This show would be my fourth time seeing Mike Girard's Big Swinging Thing. I saw them for the first time in 2016 in Manchester, NH followed by a second show at this same venue (Blue Ocean), and then last year at the Cabot Theater in Beverly. So it was time to see them again. The fact that I had heard they had some new songs coupled with the fact that my brother Johnny would finally be seeing them for the first time. I wanted to be there just to see his reaction.
Johnny and I have played music together since 1971. We all grew up in the same neighborhood as Mike and Richie. The FOOLS, The NERVOUS EATERS, The DAWGS, and The VINNY BAND. We all slugged it out in the same club scene from the North Shore to Boston and back. I had been trying since 2016 to get him to come out to one of these MGBST shows. But like life, there was always something that pops up that you didn't see coming, forcing a change of plans.
Not this time though. He was all in. And I was so stoked to witness it.
Johnny and his girlfriend Sue, with me and my wife Cory. We had dinner at the SeaGlass and then slipped through the connecting doors just in time to see John Girard come up on stage to introduce the band. Johnny looked at me and said "Who the hell is this guy?" I burst my coke through my nose as I tried to explain to him that this guy was Mike's brother.
The irony did not escape me. The whole brother thing.
Once Johnny realized that John Girard was a comic actor he bought into the whole absurdity of it all. Personally, I think it's genius to have John Girard introduce the band. Especially seeing how he changes characters from show to show. This night he was Vinny something who managed the Skee Ball strip at Salisbury Beach.
He's a funny individual. Just like his brother. Funny and talent runs deep in the Girard DNA.
The band kicked in with the Overture from Lou Reed's SWEET JANE. That caught my attention right away. They had been doing Beck's Bolero as the opener the last few times I'd seen them. So this was a pleasant surprise. Let me get this cliche out of the way right up front.
There is NO DEAD WEIGHT in this band.
They can all play the shit out of their instruments. Johnny (my brother) and I are guitar players. And we have always been fans of Richie's guitar playing. He did not let us down from the opening chords. In fact the whole band took that song to another level. It's such a great song too. And, it was also a very cool way for Mike to enter the stage. And he didn't he look cool. The Jewels and Mike came out together to a healthy applause. And Mr cool went right into that classic song.
I heard my brother Johnny yelling to his girlfriend "Did you hear me playing this same song yesterday?" I just smiled. He was already connecting to the band with a coincidence like that. He leaned over and started to tell me and I just said "I heard you... that's pretty funny." If we are to look for positive signs in life. That would be one. The band went right into AC DC's LONG WAY
and the place was Rocking.
They had hit a groove right out of the gates.
There's no better feeling as a musician when you know you're all on the same page and in the pocket. They could feel it, and the audience could feel it too. And the very next song was another weird coincidence. Bobby Darin's BEYOND THE SEA. We had just heard the Piano player at SeaGlass play the same song no more than twenty minutes earlier. Johnny looked at me and I just shook my head.
I knew it was going to be a good night. It already was.
Watching Mike during that Bobby Darin song it dawned on me who he slightly reminded me of. Watching Mike do his subtle little bopping moves on the stage as he sang that song, he reminded me of Sammy Davis Jr. Now whether or not it was intentional, is of little importance. Mike is a Groove master and he had his groove on this night. I remember thinking to myself, "Mike is a white Sammy Davis Jr" with his cool leg jerks.
And his voice? He has a unique sounding voice with such an incredible range. I mean he really does. He can belt out the Rockers with a growl and grit, and then turn around and melt your heart with his 'Smooth as Silk' lounge singer vocals with that velvety voice. A style that rings of a smoke filled New York city high class lounge scene.
I am convinced that he was already predestined as a young rocker to take this role he is currently in. It's perfect for him. The best of both worlds. Rock and Roll combined with the Big Band Sound.
But let us never forget that Mike is still that lead singer/front-man for the popular band The FOOLS. And if you have ever seen the FOOLS you know just how truly funny Mike is. Look, I've said this before, and I'll say it again. Mike could quit both bands right now and go out and become a successful comic. He's a comic genius who just so happens to be a talented
singer/songwriter and performer. Not many comics can quit comedy and go out and become a Rock singer. I'm sure there's a few. But they are few and far between, when it comes to the multi faceted talent that is Mike Girard.
Another thing that was so glaringly obvious to me, is his genuine love and respect for his fellow musicians and vocalists.
From the incredible JEWELS. Denise Caccione and Alexandra Bianco (who are a fistful of power and talent) all of their own. Mike graciously leaves the stage a few times during the show to let Denise and Alexandra take their time in the spotlight. And honestly? These two women can sing. Good Lord can they sing. Denise doing GOLDFINGER is to die for. And Alex's version of HIGHWAY STAR complete with leaping and bounding across the stage like a Rock and Roll ballerina, is pure entertainment.
