a bouncy version of their hit, “Indian Lake,” where the group’s tight vocals and Manny Focarazzo’s honky-tonk piano takes audience members back to the carefree summer days of the 1960s.

As members of the family band that provided the inspiration for TV’s The Partridge Family, the siblings perform a television theme song they recorded back in 1969 — the theme from Love, American Style.

After Paul thanks the audience, acknowledging “Without you, there is no us,” The Cowsills end their nostalgic set with a high-energy rendition of their 1969 smash, “Hair,” where Susan and Paul get the crowd clapping along as rainbow-colored lights swirl over the audience. The audience stands and cheers as The Cowsills say “We love you!” while bowing together.

The Vogues — Troy Elich, Royce Taylor, and Shawn Stevens — take the stage to perform a 1966 tune which has been featured in movies and television shows including Big Fish and The Drew Carey Show entitled, “Five O’Clock World.”

Moving on to their 1968 million seller, “My Special Angel,” the audience enjoys the smooth sound these gifted vocalists make as they harmonize with one another.

Troy Elich introduces Shawn Stevens, a native of Morristown, who says, “I was born in Morristown Hospital and attended South Street School.” After sharing memories of playing Little League in town, enjoying the yearly St. Patrick’s Day parade, and seeing “Santa arriving by helicopter onto Bamberger’s roof,” Stevens confesses, “I’m thrilled to be performing on the same stage where I watched movies as a kid!”

Here, the Vogues launch into their 1968 Top Ten million seller, “Turn Around, Look At Me.” As heads sway and toes tap, music lovers can’t help but sing along, finding it impossible to resist the magical melody of this alluring classic.

By the end of the number, the crowd responds with cheers and whistles as the singers bow and smile.

The Vogues end their set with their Petula Clark-penned hit, “You’re the One.” Their brilliant harmonies and high countermelody impress the crowd and music lovers stand and cheer for these talented vocalists.

The next act to take the stage is The Classics IV featuring singer Tom Garrett and saxophonist Paul Weddle. Bringing the audience back in time, the group performs their 1969 recording, “Every Day with You Girl,” a number which features Garrett’s smooth lead vocal and an easy ’60s groove.

The Classics IV follow up with their Top Ten hit from 1969, “Stormy.” The audience happily joins in singing the famous “Bring back that sunny day” lyric, and Weddle plays a sax solo which elicits large applause from the crowd.

Garrett and Weddle perform the band’s 1969 hit, “Traces.” After Garrett croons the song’s famous “Faded photographs, covered now with lines and creases” lyric, Weddle switches off from playing tenor sax to soprano sax. The crowd cheers as an audience member holds up a 45 rpm record of “Traces” and Garret exclaims, “There’s just something about vinyl!” and the audience happily agrees.

Concluding their set with a song which went all the way to #1 in early 1968, The Classics IV perform “Spooky.” The crowd joins in singing “Spooky” as the band vamps and Weddle plays a jazzy tenor sax solo.

The crowd responds to the Classics IV’s performance with a resounding standing ovation.

During intermission, we chat with several music lovers in the audience who share their thoughts on tonight’s show so far. Exclaims Terri from Madison, “I loved all the music! I especially loved The Cowsills — they’re so much fun — and The Vogues sounded amazing, too!”

Steve from Franklinville comments, “With this show, the hits just keep on coming!” His wife, Donna, agrees, adding, “We know every song, and ‘Spooky’ has been my favorite so far! Great sax playing!”

Ron from Edison agrees, declaring, “The Classics IV were excellent — just great — and The Vogues were to die for!” prior to noting, “I love Gary Puckett, too, so I’m especially looking forward to hearing him in the second half.”

Following intermission, members of The Association — Del Ramos and Paul Holland — take the stage and get audience member’s toes a-tapping to the group’s 1966 #1 hit, “Windy.”

Ramos handles the lead vocal on this happy tune before the group performs a song which has been recognized by the music licensing organization BMI as the second most-played song of the past century. The audience responds with cheers, applause, and whistles for The Association’s 1967 smash, “Never My Love.”

Ramos — who is from Hawaii — introduces his musical partner, Paul Holland, asking the crowd to say “aloha” to him. As the musicians perform their 1966 hit, “Cherish,” audience members are willfully transported back to another time as they sing along on the well-known “Cherish is the word I use to describe” lyric.

Ramos asks “Wasn’t that beautiful?” and the group follows up with a number which, according to Holland, was controversial when it was first released back in 1966. The audience reacts with cheers and applause to the group’s performance of “Along Comes Mary,” and members leap to their feet as the duo takes a bow together.

Gary Puckett, the original lead singer of Gary Puckett and The Union Gap, takes the stage wearing his Civil War longcoat and opens with a powerful version of his 1968 #2 hit, “Lady Willpower.”

