After a two-year pandemic delay, audiences inside the auditorium at the Count Basie Center for the Arts in Red Bank, NJ, this Thursday, July 14, 2022, patiently await the start of a long-awaited performance of rock and roll icon, Dion.
Recalls Paul of Asbury, “I grew up listening to Dion and have way too many favorites to list, but I’ve seen him before and he’s just brilliant.” Asbury’s Neva reveals, “My favorite Dion song is ‘The Wanderer,’ but all of his music is such a beautiful walk down memory lane.” Ocean Grove’s Kristine agrees, adding, “Dion never disappoints, and the Count Basie Theater is a great place to listen to live music.”
The crowd cheers as the house lights go out and Dion’s musicians – saxophonist Arnold Hecht, guitarist Joe Menza, keyboardist Dennis DiBrizzi, bassist Eddie Denise, drummer Gary Weiss and guitarist/music director , Al “The Jersey Kid” Korosy – take place on organize.
Hecht announces: “Hello, Red Bank! Are you ready to rock and roll? Join hands for Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, Dion! Audience members stand and applaud as Dion takes the stage. “Everyone says ‘Yo!’ exclaims Dion, and the crowd responds with a hearty “Yo!”
Opening with the upbeat blues rocker, “I Got My Eyes on You Baby,” Dion’s voice rings out full and clear as he sings, “Hey, pretty baby, go rockin’ tonight/Have fun, it’s okay come on/Yo, I feel good I haven’t seen you, baby, in a long, long time/ Hey, you look good, you’re blowing my mind.
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The band energetically back Dion’s vocals before Al Korosy channels Chuck Berry on his guitar solo and Hecht plays a fun, bluesy tenor sax solo.
The crowd cheers and Gary Weiss’ drums kick off Dion’s next track, “Donna the Prima Donna,” a number that features four-part vocal harmonies and Dion’s patented 1950s sound.
Swirls of light on the screen behind the band add to the mood of “My Baby Loves to Boogie.” Dion’s voice slips and moans before guitarist Joe Menza plays a sassy solo and Hecht is featured on a low tenor solo on this modern blues number.
Dion greets the crowd by exclaiming: “Jersey! May peace be with you! This next song is from my latest album, playground.” Bop heads and feet clap to the minor blues song, “Dancing Girl,” as Dion sings, “The room was dark but I could see her there / Her face was lost in her flowing hair / She was my dancer”, and Joe Menza continues with a sweet guitar solo.
Dennis DiBrizzi’s keyboard solo and Arnold Hecht’s sax solo elaborate on the direct melody of this slow, funky track.
Audience members whistle and applaud Dion’s stellar performance of his 1959 hit “Ruby Baby,” where three-part harmonies ring out over the backup vocal “Ruby, Ruby, Ruby baby.”
Dion announces, “We have a play that’s on a Broadway run, and there’s a song that says you don’t know what you have until you lose it.” Here, he and the band perform “Serenade,” a slow number over which Dion sings with emotion, “I never saw my hometown ’til I stayed away too long / I never heard the melody until I needed the song,” to eager applause.
After his optimistic rocker, “Ride With You”, Dion announces: “In four days, I will be 83 years old! jokingly, “I thought getting older would take longer!” After recalling, “I put this next song together around the corner, and it still has everything you want to know about love,” Dion and the band launch into his 1959 classic, “Teenager in Love. with the audience singing happily to the ubiquitous “Why do I have to be a teen in love?” refrain.
Dion tells the crowd how some of his songs derive from “rhythmic percussion,” explaining, “You take a syllable and you make a record! After demonstrating with examples like “Bah ba-ba bah ba-bah ba-bah bah”, he and the band performed his 1959 debut single, “I Wonder Why”.
Opening with the famous intro “Dun dun dun da-dun dun-da dun dun”, Dion and Co. steps back in time for the crowd with the nostalgic song “I wonder why, I love you as I do do/Is it because I think you love me too? lyric. He and the band impress with their top-notch vocal performances that keep music lovers in the audience rejoicing.
