The Stars Come Out Shining in Support
of the Count Basie Theatre Foundation!
A SoundPress.net Feature Article by Rich and Laura Lynch
The Count Basie Theatre in Red Bank, New Jersey will be closing in July of 2008 - but, don't worry! The doors to the historic Monmouth County venue will re-open three months later following a two million dollar renovation project to repair the building's interior and complete the paint job that was started some years back. All these plans were announced at the 5th Annual Benefit Concert and Gala that took place on May 12, 2007 featuring a stellar performance by the legendary Brian Wilson and his incredible backing band.
Brian Wilson on stage in Red Bank, New Jersey!
To help raise the funds required, the Count Basie Theatre Foundation held an elegant, beach themed affair and auction before and after the 90 minute concert. The thoroughfare in front of the theater was blocked off and a giant tent was set up on Monmouth Avenue, where VIPs gathered to mingle, party and preview the exquisite items that were bestowed for the evening's Chinese auction. Spotted in the crowd was Bon Jovi's David Bryan who had donated a special house concert for the big-ticket item auction, which took place prior to the concert at 7 p.m. Bryan's event opened at $5,000 and ultimately the exclusive party for 25 people sold for $12,500.
Other items auctioned were a custom Challenger surf board signed by Bruce Springsteen and Brian Wilson, which sold for $7,500, a replica 1947 Harley Davidson motorcycle which moved at $23,000 and a luxury vacation package that sold for more than $10,000. The auction, Gala and concert were a smashing success and a grand start for the renovation fund raising.
With the preliminaries out of the way it was time for the main event - a concert by one of the most influential pop composers of the last 50 years, Brian Wilson. Brian Wilson is one of rock and pop music's most revered figures. As a legendary producer, arranger and performer of some of the most cherished music in rock history, he helped to created Surfin'; Surfin' USA; Surfer Girl; Little Deuce Coupe; All Summer Long; I Get Around; Fun, Fun, Fun; Help Me, Rhonda; California Girls; Good Vibrations; and at just 24 years old, the album-length masterpiece many consider "The Great American Pop Album" and the only American rival to The Beatles: Pet Sounds, which included the songs Wouldn't It be Nice, Sloop John B., and God Only Knows.
Brian Wilson, his band, and Bruce Springsteen take a bow!
Wilson stopped performing in 1964, and only returned to the stage full-time in 1998 and his performances since have been hailed by the San Francisco Chronicle as, "One of the most moving and inspirational events in recent memory," and by the Hollywood Reporter as, "A long-awaited ray of light." Backed by a note-perfect group of veteran sidemen, The Los Angeles Times pronounced his performances triumphant: "At the end of the evening, Wilson stood triumphant on stage, a man who has emerged from his darkest, most paralyzing blue period to again celebrate his music and the human spirit with his fans."
The legendary entertainer lived up to the advance billing and the 64-old musician was in remarkably strong voice as he and his band tore through a rapid 25-song set that was filled with many of the harmony drenched classics that defined The Beach Boy's sound and helped get the Jersey shore crowd ready for another fun summer in the sun!
As Brian and his ten-piece band took the stage, the audience erupted in applause even before one note had been played. People were excited. Mr. Wilson looked dapper in black and took the helm at the keyboards. Brian, well known and respected for being a perfectionist, has surrounded himself with first-class musicians and vocalists. Their twenty-five song set had a summer theme and opened strong with "She's Not the Little Girl". The energy level remained high throughout the evening as the band performed the classic Beach Boy's catalogue. The arrangements stuck to the original two and three minute formats of the songs and were executed with precision. The many musicians on stage were able to capture all the complexity and intricacies of Brian's compositions.
By the middle of the show, many fans were on their feet clapping and dancing and only slowed down for the timeless "God Only Knows", which Brian sang beautifully. The ballad was one of many highlights of the evening. The set list included some of Wilson's most popular songs, many of which received standing ovations. The sound on each song was strong with many instruments such as bells, horns and percussion gently floating to the top of the mix. Harmonies were tight and complemented Mr. Wilson's voice perfectly. Brian strapped on the "Smile" bass guitar for a few numbers before returning to the keys for "Love and Mercy", which was the last song of the stellar night.
Bruce Springsteen played some guitar and provided back-up vox in a surprise cameo!
Adding to the ado of the evening was a guest appearance by New Jersey's favorite son Bruce Springsteen. Seeing Springsteen on stage just miles from his home was thrilling and the crowd erupted in excitement when his name was called. But, unlike other rare and unannounced Springsteen appearances on this stage - or other local clubs like The Stone Pony and The Starland Ballroom - Bruce didn't steal the show. He provided a brief guitar lick on Barbara Ann and returned to add backing vocals to the show closer "Love and Mercy". He seemed content and pleased just to be sharing the spotlight with a personal hero and his presence added an exclamatory feather in the cap for the evening's fundraising efforts.
Just as the theater was named for a local Red Bank performer from a bygone era it was good to see two local icons from the Garden State (Bryan and Springsteen) come out to help keep the music alive in Red Bank. Their presence, and the musical contribution of one of rock music's greatest pioneers (Wilson), will help guarantee that the Count Basie Theatre stage in Red Bank will remain open - rockin' and revitalized - for future generations of musicians yet to come!
Bon Jovi's David Bryan and Alexandria Quaas at the pre-concert Gala reception!
Related Links: For more information on Brian Wilson and the other organizations mentioned please visit the following links -- BrianWilson.com | DavidBryan.com | BruceSpringsteen.net | CountBasieTheatre.org
(Originally Published on May 13, 2007)
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