BY ELLIOT STEPHEN COHEN
“When I was a small boy growing up in England, I never dreamed that one day I’d be performing in Morristown, New Jersey … at the Mayo Performing Arts Center !” deadpanned head Herman’s Hermit Peter Noone, who never let up with jokes throughout his highly entertaining 80-minute set last night.
“I said to my dad Mick Jagger, back in 1964, ‘One day, when I’m old and wrinkled, not like you are now, I’m gonna play (there).”
He added, “When I told people I’m playing Morristown, they said, ‘Be ready to have some cassettes and eight-tracks for sale after the show.”
From the opening number, “I’m Into Something Good,” the audience, which was comprised mostly of older fans and what must have been their children and grandchildren, screamed in a way that must have resembled “Hermania” 50 years ago, when Noone was one of the world’s biggest pop music stars.
Looking amazingly youthful at 67, he joked about everything from his eyesight, pearly white teeth, clothes and age. “I know a lot of you are saying , ‘This is not really a very sexy look for an old man,’ but when I’m onstage I still feel like I’m 17, and do all this moving… until I feel it the next morning.” Then turning sideways, he added….”and I’m not holding anything in.”
“We’re familiar with the ’60s because we’re all in our 60s,” Noone said, laughing, before poking fun at his opening act. “The Buckinghams are in their 70s (actually, not true-Ed) and we can say what we want, because they’re probably back at the hotel, asleep already.”
Of course Noone has so much charm and self-deprecating good humor, the crowd could only howl along with him.
In reality, Peter Noone is now a far better singer than when he recorded his original Herman’s Hermits hits 50 years ago, and with all due respect to Paul McCartney and Mick Jagger, who are both still great, he has probably improved more than any of his contemporaries.
While Noone clowned around doing hilarious parodies of Mick Jagger (“Jumping Jack Flash”), Tom Jones (“It’s Not Unusual”) and Johnny Cash (“Ring Of Fire”), when reprising his great Herman’s Hermits hits like “Listen People,” “A Must To Avoid” and “No Milk Today,” he played it totally straight, giving his impressive recording legacy, which has unfortunately been maligned by some rock historians, the respect it deserves.
His band, while of course not the original Herman’s Hermits which disbanded in 1971, now includes guitarists Billy Sullivan and Vince Brescia (whose hair resembled an exaggerated Beatles wig), keyboard/bassist Rick Spina and drummer Dave Ferrara. They all kept the song’s arrangements pretty faithful to the original Hermits’ recordings.
Noone also paid tribute to contemporaries like the late Davy Jones, “Daydream Believer,” The Searchers, “Love Potion Number Nine,” Gerry and the Pacemakers, “Ferry Cross The Mersey” and Freddie and the Dreamers, “I’m Telling You Now,” with his band aping Freddie Garrity’s famous high kicks.
The show closed with three of the Hermit’s most famous songs, “Can’t You Hear My Heartbeat,” a rousing sing-a-long of “I’m Henry The Eighth I Am” with Noone joking, “If the guy sitting next to you isn’t singing, say, ‘Get back in the car, you boring old fart !, before a short rendition of “There’s A Kind Of Hush All Over The World.”
With the band still playing, Noone headed straight for the lobby to pose for pictures and do a signing. No, not for cassettes and eight-tracks (LOL), but CDs and a newly released 180 gram greatest hits record album put out by ABCKO.
The Buckinghams, featuring original member, though not original lead vocalist Carl Giammarese, opened the show. (Original Buckinghams lead singer Dennis Tufano tours as solo act). The group did a professionally presented 40-minute set, including its big ’60s recordings, “Kind Of A Drag,” “Susan,” “Hey, Baby, They’re Playing Our Song,” and “Don’t You Care,” as well as contemporary ’60s hits like The Turtles’ “Happy Together,” Tommy James’ “I Think We’re Alone Now” and Gary Puckett’s “Young Girl.” Original bass player Nick Fortuna took center stage sing the old Soul Survivors’ hit, “Expressway to Your Heart.”
Regarding my first experience with the Mayo Performing Arts Center, all I can say is everything was first-rate, from the ambiance, lighting, sound system and very courteous staff.