February 10, 2015 Robin Zander Band rock The Boulton Center Bay Shore, NY 2-6-15
In 1972, singer/songwriter Robin Zander was playing cover songs in a resort in Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin, when he was invited to join a band called Cheap Trick by drummer Bun E. Carlos. Zander accepted the invitation and has been the lead vocalist with the band ever since. Signed on with Epic, Cheap Trick found early success in Japan when their release, In Color (1977) produced two hit singles, “I Want You To Want Me” and “Clock Strikes Ten,” the latter reaching number one on the charts. Cheap Trick at Budokan (1979) was the band’s first live album. Recorded in Nippon Budokan, Tokyo, this record reached triple platinum status and propelled Cheap Trick to super stardom. They went on to release sixteen studio records and seven live albums. With hits like “Surrender,” “I Want You To Want Me,” “Dream Police,” and “The Flame,” Cheap Trick enjoyed tremendous success in the US and attained Beatles-like status in Japan. Zander’s vocal style went on to influence the most prominent Rock singers of the 1980s, including Joe Elliott of Def Leppard, Vince Neil of Mötley Crüe, Axl Rose of Guns N’ Roses, Bret Michaels of Poison, and Sebastian Bach of Skid Row. In 1993, he released Robin Zander, a self titled solo record which included the single, “I’ve Always Got You.” The single reached thirteenth on Billboard’s Mainstream Rock chart. In 2013, Zander formed The Robin Zander Band and secured axe man Mark Hitt of The Tubes, Larry Hobbs to play bass, and long-time friend Steve Luongo to play drums. The Robin Zander Band has been playing shows across the US, including most recently stopping at The YMCA Boulton Center in Bay Shore, New York Friday February 6th.
The YMCA Boulton Center is an intimate, two hundred sixty seat stadium style theater with great atmosphere. The large stage reaches twenty-five feet deep and forty feet across. Despite its size, it is within easy reach of the first row and is a mere four feet high, placing those up front at the band’s feet. At 8pm, Luongo took his place behind the large double bass drum kit and began to play to the cheers of an enthusiastic crowd. He was soon joined by Hitt and Hobbs as the trio went into Jeff Beck’s “Freeway Jam.” It was then that Zander took the stage wearing his signature top hat, his long blonde hair flowing out from underneath. With him on stage was his son, Robin Taylor Zander, on guitar and keyboards, and playing harmonica was Hitts’ wife, Mary Ann. Zander introduced the next song, Five Horse Johnson’s “You’re My Girl.” The band then flowed into “Jump Into the Fire,” a song written by Harry Nilsson, one of Zander’s favorite songwriters and”Check It Out,” stating how amazing it was to have lyrics that were written so long ago that continue to have a deep meaning today. “Baby Blue” by Badfinger, “Getting Better” by the Beatles and “Dancing Days” by Led Zeppelin were spot on as the musical journey continued. Zander, clearly enjoying himself, sounded great as he revisited his 1993 release and performed the first track “Reactionary Girl” and “I Believe in You,” penned by Neil Young. Written by Zander and Mike Campbell, “Bad Little Girl” followed, along with two Cheap Tricks songs – “Miss Tomorrow” from The Latest (2009) and “Words” from One on One (1982). Zander engaged the crowd with stories of the band’s origin and even cited the previous night’s performance, telling everyone that the band had to stop playing “If You Need Me,” a song from Cheap Tricks’ Busted (1990) album, midway through. This night, however, they pulled it off to huge applause.
Zander took a moment to introduce the other members of Robin Zander Band and listed the many credits of his bandmates. He talked about Luongos’ tremendous contribution to The John Entwistle Band and Hitts’ time with John Bonham and Jack Bruce from Cream. He also spoke about the time Luongo and Hitt spent in Rat Race Choir, a band local to the venue, and how they later formed TorQue in 2001. Zander left the stage and the remaining members gave the crowd a taste of TorQue. The sampling ended with a thunderous drum solo by Luongo, as he humorously followed the lead of a drumming toy dog held in one hand while evoking a freight train with his remaining limbs, putting an exclamation point on the TorQue segment. Zander returned, and this time, with a friend. Paul Pesco, guitarist from Live From Daryl’s House, joined Robin Zander Band for Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love,” where he traded lead breaks with Hitt and at one point added vocals as a smiling Zander presented him a mic. Pesco fit right in with the band, joking with Zander between songs and giving the crowd a great show. Zander then formally introduced his son Robin Taylor Zander to all in attendance.
Robin Taylor took control of the room and the band as they broke into AC/DC’s ‘Whole Lotta Rosie.” He played guitar and sang lead as the show took a turn toward the hard and heavy. Robin Taylor showed the chops of a professional as he commanded the crowd. Not to be outdone, papa Zander returned to perform The Who’s “My Generation” and “Bargain,” followed by The Beatles’ “Golden Slumbers,” “Carry That Weight.” and “The End.” Zander was flawless, hitting every note and captivating the crowd with his passion and energy. After a tremendous ovation, Zander returned to the stage and performed one of his biggest hits – “I Want You to Want Me” by Cheap Trick. Thereafter “It’s A Long Way To The Top” by AC/DC was Zander and company’s final song as they wrapped up an amazing night of Rock and Roll to a standing ovation.
The Robin Zander Band took the audience on a trip. They visited the past of each band member along a long, winding road that spanned decades of great Rock and Roll music. This journey was not only about Zander and his success, it was also a celebration of the history they all share. These are musicians who have played with the giants of Rock and contributed greatly to its rich history, but this was an homage to the spirit of making music with good friends. The Robin Zander Band is a force of Rock so be sure to check out their select shows before it is too late.