Moving on to 1968’s “Over You,” Puckett begins, “Why am I losing sleep over you?” before the audience happily joins him in singing the tuneful “I guess there’s just no getting over you” chorus.

The crowd cheers and Puckett exclaims, “Thank you! It’s great to be here with you. I hope you’re well, happy and healthy, and having a good time.”

The audience reacts with applause and Puckett entertains them with a compelling version of his 1969 Top Ten smash, “This Girl Is a Woman Now.”

Singing with emotion, his famous vibrato fills the MPAC auditorium, and the audience responds with cheers and whistles.

Puckett tells the audience about his favorite record, 1967’s “Woman, Woman,” announcing, “I want to hear you on the ‘Wo-wo-wo’ part!” As he croons,“Woman, woman/Have you got cheating on your mind?” the audience is moved by his emotional performance and joins in with feeling. Puckett smiles as he listens to the audience sing, saying, “Give yourself a round of applause — you guys are great!” before adding, “Let’s sing one more together!”

Puckett concludes his set with 1968’s “Young Girl” where the audience happily joins him on the “Young girl/Get out of my mind” refrain. In the middle of the number, the house lights come on and the crowd sings the entire chorus to Puckett before ending with cheers, applause, and a standing ovation.

For tonight’s final act, The Turtles — Mark Volman and Ron Dante — take the stage and open with a rockin’ version of the group’s 1967 hit, “She’d Rather Be With Me.”

As Dante deftly handles the lead, Volman provides backup vocals before bouncing a drumstick off the floor and successfully catching it several times in a row.

After excited applause, the duo follows up with 1966’s “You Baby,” before moving on to their interpretation of the Bob Dylan-penned “It Ain’t Me Babe.” On this number, Volman conducts the audience as they sing along on the “I said a-no, no, no, it ain’t me, babe” coda.

After performing The Doors’ “Riders On the Storm,” Volman introduces Ron Dante who, as he explains, has been filling in for his long-time Turtles partner, Howard Kaylan. Here, Dante dazzles the audience with a performance of his own #1 hit with The Archies, “Sugar, Sugar.”

An audience member calls out to Volman, “ I like your Snoopy vest!” and Volman responds by joking, “It happens to be on sale tonight. We’ll talk later.”

After Volman introduces the members of the Happy Together Band, the group launches into a short instrumental rendition of Frank Zappa’s “Peaches en Regalia.” Then, Volman and Co. segue into a spirited rendition of The Turtles’ 1968 Top Ten smash, “Elenore.” Lights flash over the audience as patterns of black and white swirl behind the band.

Dante announces, “I’ve been waiting to sing this song all night — let’s sing it together!” and the entire crowd stands and cheerfully sings while they move to the groove of The Turtles’ 1967 chart-topper, “Happy Together.”

At the conclusion, Volman thanks the audience and invites them to join him next year for the 23rd edition of The Happy Together Tour. Then — one at a time — the individual artists return to the stage so they can each do a snippet of one of their biggest hits, after which everyone joins in on a full cast reprise of “Happy Together.”

As audience members file out of the MPAC auditorium, we chat with several music lovers in the crowd who comment on tonight’s performance. Exclaims Denise from Morristown, “It was a great show — everyone was very happy!”

Jim from Westwood declares, “I loved this show! Gary Puckett was great,” before asking, “Did you know that Elvis thought Gary Puckett was the best singer in the world?” Continuing, “Thumbs up to The Association,” Jim also acknowledges, “I loved hearing The Vogues tonight. I used to sing ‘Turn Around, Look at Me’ to my daughter when she was a baby. Now she’s a grown up and I even brought her with me to tonight’s show.”

Rich from Monroe Twp. contends, “Tonight’s concert was a lot of fun. We purchased our tickets two and half years ago, and it’s still a fun show after all these years.” Donna from Middlesex concurs, adding, “It’s good to be back. We really missed going to concerts,” prior to adding, “I thought Ron Dante was especially good tonight.”

Carl from Greenwood Lake agrees, declaring, “The Turtles were unbelievable with Ron Dante, who signed my Archies lunchbox!” Adding, “The Association and Gary Puckett were great, too,” Carl recalls, “I’ve seen every Happy Together Tour since they started doing them,” before concluding, “I’m going to keep coming back to see them until the day I die!”

To learn more about the 2022 Happy Together Tour, please go theturtles.com/tour. For info on additional great performances at MPAC — including Dion on July 21, Boz Scaggs on Aug. 3, Glen Burtnick’s Summer of Love Concert, Woodstock Edition on Aug 10, and Air Supply on Aug. 18 — please click on mayoarts.org.

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