by Roger Zotti
Raul Malo saved the best for last: He put himself into a Van Morrison mode and belted out a tremendous cover of Van the Man’s “Bright Side of The Road.” The crowd was on its feet. What a way to end a show! Backed by a five-piece band, the former Mavericks’ front man appeared August 15 at the Mohegan Sun Cabaret Theater.
Raul’s opening three songs, including the driving “Every Little Thing About You,” set the tone for the concert: This wasn’t Raul Malo the mellow crooner, though he did treat us to splendid versions of “You’re Only Lonely,” “Surrender,” and “Sway.” Rather, this was a hard driving Raul Malo bringing together all those musical influences he’s so fond of: country, jazz, salsa, honky tonk, and rock and roll. And, of course, it worked.
Notes and Such. After Raul’s third song, North Hampton’s Mike Weltman dashed to the sound booth, to point out a distortion that was interfering with Raul’s performance. Hats off to the Cabaret sound board crew who wasted no time in correcting the problem. (Hate to say it, but Mike was the evening’s hero)… “Raul Malo’s style is so effortless,” said Jean Caron of West Springfield, MA. “I hear a little of Roy Orbison in his voice. You know, I think he sounds better than Roy.” Fighting words! But Jean might be right: Go to YouTube, listen to Raul’s cover of Roy’s “Crying,” and judge for yourself.
You know – and I’m serious when I say this – if you’re feeling in the dumps, go to a Dion concert. When it’s over, you’ll leave smiling. Maybe ready to dance. The legendary man from the Bronx – Arthur Avenue, to be exact – appeared August 28-31 at Mohegan Sun Cabaret Theater to a packed, appreciative audience that loved everything he sang and said.
He performed his big hits from the late fifties and early sixties, like “Donna The Prima Donna,” “Runaround Sue,” “This Little Girl,” “Ruby Baby,” and for an encore, “The Wanderer,” which had the crowd on its feet, singing, clapping, and dancing. Oh yes, let’s not forget a poignant version of “Abraham, Martin, and John” that earned a standing ovation.
Dion also added some tracks from “Bronx in Blue,” his 2006 CD that was rightfully nominated for a Grammy. One song was a memorable rendition of Howlin’ Wolf’s “Built for Comfort.” Worth noting is that Dion was brought up, he said, “Not on rock and roll but on singers like Howlin’ Wolf, Robert Johnson, Sam ‘Lightin’ Hopkins, and Muddy Waters.” Then, after reminiscing about his influences, he talked about Fats Domino, Aretha Franklin, and Neil Sedaka and launched into – brace yourself! – a blues version of Sedaka’s “Calendar Girl.”
Mid-way during the show, Dion told the crowd that in his heyday, in the sixties, he became involved with drugs. One day, by chance, he and a friend stopped into a church. Call it an epiphany, but when he exited, he realized he was destroying himself. The song encompassing that period of his life and recovery is
“Sweet Surrender,” from his 1980 “Inside Job” album: “Thought I was bad and I had to get good/ Thought I was smart but I misunderstood/ Felt I was weak and I had to get strong/ I was sure I was right then I found I was wrong/ Thought I was lost and I had to get found…”
M. William Phelps’s Book Signings
CT author M. William Phelps’s “Nathan Hale: The Life and Death of America’s First Spy” is a departure from his usual kind of book – true crime. An interview with William, one of the country’s leading investigative journalists, is forthcoming, but for now know that one reason he decided to tackle Nathan Hale is because, he said, “The most contemporary biography about him was written about one hundred years ago.”
William will do signings September 21, 1:00 p.m., at the Nathan Hale Homestead, 2299 South Street, Coventry; September 27, 2008, 2:00 p.m., the Strong-Porter Museum, 330 North River Road, Coventry; October 2, 7:00 p.m., the Hall Memorial Library, 93 Main Street, Ellington; and October 4, 2008, 4:00 p.m., the Stephen Hempstead House, 11 Hempstead Street, New London.