by G. H. HARDING
ROCKERS DELIGHT — The sight of Pete Townshend, alone on stage, with an acoustic guitar performing, was as strong an image as I’ve ever seen. A sight to behold. To me; that was and is what rock ‘n roll is all about. Definitely one of the highlights of the year.
Last night was Rockers On Broadway 25th anniversary. Rockers was an idea that creator Donnie Kehr came up with, with Townshend, when Kehr was on Broadway with The Who’s Tommy. They’ve had everybody from Debbie Gibson to Micky Dolenz and Peter Tork, to Gene Cornish and Cousin Bruce Morrow involved. I think the first one I attended was at the late-great B. B. King’s, where they saluted the music of Motown. Motown-wizard Berry Gordy attended and I remember at one point being backstage, surrounded by Dolenz, Gibson, Will Lee and Gordy himself. True magic.
Last night, at NYC’s Le Poisson Rouge, Free/Bad Company drummer Simon Kirke, along with actor-Michael Cerveris were the honorees. Kirke gave one of the most eloquent speeches I’ve heard in far too long and even announced that the Democrats has taken Arizona! He is a supporter of several programs promoting the arts in school for kids and spoke passionately of the need for it. He played drums for a riveting version of “Shooting Star” and Free’s “All Right Now.”
I’d never seen him play live –and, sing- but he was tremendous; not losing a beat. I see him often at Steve Walter’s The Cutting Room; he lives in NYC and is a terrific gentleman.
The performances were especially good this year; opening with a terrific medley of songs by The Jackson 5 from the kids from School of Rock. J. Robert Spencer followed with a great take on “Woodstock” and then “River Deep Mountain High” rom Eric Michael Krop.
Rocktopia’s Tony Vincent followed with a great take on Bowie’s “Suffragette City.”
Max Sangerman and Tommy Burnett (Modern English) followed with English’s classic “I Melt With You.” Constantine Maroulis, just a terrific vocalist and performer, followed with Gun N’ Roses’ “Welcome To The Jungle.” And a terrific performance of “Because The Night” from Alice Ripley.
Then, Kehr came on and introduced a video from Cerveris, who could not attend due to filming (Netflix’s Mindhunter), and Pete Townshend came onto to accept the award. He told a funny story about Cerveris’ audition for Tommy and how dreadful it was. He said that he took Cerveris to every pub and club possible to get him into the role and that at The late-great China Club, he finally succumbed.
Townshend then performed “Drowned” (from The Who’s sixth album Quadrophenia; 1973) and “Let My Love Open The Door” and was simply marvelous. For the record, Townshend was as approachable and in exquisite form. I was backstage for a time and could not take my eyes off him sitting on the couch going over the music. A piece of rock-history for sure.
Then the cast of the play The Who’s Tommy (also celebrating their 25th anniversary) came onstage and performed a terrific medley from the show – Townshend stood off stage smiling. I’m moved to say, that the material from Tommy (originally released in 1969) sounded as fresh and as relevant as ever!
Also seen at the event, were: Maureen Van Zandt; Dina Regine; Rockers-PR-man David Salidor who handled the media for the event; May Pang; photographers Bobby Bank and Jeff Smith.
The band, assembled by Kehr was as vibrant as ever. Sensational.
Said Kehr:, “It was a historic night for Rockers; terrific in every way.” Absolutely, one of the best ever.