And when Mike leaves to let drummer Jim Taft (who is ridiculously talented drummer) sing a song, the show once again goes up to another level. I was never a fan of lead singers who played the drums. But Jim came along in 2016 and changed my way of thinking. Are you shitting me Jim? WITHOUT LOVE by the Doobie Brothers was KILLER! At one point my wife leaned over and said "I can't see who's singing." I yelled back "It's the drummer." Her eyes bugged out of her head. I just shook my head. "Yup."
And Mike is always quick to point out that Brass master Stephen LeClaire writes all the charts for every song. If Mike is the Rock Genius/comic of MGBST than clearly Stephen is that guy in the Brass section. He not only writes the charts but the big man can blow a sax with the best of them. The horn section's overall sound is so big, and so tight, that it's almost overwhelming at times. Only a brass instrument can evoke that kind of emotion in your soul. It felt like thunder at times when the whole band kicks in. Big sound equals big response. And Stephen and company earned their keep that night.
Keyboardist Denis Cesare is another talent that is limitless. A Berkley Professor who can come up with a hundred different sounds, and play the keyboard parts all night long to give full cred to whatever song you are listening to. If you are gonna play covers, you better play them good. Because the audience at these shows all know the difference.
Denis you are a monster on the keyes.
Joe Holaday is probably one of the most underrated bass players out there. I paid close attention to his playing the other night and I have to say, I was unaware of just how good he really is. I suppose that's a compliment to any bass player. To just lay down the groove and stay in the pocket with the drummer. But Joe has a great style of playing and he hit some high notes on his bass the other night that really stood out.
Then it dawned on me.
I am forever saying that Paul McCartney is one of the MOST underrated bass players on the planet. His playing is insane. Then I remembered Joe was the Bass player for BEATLEJUICE a Beatles cover band. Joe could play like McCartney. And speaking of which...I really wish the band would try and pull off GOT TO GET YOU INTO MY LIFE. I think they could do a great job of it. The horn section is perfect for that song. And I would love to hear Richie play that guitar riff in that song.
And Richie Bartlett. What can I say about Rich that I haven't already said a million times. His playing is one of the BEST
in the Business. Hands down one of the absolute best. His tone and his effortless bending of notes and chords. I have always loved his playing and his sense of humor. I've called him Mike's straight man in the past. But he's more than that. There would be NO FOOLS or MGBST without Rich and his incredible contribution. I would go to see just Rich play his guitar somewhere he's that good. I mean that.
When it comes to guitar players I'm pretty picky about who I like and don't like. My brother Johnny is the same. And we both love Rich Bartlett.
And I would be remiss if I didn't mention the HOOPERS. The lovely ladies who come out throughout the show and twirl Hula Hoops to the songs.
And not just twirl them but they do shit that at times looks dangerous. But it's all in good fun and the HOOPERS like everything and everyone else in the band is having fun up there. Trust me, you can't fake having fun onstage. MGBST is one long night of constant fun. Kudos to you all.
The band rocked all night and the crowd loved them. Including my brother Johnny and his girlfriend Sue (who couldn't stop talking about them).
And finally, it was so nice of Mike to acknowledge Johnny and I in front of the sell out show. I know I can speak for Johnny as well that we were both humbled and grateful for that.
Thank you Mike.
So if you have not seen this incredible ensemble of talent, trust me make a point of going out and catching this show. You will NOT be disappointed.
Photo by RALPH
Photo by RALPH
Photo by RALPH
Photo by RALPH
Photo by RALPH
Photo by RALPH
Here's a few of the songs that they played on 7-19-19
OVERTURE/SWEET JANE by Lou Reed
TIMEWARP from The Rocky Horror Picture Show
BEYOND THE SEA by Bobby Darin
DO YA by ELO,
NIGHT OUT by the Fools
IT'S A NIGHT by The Fools
GOLDFINGER from the movie Goldfinger (Denise sang this one) FRIDAY ON MY MIND by the Easy Beats
HOCUS POCUS sung by Jim Taft (incredible)
WITHOUT LOVE sung by Jim Taft
WHISKEY IN THE WELL by Lucky Melinda
SON OF A BITCH by Nathaniel Rateliff
HOT FUN IN THE SUMMERTIME by Sly and The Family Stone
GOT MY MOJO WORKING by Muddy Waters
DIRTY DEEDS by AC DC
RUNNING DOWN A DREAM Tom Petty
BLAZING SADDLES from the movie Blazing Saddles
SUMMER WIND by Frank Sinatra
WHITE RABBIT by Grace Slick (Denise)
LOCOMOTIVE BREATH by Jethro Tull
HIGHWAY STAR by Deep Purple sung by Alexandria
I SAW HER AGAIN LAST NIGHT Mamas and The Papas
THE BEST by Tina Turner
GIMMEE SHELTER by the Rolling Stones
MacARTHUR PARK Richard Harris
REBEL YELL by Billy Idol
But the best thing about MGBST is, the songs they could play in the future are Endless. Just a library of great tunes await them and you and I. GO SEE THIS BAND!