Happy Together Tour (Concert Review)

Happy Together Tour – Fraze Pavilion – Kettering, OH  – 8/6/14

While every other summer package tour has faded away, the original Happy Together Tour continues to thrive.  In fact, the 2014 edition is the biggest yet, with the tour hitting over 50 cities across the country.  The show made a stop at Fraze Pavilion on August 6th, with the near-capacity crowd treated to a hits-filled evening of Sixties and early Seventies’ nostalgia.

The night opened with Mitch Ryder, who played the Dayton area many times back in his heyday.  He started with “Little Latin Lupe Lu,” originally a hit for the Righteous Brothers, which Ryder & the Detroit Wheels put back on the charts just months after the original in 1965.  The five-song set was highlighted by “Sock it to Me Baby,” which he said “only went to #4 because people thought it had dirty lyrics.”  Of course, his slot ended with “Devil With the Blue Dress.”

Then came Mark Farner, formerly of Grand Funk Railroad, who added a little grit to the show.  Still sporting his signature ponytail and bright red guitar, he played his five most-famous songs.  While many of the other artists’ voices showed considerable wear, Farner could still amazingly hit those soaring high notes on “Bad Time” and “The Locomotion.”  He closed his portion with a rousing version of the lengthy “I’m Your Captain.”

After a brief intermission, Chuck Negron, formerly of Three Dog Night, took the stage, dressed in a pink shirt, black jacket and sunglasses.  He sounded great through the goofy “Mama Told Me Not to Come,” but apologized for his difficulty through the ironic “Easy to Be Hard.”  The soulful “Eli’s Coming” was one of the real highlights of the evening.  His set was capped by an audience sing-a-long of “Joy to the World.”

Then came Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan of the Turtles, the architects of this tour, which began 30 years ago.  Volman emerged wearing a blue sequined jacket, while PSY’s “Gangnam Style” played on the video screen.  When Kaylan joined him, he questioned “what happened to our music,” before launching into “She’d Rather Be With Me.”  The unlikeliest of rock stars, the duo ran through all their major hits, while throwing comedy bits in-between.  Kaylan did most of the singing, while Volman’s big showcase came at the beginning of “You Showed Me,” as he butchered several Doors’ songs.  Their set closed with an extended version of “Happy Together.”

As an added treat, all four artists were invited back, and each sang a snippet of his biggest hit, before reprising the last stanza of “Happy Together” for the finale.

What truly held the entire show together was the stellar band, led by smokin’ guitarist Godfrey Townsend, who they joked had been kicked out of several bands, including Alan Parsons.  Incidentally, Gary Lewis of the Playboys did not play, due to illness.  But, the remaining four artists more than covered for him.

With 2014 setting a record for the amount of shows on the tour, Happy Together is showing no signs of slowing down.  We can’t wait til next year.  —Tony Peters