Tommy Love “Becomes” Mick Jagger and Robert Plant at Cohoes Music Hall
COHOES – “I’m 64 years old,” says Tommy Love. “I try to stay young looking because when you’re in the music business you gotta look good, sound good, play good and dress good.”
Tommy quite literally becomes Mick Jagger on Thursday and Robert Plant on Friday in two classic rock shows at the Cohoes Music Hall. Cover bands have never been my thing. Yes, I’ve been spoiled by seeing most of the originals whose music will be reproduced at these two shows: The Doors, Jefferson Airplane, and the Stones on Thursday and Led Zeppelin, Ann Wilson, Carlos Santana, Eric Burdon, and Tom Petty on Friday. I just can’t suspend my disbelief on imitations.
Tommy Love is the exception. For almost 40 years he’s been “taking me there,” as the Staple Singers would say. He channels the originals like nobody else. And since I haven’t been able to see The Stones or Led Zeppelin live in several years, I know for a brief time I can escape reality and disappear into Tommy’s performance.
I asked him what keeps him going?
“I love music. I can’t get enough of it. It keeps me young. It keeps me excited, and when I go to see something exciting, I let people hear about it. When somebody shows me something exciting, I’m like a 10-year-old at Christmas, like finally somebody impressed me, ’cause a lot of people don’t go the extra mile. The bands don’t dress up. They look like they’re at Jiffy Lube to check your oil. Nobody dresses in stage clothes. That’s what I miss about the old days.”
Where does Tommy go when he gets into the characters he portrays like Mick Jagger and Robert Plant?
“What I do is watch those guys in videos and listen to the music, and I’ve discovered if you listen to something long enough and you watch it long enough, you can become it. Your voice, your looks – you can become the person if you watch it long enough. Your voice is like a tape recorder if you can mimic things, and if you really pay attention to inflections and stuff like that, you can become that person.”
Tommy was destined to do what he does since he was a child. “The first time I picked up a microphone I wasn’t even afraid. (My first performance) was at Colonie High School at 17. I couldn’t wait until the big hand is on the 12 and the small hand is on the eight. I’d been waiting for this for four years ’cause I practiced at home as a little boy. I listened to music continuously in the cellar, and I learned how to move just by listening to the music.
“I stayed downstairs in my parent’s cellar. Right next to my mother’s ironing board was a linoleum floor, and I would slip and slide around listening to the music, and that’s how the show business bug bit me, man, ’cause I had no friends. I had nobody to play basketball with because I wasn’t interested in that stuff. So, I hung around with older kids in the neighborhood and experimented with drugs and they turned me onto Humble Pie and Led Zeppelin.”
“Those were the two bands that really knocked me out, and I went out and bought the albums, and the first time I heard Robert Plant’s voice I was sitting around my friend’s house getting high. I’m reading the liner notes. I’m going, ‘There’s four guys, but who’s the chick singing?’ And the other guys are going, ‘I don’t see any chicks in the picture.’ That’s when I discovered Robert Plant has a woman’s voice, and a man’s voice, and he mixes the two.”
“So, I said to myself how does he get the woman’s voice, man, ’cause it’s convincing. I bought the Robert Plant biography, and it turns out he was into Janis Joplin and the summer of love stuff, and I put together he was trying to sound like Janis Joplin ’cause I know he likes Elvis. So, I think he was mixing two sounds together, but in the book it says he was trying to sound like a saxophone. I think he was trying to make (his voice) sound like a saxophone at the top end of the register, and that’s where that high whine comes from.”
I told Tommy that my grandchildren are not as obsessed with music as we are. “I know,” he said. “How strange is that,” I asked. “Very fucking strange, but look at who their idols are. Nobodies have turned into somebodies. There’s no showmanship in performing like the old days. You look at old performers from A to Z, black to white, and you look at these clowns today, and you go they don’t know a thing about fucking showmanship.”
The two shows are a potpourri of would-be idols. “Gary Weinlein is playing Jim Morrison again. The show is opening up with Grace Slick, four songs by the Jefferson Airplane. Grace Slick is played by a 21-year-old beautiful gospel player who’s in our show. And she plays sax just like Bobby Keys. So, she’s doing Grace Slick and Jefferson Airplane. I come on second on Thursday and do the Stones. Then I come off and Gary finishes with a Doors show.”
See Classic Rock Productions’ “Jim Morrison – Absolutely Live” at Cohoes Music Hall Thursday at 8 pm, and “Groovin’ – Classic Rock Legends of the ’60s and ’70s” Friday at 8 pm. For more information, or to purchase tickets, visit thecohoesmusichall.org.