After the rockin’ blues shuffle, “Take It Back,” a fan shouts, “We love you, Dion!” The band leaves the stage and Dion takes his place with his acoustic guitar to perform the bluesy “Built for Comfort”. After loud applause, Dion talks about playground, the blues album he recorded at the start of the pandemic with artists such as Bruce Springsteen and Jersey’s Patti Scialfa. While launching “Angel in the Alleyways”, Dion sings: “There are angels all around, I know, don’t you? while Eddie Denise’s bass and Gary Weiss’ drums propel the song ever further.
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Dedicating his next number to all the men and women in the United States who protect us, Dion performs his 1968 folk rock, “Abraham, Martin and John.” His voice cries out as he sings, “Has anyone here seen my old friend Abraham? / Can you tell me where he went? Audience members stand and applaud his poignant performance.
Dion exclaims, “I love this town!” before introducing his fellow band members, grabbing his electric guitar, and performing the funky rocker, “King of the New York Streets,” which features Korosy and Menza on guitar solos with Wright’s sax punctuating the song.
After explaining, “I grew up in the Bronx where ‘surrender’ was a dirty word, but there’s a ‘sweet surrender,’ which means running to someone who loves you unconditionally,” Dion and Co. interprets “Sweet Surrender”. Dion sings movingly, “I thought I was bad and I had to get good/I thought I was smart but misunderstood/I felt I was weak and I had to get strong/I was sure that I was right then I found that I was wrong”, on this heavenly tune.
Audience members erupt in cheers and applause as they recognize the opening chord from Dion’s 1961 No. 1 hit, “Runaround Sue.” After Dion sings the rubato intro “This is my story, it’s sad but true”, the tempo changes and the crowd rises and dances in their seats, cheering and singing merrily to the famous chorus of the song “Keep away from Runaround Sue”. As the musicians continue to rock, Hecht plays a playful sax solo as blue and purple lights shine over the band.
The crowd whistles and cheers as Dion and Co. launch into one of rolling stones “500 Greatest Songs of All Time”, “The Wanderer”. Music lovers in the house join in the party emanating from the stage with Dion in the lead, humming, “They call me the wanderer / Yeah, the wanderer / I walk around, around, around.” As the lights dance over the audience, the crowd continues to applaud to the rock beat before Dion says “good evening” and leaves the stage, leaving music lovers wanting more.
As the audience exits the auditorium, we chat with several onlookers who share their thoughts on Dion’s performance tonight. Exclaims Michael from Toms River: “I loved it! He had a better voice than ever. He is simply spectacular and the musicians around him are fantastic too. Toms River’s Matt agrees, adding, “Dion looks awesome, and he’s got so much energy too,” before concluding, “I loved hearing all of his classics, but I also loved hearing his new music.
Carol from Freehold recalls: “I first saw Dion in Palisades Park when I was 12. I’ve been a fan for 60 years and Dion doesn’t disappoint, he only gets better with age. Rich of Monroe Twp. agrees, adding, “He’s amazing – he still sounds great!”
While Mark from Livingston called Dion’s performance tonight “Fabulous”, before admitting, “I plan to see him twice more,” notes Chris from Keyport, “At 83, Dion is vibrant, handsome and entertaining,” and Keyport’s Terry agrees, saying, “It’s still fresh!
Donna of Neptune says, “Dion’s performance tonight was delightful! Besides the classics, I love his new music,” explaining, “I love listening to him sing the blues — I hear him on the radio all the time,” before acknowledging, “I bought those tickets there. two years ago for my sons 20th birthday. He adores Dio. Says Donna’s son, Evan, now 22, “Dion killed him!” This show was definitely worth the wait.
Finally, we chat with Jill from New York who says, “Dion’s performance tonight was beyond my expectations! Hearing the iconic Dion sing live was amazing, and I love how he’s evolved into his new music,” confessing, “It made me very emotional,” before concluding, “He’s just amazing!
To learn more about Dion, visit diondimucci.com. For more information on upcoming shows at Red Bank’s Count Basie Center for the Arts – including Herb Alpert and Lani Hall on July 29, Art Garfunkel on October 21 and Holiday Doo Wop featuring Kenny Vance and the Planotones, Jimmy Clanton, LaLa Brooks of the Crystals, and more on December 3 — please click on thebasie.org.
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