LIVE: “Once Upon a Dream Starring the Rascals” @ the Palace Theatre, 11/24/13

Review and video by Joel Patterson

The disembodied voice that came booming over the loudspeakers before the show was right up my alley. It encouraged me to, in fact, leave my cellphone ON, take out my camera, and in short, “Do whatever the fuck you want!” So I started to bootleg the show, and the results are here:

But I got bored after about the first seven minutes and twenty six seconds. I might not be the reporter to watch a reunion of pudgy, pot-bellied guys pretending to be the Rascals – even if they ARE the Rascals! There’s something inalterably pathetic about it. Extra-special for a group “formerly known as” the Young Rascals, eh? Scions of youth culture grown all haggard and bloated.

In pauses between the band performing onstage, a “television documentary” narrative with interviews explained the whole Rascals career and phenomenon, and then “artsy” photo and abstract color collages accompanied the songs they played. Nothing but young people, slim and slender dancers, in the vintage ’60s clips. By the end, a dozen people were up and swaying, and the half-full house (not half-empty!) was roaring in solidarity and joyous affirmation, a sea of white hair and balding heads.

There’s a huge need to connect with the trials and ferocities of your youth, and remember this was a “civil war” generation in a way – upheavals and actual murderous, political violence, as well as a hot shooting war. The Rascals contributed at least one anthem to that effort, “People Got to Be Free,” and what do you want from musicians as cultural spokesmen? Anthems, right?

The tragic part is that whether you think of it as cheap nostalgia or meaningful, soulful art – what it undoubtedly is is ancient history. “Expect the unexpected” was the tagline for ads of the time, encouraging safe driving, but did this generation that championed and exalted and proclaimed its eternal youth ever expect to one day become the old people?

Ted Were’s review and photograph at Nippertown
Greg Haymes’ review at The Times Union
Excerpt from Michael Hochanadel’s review at The Daily Gazette: “They started with ‘Love Is a Beautiful Thing,’ ‘Groovin’’ and ‘Do You Feel It.’ They gave each tune its due without cutting them into medleys. It was honest, sincere and the boomer-age crowd just devoured the music. [Eddie] Brigati’s big moment was ‘How Can I Be Sure,’ a tad wobbly, but he was invested in it all the way. With ‘People Got to Be Free,’ the show turned topical, just as the Rascals had in 1969 when they refused to play Woodstock, objecting to the scarcity of black bands on the bill. They decried Vietnam, racism and inequality and lamented how little has changed since. And they aired family laundry, Brigati taking the blame for the Rascals’ split and crediting [Felix] Cavaliere for honing the band’s ambitions. These revelations felt as uncomfortable as sincere, offering insight into the pain they must have felt as things fell apart, right at their peak. They found vindication and unity again, however, thanks to [Steve] Van Zandt, and took solace in their music. In its best moments, the show succeeded in inviting the crowd to do the same. And it often worked wonderfully well, especially when bolstered by spectacular visuals, the equal of anything I’ve seen onstage in years. However, ably performed by the original guys, the songs were the thing — a marvelous, strong and hopeful thing.”

It’s Wonderful
I’ve Been Lonely Too Long
What Is the Reason
You Better Run
Carry Me Back
Slow Down (Larry Williams)
Mickey’s Monkey (Smokey Robinson & the Miracles cover) > Turn On Your Love Light
Come on Up
Baby Let’s Wait
Too Many Fish in the Sea (The Marvelettes)
If You Knew
Hold On
I Ain’t Gonna Eat Out My Heart Anymore
Good Lovin’
Love Is a Beautiful Thing
Do You Feel It
Away Away
It’s A Beautiful Morning
Find Somebody
A Girl Like You
It’s Love
How Can I Be Sure
People Got to Be Free
A Ray of Hope
People Got To Be Free (reprise)

  1. Drew Jacobs says

    Although not a huge Rascals fan, gotta love the hits and the guys were terrific, especially the drummer, Dino Danelli. I would have liked to have seen more dramatic pieces and historic footage and a few less songs: more band history. It’s an ingenious way to package a band reunion, but “Jersey Boys” it aint.

  2. Bill says

    For heavens sake we all get old, music is eternal!

  3. Tom says

    I’m not sure how old your review Joel is, but I’d imagine he didn’t see the Rascals in their prime. I did. What’s wrong with a trip down memory lane? I doubt the Palace will be “half full” in 2050 for an Arcade Fire or Kayne West show. These guys are and were the real deal. They are all still alive, all capable of pulling off their music, and all willing to do it. Yes, probably for the money, but I don’t care, and neither did most of the crowd. IT was a good time. We enjoyed it.

  4. KSD says

    Didn’t take Joel Patterson’s article seriously after the “pudgy, pot-bellied guys.” What’s the point of that? Your article reaks of discrimination throughout (i.e., weight, age) and is really pathetic. Couldn’t you keep to the points without personal insults? With that said, I am one of their younger fans at this point. I never saw The Rascals in their original form before last December. When I went to the first show there was so much going on, I went home confused and didn’t really remember too much about the music. But then I went back a second time and didn’t focus on the “TV Presentation” as much and I just focused on the music – and I went back again and again – because when you just watch the musicians you see what great performers each and everyone is. I don’t see or think of their ages when I go to the shows. I’m not comparing them to the 60s because I was in a baby carriage when they were popular. For people of my age, it’s about TODAY. And this band is playing great NOW. I’ve gone to 22-23 shows with at least 7 more lined up. Can’t wait for Atlantic City on Friday, though our seats stink.

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