Concert Review: Chubby Checker, Trish Anderson, The Doo Wop Project @ Proctors, Schenectady, 11/19/2022
SCHENECTADY – Chubby Checker sang “M-I-C.”
And more than 2000 people answered back, “See you real soon.”
“Why? Because we like you,” they said in unison.
And he continued on with the song that was the clarion call to a show most in the audience watched almost seven decades ago locally on black and white TVs with converters that allowed us to receive the UHF channel 35. I came late to the party because my father didn’t want to invest the $40 in a converter that would allow me to see “The Mickey Mouse Club,” “Walt Disney World,” and “Rin Tin-Tin-Tin.”
Chubby Checker brought back memories cemented into our cerebellums that reminded us of the wonder of “The Mickey Mouse Club,” on Monday through Friday at 5 p.m. for an hour, and he reminded us that it was followed by the not-so-wonderful news on TV stations around the country.
Chubby Checker’s hour and 20-minute performance at Saturday’s Rock and Roll Doo Wop Spectacular at Proctors Theatre in Schenectady was a call and response love fest with fans he embraced with “The Twist,” a number one Billboard pop hit in 1960, and a dance that even nerds like me could do. A dance that allowed both men and women to enjoy emerging sexual freedom. A dance that Chubby calls “a strip tease with clothes on.”
Never mind that at 81, Chubby can no longer whip his torso around in swivel hips, abandoned in a dance that forced Dick Clark to go off his standard game and book a relatively unknown African American artist. Pat Boone never did beat “The Twist” to the top of the charts, as he had with Little Richard’s “Tutti Frutti” and other potential R&B million sellers.
Never mind that Saturday night Chubby mostly eschewed the other dance songs like “The Fly” and “The Pony” that made him a star in 1960, in favor of renditions of other pops songs of the day like Bill Haley’s “Rock Around The Clock,” Jerry Lee Lewis’s “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On,” Buddy Holly’s “Peggy Sue” complete with its patented hiccup, The Beatles’ “I Saw Her Standing There” and the novelty song “Soda Cracker” that he admitted was stupid.
He was all about audience participation. He went deep into the crowd, pulling women out of their seats. “Get up,” he ordered, demanding they abandon their arthritic pains and dance for us. He even grabbed one woman’s cane, raising it in the air like a flag of freedom. He seemed to purposely go for women who were not fundamentally energetic or svelte. Pushed by his attention to them, to a person these women threw caution to the wind and swivel-hipped to abandon with Chubby Checker versions of the old folks’ boogie.
He ended the set, a culmination of four hours and five different acts with a statement that he’s had a wonderful life and he told us all to remember God loves the people.
In an advanced interview, he said that at 81, “I just take one day at a time and enjoy the moment, and I realized that I have moments and I enjoy them. I have ups and downs, but when I look at the full picture, I also look at the glass being half full, and not half empty.”
Well, what is it that’s in that glass I asked him because he’s obviously a multi-millionaire? He doesn’t have to do this. What is it that still turns him on? “The excitement of being Chubby. The excitement of being Chubby. There’s only one Chubby, and I really would like more people to know about Chubby.”
Like another teen idol, Dion, he’s been married to the same woman for more than four decades. Dion’s wife doesn’t care about his music. She only cares that he carries out the garbage and does the dishes.
“He’s got the right idea,” said a humble Chubby Checker. “I don’t get caught up in my stardom. And I don’t get caught up in my career. I keep it stupid. You come around my house and I’m on my tractor, cutting bushes or planting flowers. When it’s time for the music, I’m there. When the music is over, there are other things to do, and I do that, too That’s what I do.”
There were three surprises of the night. The first was the impassioned and nuanced delivery of four songs by Trish Anderson. A great-grandmother who looks like she might need an I.D. to get into any bar, she is best known locally for her work with The Bluz House Rockers. Here, she was supported by the Duprees backup band, one of three crack groups that were the wind beneath the wings of each act Saturday night. Joining her on vocals was Trez Gregory, former backup singer for Brooks and Dunn. While the unstated goal of most acts on classic oldies concerts is to deliver each song as close to the original as possible, Trish offered interpretations that made me believe she’d written each number and was delivering it for the first time.
The second surprise was a stunning performance by The Doo Wop Project, five Broadway stars from “Jersey Boys” and “Motown: The Musical.” I admit to having a prejudice against the artifice of Broadway musicals, but these guys performing for the first time as part of an oldies package made up in their relatively young age and explosive energy for the other much older acts. They did Frankie Valli and Smokey Robinson so expressively that it made me believe that doo-wop will never die.
The third surprise was the chaos of going almost head-to-head with the annual Schenectady Christmas parade. Finding a parking space caused Magic Radio’s host Van Patton to quip that he had to park in Colonie. The crunch caused promoter Jim Anderson to decide on the spot to move next November’s Golden Oldies Spectacular from the same pre-Thanksgiving parade date of Saturday, November 18 to the next day at 2 p.m.