(September 30, 2018). Frankie Valli is a legend among legends. That much is clear.
What wasn’t so apparent before Saturday night, though, was just how much of a comedian the enduring 20th century icon actually is.
The 85-year-old former front man of one of the greatest American singing groups of all time certainly had a bevy of hits to choose from when he played the Rosemont Theatre at the same-named Chicago suburb on Saturday (Sept. 28).
Valli, who led the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame group the Four Seasons through dozens of chart hits over nearly two decades – and intermittently topped the chart with his own solo material – poured through 25 of those songs in front of a very appreciative crowd of folks whose average age was not much less than his.
The hits came fast and furious in a show that took just under two hours. The fact that the songs clocked in at between two and three minutes each to begin with allowed for so many of them to be packed into a set that was as efficient as it was entertaining.
And entertaining it was.
For instance, no one could have expected the octogenarian to launch into an impromptu rap about halfway through the set in a mocking commentary on the direction that music had taken since he and the Four Seasons were making hits in the 1960s and ‘70s.
Surprisingly, the singer did a pretty respectable job dropping some (not-so-)dope rhymes to the band’s accompanying funky beat – at least judging by the immediate roar of applause from the crowd of mostly white, 60-to-70-year-olds who clearly agreed with him about music’s current state of affairs.
Then there was the lighthearted jab at a very prominent politician in the news these days.
Valli asked the sold-out audience of 4400-plus how many of them had seen The Jersey Boys – the jukebox musical based on the 1950s and ‘60s rise to fame of his band The Four Seasons (a show this blogger was fortunate to see earlier this year here in Chicago). After then asking how many in the audience had never seen it, the real Jersey Boy joked to his band mates that someone should take their names and numbers and “report them to (House Speaker) Nancy Pelosi.”
After another raucous reaction from the crowd, Valli kept the joke going. “I’m not terribly fond of any politician,” he continued. “But, as a man, can you just imagine being married to someone like that?”
“You must admit it would be pretty painful, c’mon,” he concluded before returning the subject to music and how he was inspired as a six-year-old to take up singing after seeing the late Frank Sinatra perform in New York City.
Indeed, it was the music and Valli’s singing that were the most entertaining aspects of the evening.
Valli was backed by a very capable band and a quarter of talented, dapperly dressed male backup singers who looked just like the actors in the Chicago production of The Jersey Boys I had seen just months earlier. They provided the harmonies to Valli’s still considerably strong combination tenor/falsetto vocals on Four Season hits like the set opener “Workin’ My Way Back To You,” plus “Opus 17,” and “Beggin’” to get things started.
He zipped through the set’s first seven songs – all top-20 hits for the Four Seasons – before getting to his first solo hit: 1975’s early disco number “Swearin’ To God.”
For all his stated displeasure with the current state of music, it was worth remembering that “Swearin’ To God” launched a considerable string of big, fad-inspired, disco-leaning hits for Valli and The Four Seasons, together and separately.
Songs like “Who Loves You” and “December, 1963 (Oh, What A Night),” for the Four Seasons, and “Grease,” for Valli, were huge chart hits in the mid-to-late 1970s, with the latter serving as the title track to the 1978 musical starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John.
In introducing that platinum No. 1 single, Valli mentioned that “Grease” was written by The Bee Gees’ Barry Gibb who, had he known it was going to be as big as it was, “would likely not have given it to us.”
It was charming how Valli referred to his solo hits with the plural “us” pronoun, something he repeated for his earlier solo No. 1, 1975’s “My Eyes Adored You” – a song he recalled had sat “in the can” for about three years before it was given a second chance by a new label (Private Stock Records).
“My Eyes Adored You” was among several songs Valli praised for just being great songs as he introduced them. It followed a group of ‘60s classics sung by other artists, to which he paid tribute in a mini-set, including Chris Montez’ “Call Me,” Ben E. King’s “Spanish Harlem,” and a medley of the Temptations’ “My Girl” and the Rascals’ “Groovin’.”
The night’s best moments – among many great ones – were Valli’s performance of the Four Seasons’ 1975 comeback single “Who Loves You,” the disco-era hit that, surprisingly, generated the largest crowd response, and Valli’s first solo hit, “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You,” for which the crowd enthusiastically obliged when Valli beckoned us to sing along to the classic’s catchy chorus.
The night’s most meme-worthy moment, however, came in the set’s big finish, during Valli’s jaunt through some of the biggest of the Four Seasons’ early-‘60s hits.
It was during “Walk Like A Man,” when an audience member – a man – decided to follow the song’s direction and do just that, by taking a spirited man-strut up and down the aisles during each of the song’s choruses before finding a random empty seat in the audience to park himself during the verses.
It was the kind of attention-seeking display that would not have passed muster in most venues or with other artists (one who immediately came to mind was Ms. Dionne Warwick, the fellow ‘60s legend who once admonished an audience member for simply requesting between songs that she sing “Deja Vu”).
Frankie Valli may or may not have seen the man’s vain attempt to steal the spotlight, but it didn’t matter in the end.
There was really only one star in this show – well, besides the music, that is. It was the Newark, NJ-born man who brought it to us in the first place.
If you haven’t seen Frankie Valli live during this tour, I recommend you do. You’ll be in for a treat.
Frankie Valli’s set list for Rosemont Theatre on September 28, 2019.
- Workin My Way Back To You
- Opus 17 (Don’t You Worry ‘Bout Me)
- Save it For Me
- Dawn (Go Away)
- Tell It to the Rain
- I’ve Got You Under My Skin
- Swearin’ to God
- Silence is Golden
- The Night
- Fallen Angel
- Who Loves You
- Call Me
- Spanish Harlem
- My Girl/Groovin
- My Eyes Adored You
- December, 1963 (Oh What A Night).
- Can’t Take My Eyes Off You
- Big Girls Don’t Cry
- Walk Like A Man
- Bye, Bye Baby (Baby Goodbye)
- Rag Doll
- Let’s Hang On!
DJRob is a freelance blogger who covers R&B, hip-hop, pop and rock genres – plus lots of music news and current stuff! You can follow him on Twitter @djrobblog.
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