Solid Gold Rock and Roll January 31, 2009
By Glen Creason
It might help to get the full, Technicolor picture but you don’t have to be of a certain vintage to enjoy the act of Little Anthony and the Imperials as seen on Saturday evening at the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts. If you ever cruised Harvey’s Broiler or wore peggars or remember when gas was twenty-seven cents a gallon down at the Terrible Herbst service station you most probably can sing most of his hits, even if you can’t remember where you left your reading glasses. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame group has inscribed their names and music on the collective memory of American Pop reaching as far back as 1957 when I was at St. Helen School being whipped into shape by Sister Leocritia. The memories are golden but we all move on away from those youthful frolics, except these guys called the Imperials and their lead man Anthony.
At Cerritos they put on a show full of energy, humor and style that got the packed house upright in their seats and gave full measure to the meaning of all those gold records they recorded over the past half century. Yep, half century. They opened with the dramatic but jocular “All by Myself” that began with the sad looking Anthony belting out the melancholic lyrics but later being joined by the smooth and sensational Imperials who swelled the chorus into a full blown melodrama. They busted out a wicked “Grapevine” slowed to a sweet “Tears on My Pillow” before taking on the obligatory “Shimmy Shimmy Ko Ko Bop” that sounded pretty darn good for a throw away tune recorded when Hector as a pup. Despite lots of loose banter, when the group grabs a hold of a song they do it right including the heart breaking “I’m on the Outside Looking In,” “Hurt So Bad” and “I Think I’m Going Out of My Head” that stood with the original recordings when Anthony’s years were little.
This was officially a Solid Gold Rock and Roll show and the proceedings were opened by Johnny Tillotson who has left his mark on pop and county with songs heard on this night like “Heartaches by the Number,” “Send Me the Pillow That You Dream On,” and “Poetry in Motion” that may not have been what they once were but then neither are we. Tillotson was affable and charming but could have used some more amplification on the mike. He was followed by the 60’s hit makers “Jay and the Americans” who needed no extra amping and were certainly well received on this night. They stirred the old pop music gray cells with “She Cried,” the emotional “Cara Mia,” “Come a Little Bit Closer” and “This Magic Moment” that actually garnered standing ovations across the hall full of boomers.
Still, the night pretty much belonged to the truly ageless Little Anthony and those original Imperials. Many rock and roll revival shows can only put one member on stage but the Imperials are the real deal with Clarence Collins, Ernest Wright and Harold Jenkins working alongside Anthony Gordine dancing, singing and wowing the Cerritos faithful at this show. The entire ensemble gathered for a grand finale of the chestnut “Goodnight Sweetheart” that hasn’t sounded so good since it came out of the vibrasonic in the Chevy Bel Air back in the day.