When it comes to my taste in music, I often wish I hadn’t been born in the nineties; most of my favourite music comes from the sixties, seventies and eighties, and I’m not overly fond of much of today’s ‘popular’ music. In fact, many of the artists I admire today come from the world of musical theatre and are also incredibly talented musicians and songwriters outside of the work they do onstage. My taste was always a bit of a mystery to me growing up; as I don’t recall my parents ever being massively invested in influencing my music preferences, still to this day I’m the one who listens to music regularly, elsewise our house would be a really quiet place. In secondary school, there was one particular teacher I got on best with, and he was probably my biggest influence that shaped my music taste as it is today. Nowadays though, I’ve welcomed other influences, one of them being responsible for one of my most exciting and memorable concert experiences to date last weekend.
Two years ago this coming August, I went to see Jersey Boys for the first time, and haven’t looked back. Next Tuesday sees me make my 13th visit to the London production, 15th to the show overall if we include Broadway and tour outings. The show tells the story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, and is filled with many of their familiar hits. The first time I saw it, I was surprised to realise I knew more of their songs than I had initially expected to, and was struck by the sense of joy and the buzz it gives me. One visit, I took a friend from choir with me, after which she lent me her Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons Greatest Hits. On first listen I was a little shocked to hear the difference of arrangement and tempo between the original and show versions of some of the songs, but was nonetheless smitten and became a fan of many of those songs that aren’t used in Jersey Boys, too. As such, when I heard that the man himself was going on tour this year and some UK dates were included in his schedule, I took a punt and asked my parents for tickets for Christmas… and my dream came true!
For my second outing to the awesome Bournemouth International Centre, this was my view, which meant I was thrilled to bits before the show even started!
A few days before the concert, Frankie appeared on Loose Women for an interview. One of the hosts essentially asked him why he was still performing at his age, as she’d be putting her feet up if she was in his position: his response charmed me, he said that he loves what he does and wants to continue doing it for as long as he is able to. My overwhelming impression from the minute he stepped onstage, I had nothing but the utmost respect and understanding for this mantra of his, and I’m so glad he feels that way: 81 years old and the man still knows how to captivate an audience and have them eating from the palm of his hand… and his falsetto is still as powerful as ever! When a set starts with Grease and ends with Stay and Let’s Hang On, you know its going to be awesome on the set list front, I was overjoyed to hear those familiar favourites, my personal highlights being his renditions of Silence is Golden, Fallen Angel, Can’t Take My Eyes Off You, Who Loves and an incredible spine tingly acapella version of Sherry, and some songs that were new to me, favourites being Swearin’ to God and Harmony, and of course no concert would be complete without a cover or two, my favourites here in the form of Spanish Harlem and a wonderful My Girl. Some might say that the latter two don’t really suit his voice, me I was just happy and honoured to be in his presence, I honestly didn’t give a monkeys what he chose to sing. The atmosphere was electric; thunderous applause and cheering abounded, and Frankie sure knows how to play to an audience- we got to be his percussion section in the pre-chorus of Can’t Take My Eyes Off You, and when it came to the chorus he let us take over and I kid you not, the entire place was singing and in perfect unison! The other thing that struck me throughout the set was Frankie’s sense of humour; two memorable moments for me where when he finished Beggin’ and slid in a cheeky ‘is it intermission yet?’ between his playful huffing, and when he introduced Silence is Golden as being the B Side to Rag Doll and saying they wouldn’t be performing the latter then having it in the set towards the end anyway! Frankie was joined by a marvellous band, one of whom, his Musical Director, Robby Robinson I must give a special mention- he’d fell down a flight of stairs and they were all set to cancel the tour but he insisted he’d have his surgery after the tour was over so nobody would miss out… if that’s not dedicated I don’t know what is. The ‘Four Seasons’ Brandon Brigham, Brian Brigham, Brad Sharp & Todd Fournier all had incredible voices and were a pleasure to watch; they looked like they were having a fabulous time and their playful banter and interaction with Frankie only served to widen my smile!
I left the concert on an incredible high, and the beginnings of an incredibly sore throat. As predicted, the following mornimg, I could barely speak and I later croaked my way through a choir rehearsal for a concert that evening… but I wouldn’t have changed that experience for the world. A friend of mine was taking the mickey: ‘did you just girly scream yourself hoarse at a Frankie Valli concert? How old are you… 157?’ were her exact words, and I was proud to say I did. I’m 24 soon to be 25 and was reminded that night that great music is timeless, even if my idea of great music is sometimes different to everyone else’s 😉