Reviews of shows from the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts and other local venues published by the Los Cerritos Community News. The writer and paper are in their twentieth year of covering these events.

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Location: Fear City, Ca., United States

"My name is Addison DeWitt. My native habitat is the theater. In it I toil not, neither do I spin. I am a critic and commentator. I am essential to the theatre - as ants to a picnic, as the boll weevil to a cotton field." George Sanders in "All About Eve"

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Robert Cray Band November 13, 2010

A Cerritos Evening with Robert Cray

By Glen Creason

The last time the Robert Cray band visited Cerritos back in 2008 they took some paint off the walls with stirring blues music centered on Cray’s powerhouse guitar. The Robert Cray band is a tight and economical group without weaknesses including the barefoot bass man Richard Cousins, the big drumming platform of Tony Braunagel and the rich organ of Jim Pugh who looks like your accountant but plays in the spirit of Jimmy Smith. Of course, this is the Robert Cray band and it is that young man who raises the bar with his sizzling Stratocaster and understated vocals which croon, rather than shout the blues. However, Cray is the man keeping the genre healthy and the blues fans happy, as was evidenced on Saturday night at the Performing Arts Center.
The big hall is ideal for this kind of guitar centered sound and indeed when Buddy Guy visited just a few years back he made the crowd sweat just watching him play. The venue has proven to be perfect for the genre as in the shows of Buddy Guy, Keb Mo, Gatemouth Brown or even Delbert McClinton but it seems like the artist really needs to attack the music and offer it up raw and at full speed.
Certainly in this show Cray had many a head bobbing and lower lips being bitten as the hungry for blues crowd ate up the stinging solos and amazing fingering-pyrotechnics put on display by this master of the electric guitar. The only really bad thing about the same crowd was the inability of some to recognize that the audience should come to hear the artist play and not to shout inebriated banalities at the stage. All of this can affect a sections concentration on the music streaming from the strat on stage instead of the bellowing buffoon in the seats.
Robert Cray did not seem to be distracted however, and fired up some of his good numbers like “Phone Booth,” “Anytime” and the throbbing “Some Pain Some Shame” which all placed the lyric in a background to the stinging, pungent guitar licks flowing from Cray’s ax. There were other well known tunes such as “No Chicken in the Kitchen” and “Smoking Gun” which got a few folks up in their seats a bit but the energy never boiled over as it did back in 2008. Jim Pugh’s organ was a little bit too much in the background but did surface on “Bad Influence” and “I Can’t Fail” yet the sound strayed a degree to fuzzy in the middle portions which is unusual at this hall. This was a show that took a while to get up to speed for some reason. Robert Cray kept playing and singing without changing course and his vocals were their best on the self-deprecating “Right Next Door” and encores that gave each band member a time to shine, especially the amped up guitar of the leader on “That’s What Keeps Me Rocking” that seemed to finally get the hall in fourth gear.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Bobby Vinton November 7, 2010

Bobby Vinton at Cerritos: Ho Ho!

By Glen Creason

OK, I admit it that I was a Bobby Vinton fan way back when and really have never tired of the early sixties soft-stuff like “Blue Velvet ,” “Roses Are Red,” and “Lonely Soldier.” In the decade he was actually the king of number one hits and was liberally represented on every juke box in America. His place in American Pop is certainly cemented as a “sentimental balladeer” but I did not know what he had done since those salad days. Turns out he spent many years entertaining and honing the craft in places like Las Vegas and Branson, Missouri where I almost never venture but the big hall at Cerritos was packed with veteran music lovers who seemed to be excited about the “Polish Prince’s” visit.
He came ready for action, packing a twelve piece band with a fine horn section and some key family members who softened the edges around the famous buttery voice. Like many veterans of this genre he knows how to win over an audience which he did right from the start with a healthy payout of the golden coin of Pop hits ranging from his own evergreens like “Blue on Blue,” “Roses Are Red,” and “Lonely Soldier” along with some others borrowed from like voiced stars including “Sealed With a Kiss,” “There I’ve Said it Again,” a stirring “Crying” and “I Only Have Eyes for You” that were well suited to the still fairly intact Vinton voice. Part of his charming shtick is his Polish roots and after most songs, including several polkas he would shout “Ho Ho!” that incited the adoring crowd each time, especially in his frequent forays into the audience where he shook hands and thrust the mike into the enthusiastic but musically limited vocalists in the seats. He also surprised those of us who were novice Vinton concertgoers by playing a pretty fine saxophone, clarinet and trumpet in tunes as challenging as Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue.” He’s actually quite an amazing musician!
The man works very hard and performed over thirty songs, many of those with everything he had that left the old pro breathless but still telling jokes and marching into the crowd for love. The second half was even older material, dating back to when he was a teenager playing in his father’s big band or backing up for early rock and rollers on the sax. His home state of Pennsylvania was well represented in “Pennsylvania 65000” and the “Pennsylvania Polka” while show music also rang out in “Sunrise Sunset,” “If I Loved You,” and even a medley from “Phantom.” Of course “Blue Velvet” had to be sung for the diddly-umpteenth times since it has been on the radio for almost fifty years! Almost all the music was very good and the singing was fine for such a well-used instrument but like the really crafty entertainers Vinton used his place at center stage to create some memorable moments. He sent a microphone into the balcony to give a well seasoned groom a chance to sing the “Anniversary Waltz” to his bride of 49 years and observed the upcoming holiday by showing respect for the veterans in the audience, asking them to stand up and receive thanks from the full house. One by one the men of WW II, Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf and Iraq rose to their feet slowly and a bit sheepishly. Even an old former hippie like me got goose bumps.