Peter Noone as a country singer?
Fifty years after his first hit with Herman’s Hermits, the man is full of surprises. And he shared them with gleeful delight on Thursday at the Mayo Performing Arts Center in Morristown, NJ.
It’s not easy to fit that phrase — “Mayo Performing Arts Center in Morristown, New Jersey” — into a song. But do it he did, to great comedic effect.
Noone’s geographic homework was impressive: Pompton Lakes, Secaucus, Newark Airport and Mahwah all found their way into his hour-plus set. Gerry and the Pacemakers’ Ferry Cross the Mersey became Ferry Cross to Jersey.
Herman’s Hermits with Peter Noone. Please click icon below for captions.
A seasoned actor — Noone was a child TV star in England, and later toured in Pirates of Penzance and Romance, Romance — he launched into hilarious impersonations of Johnny Cash (Ring of Fire, his country western foray) and Tom Jones (It’s Not Unusual ... oh, yes it is!).
He threw in a pretty fair tribute to his late Monkees pal, Davy Jones (Daydream Believer) and saved his stage-strutting best for Mick Jagger, “my dad.” Talk about surprises!
In a podcast with MorristownGreen.com, Noone — who sold more than 50 million records as “Herman” of the Hermits — characterized himself as an entertainer.
It’s an apt description. This show was among the most entertaining we’ve seen at the Mayo Center, thanks in part to Noone’s eagerness to poke gentle fun at his image as the cherubic teen singer on The Ed Sullivan Show.
Still impish at 67, he ventured into the audience in search of young fans — a brave endeavor — and commiserated with graying spectators about struggling to read the tiny print on his set list and searching for car keys…though he doesn’t own a car. An album cover photo of Herman, circa 1965, provided a prop for some very funny stage business.
“We’re familiar with the ’60s. We’re all in our 60s,” Noone quipped, saving a mischievous zinger for his opening act. “The Buckinghams are in their 70s, isn’t it? It’s okay, we can say what we want, because they’re back at the hotel, asleep already.”
The Buckinghams gave a solid 45-minute set that included covers (Young Girl, Midnight Confession, Crystal Blue Persuasion, Happy Together) from the Happy Together Tour, which celebrates its 30th anniversary in 2015.
There were humorous recollections of the Smothers Brothers TV show mistaking the Buckinghams for a British band — the group hails from Chicago– and they closed Thursday’s set with an energetic performance of their biggest hit, Kind of a Drag, which knocked the Monkees from No. 1 on the charts in 1967.
Carl Giammarese and Nick Fortuna were the only original Buckinghams on stage. That was one more real McCoy than “Herman” brought to Morristown.
The Buckinghams. Please click icon below for captions.
But Peter Noone’s re-minted Hermits had the musical chops and giddy spirit for the occasion. Guitarists Billy Sullivan and Vance Brescia twirled and kicked like grinning offspring of Freddy and the Dreamers. Rick Spina handled keyboard and bass chores simultaneously without complaining, and drummer Dave Ferrara, who also plays with the L.A. bands Modern Pantheist and Rituals, anchored the whole thing.
Did we mention that Noone eventually got around to performing Hermits songs?
The Hermits went to school on the Beatles, and churned out some of the catchiest, cheeriest two-minute pop songs of the British Invasion.
Dandy is like musical disinfectant for glumness; you can’t help but feel happy after that fluffy tune. Like the ’60s, these songs came rapid-fire: I’m Into Something Good, A Must to Avoid, Leaning on the Lamp Post, Just a Little Bit Better, End of the World, Listen People, Can’t You Hear My Heartbeat, No Milk Today, Silhouettes, Mrs. Brown You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter, There’s a Kind of Hush.
I’m Henry the VIII, I Am exploded into a rollicking sing-along. Only a true entertainer could wring so much merriment from a one-verse song. If Henry was a king, then surely, Peter is a prince.