The Comets pose with their new tour bus (photo courtesy of Marshall Lytle)
They came, they saw, they Rocked!
And how they rocked! After an interval of some 30 minutes between the opening act (the excellent 7 piece Alabama Slammers). Six mature, plaid jacketed gentlemen, walked quietly out onto the stage, of the sold-out theatre, picked up their instruments and proceeded to play up such a storm that the whole building reverberated to its very foundations with their pulsating rhythms
But these are no ordinary group of gentlemen. And the Comets are not just another rock n' roll band. This is THE Rock n' Roll band. Before the Comets there was no rock, and not even a hint of roll.
For opener's there is of course "Shake Rattle & Roll", played with such joy and enthusiasm you'd believe this was the very first time they'd ever played the number. Same goes for "Birth Of The Boogie" and the bands first big hit from 1953 "Crazy Man Crazy". And then we come to "The Flying Fingers of Franny Beecher", as bass player Marshall Lytle describes the Comets lead guitarist supreme. His self-penned "Steel Guitar Rag" is a perfect showcase for his remarkable talents. Hard to believe as you watch and listen to this master of the guitar he has just celebrated his 79th Birthday. At the conclusion of the number the crowd goes wild and Franny answers the yells for "More!" by reprising the last few bars to yet more tumultuous applause. A few more Comets favourites follow including , "R-O-C-K", "Mambo Rock", "Rock-A-Beatin Boogie". The vocals on these classics are performed by London born Jacko Buddin, who has been with the band for 11 years. Jacko shows his versatility by taking over the drums when Dick Richards (drummer with the band since 1952) steps up to the microphone and struts his stuff with "Now Dig This".
By this time the crowd are really getting into it, and as you look around the theatre, no one is sitting still. Hands are clapping feet are tapping and even a few jiving couples gather at the front of the stage. Fighting for space with them are press photographers hoping to capture for posterity a little piece of history. Interesting too, to note the vast range of ages represented here, literally from seven to seventy-seven, give or take a few years! As if to prove a point Marshall sings "You're Never Too Old To Rock" one of the newer numbers the band have successfully introduced over recent years.
Marshall Lytle who first slapped his bass with the Comets aged 17 back in 1951, also adds an extra dimension to the show by adding some comedy banter. A couple of his featured numbers were great versions of "Eat Your Heart Out Annie" and "Sixty Minute Man" a song that featured on their recent album "The House Is Rockin". The title track of which was performed by tenor saxist Joey Ambrose. Not only does Joey blow up a storm on his horn, but he is a mean vocalist too. He barely draws breath between wailing on his sax and launching into his vocal on "The House Is Rockin". This live version differs from the album cut by featuring some cool scat singing from Joey as he weaves in a chorus or two of "Hey Baba Reba", a song from their current CD. On the instrumental "Joes Rockin" we are treated to some sublime sax playing by Joey, and some remarkable bass antics by Marshall as he further re-creates the original 50's stage act by climbing on top of the bass and holding on with one hand! Sheer Magic.
Franny is called upon once more, this time to lend his fine tenor voice to the opening of "See You Later Alligator". He steps up to the mic and emits his now famous high pitched introduction to the song, just like he did on the original, '56 Decca cut, the audience are ecstatic.
The show climaxes with the anthem of Rock, the song that really gave birth to teenage culture back in 1954. "Rock Around The Clock" featuring that hard driving beat, immortal guitar solo and wonderful crescendo of an ending.
The crowd was on its feet yelling for more. The Comets had once again proved that they are still the Kings of Rock.
After a very brief
interlude the guys returned, picked up their instruments
and gave us "The Saints Rock & Roll".
A marvelous rendition, allowing us the opportunity to
hear a brief solo from each of the band. In particular it
was nice to hear the keyboard skills of Johnny Grande,
who started out with Bill Haley in 1949. He appears to be
the quietest member of the group and usually stays out of
the spotlight, but he sure keeps that rhythm rolling
Marshall called the final tune, from 1952, "Rock The Joint". He gave a bravura vocal performance as he belted out the invitation to "Tear Down The Mailbox and Rip Up The Floor!". Towards the end of the number it switches to the rousing final chorus of "Rock Around The Clock" with the entire band bringing the house down.
Another standing ovation follows as the Comets leave the stage for a marathon autograph signing session in the foyer of the theatre.
So there you have it. Another triumph for the band that invented Rock n' Roll. Earlier in the evening Marshall said they intended to keep on rockin' until the year 2021, Franny's 100th Birthday. On the evidence presented at this show, it wouldn't surprise me at all.
Review of The Comets show at the Potters Bar Theatre Nr. London, England, Saturday 7th October 2000
©2000 Rik Hull
Song List: (All the songs played at the concert - but not necessarily in the order they were played!)
Shake Rattle & Roll (Jacko Vcl), Birth Of The Boogie (Jacko Vcl), Steel Guitar Rag (Franny Inst.), Rock-A-Beatin Boogie (Jacko Vcl), R-O-C-K (Jacko Vcl), Now Dig This (Dick Vcl), Crazy Man Crazy (Jacko Vcl), Eat Your Heart Out Annie (Marshal Vcl), Sixty Minute Man (Marshal Vcl), Razzle Dazzle (Jacko Vcl), Mambo Rock (Jacko Vcl), Buona Sera (Joey Vcl), You're Never Too Old To Rock (Marshall Vcl), The House Is Rockin (Joey Vcl), Joes Rockin (Joey Inst.), Wonderful World (Joey Vcl), See You Later Alligator (Jacko Vcl), Rock Around The Clock (Jacko Vcl)
Encores: Saints Rock & Roll (Jacko Vcl), Rock The Joint (Marshall Vcl)
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