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.