The Mohegan Sun casino has the look and feel of an amusement park for adults, the ringing bells of the slot machines adding to the high spirits in the area surrounding the Wolf’s Den, the venue where Three Dog Night, Jay Black (of Jay & The Americans), Mark Farner and Ambrosia featuring Marty Balin (a unique pairing, no?) have graced or will grace the stage. A British flag announcing Herman’s Hermits featuring Peter Noone broadcast on the screen in advance of the 8 PM show on Saturday evening August 8, 2009.
The Goffin/King classic “I’m Into Something Good” (rather than Jo Jo Laine’s naughtier “I’m In For Something Good”) opened the packed show, a great tune to start things off in an equally great place to see an artist up close and personal -even for the people in “the cheap seats” as Noone joked later on in the show. Dressed in a smart gray suit, Noone continued the festivities with “Wonderful World” and suddenly two “Noonatics” (the crazed followers of Herman’s Hermits – and “crazed” isn’t a slight, it’s a take off on the name Noone fused with the word “lunatic”) Mo and Betty pushed themselves onto our exclusive critics table at the front where Visual Radio producer Jay was taking still photos of the show. …the indignity of it all. As the late Jimmy Miller would say “Joe, tell them who I used to be!” …but these ladies were too absorbed in the show to realize they were disrupting my penmanship in the dark. Suddenly Mo and Betty pull out these glowing low-voltage psychedelic lollipops and start waving them and a couple of dozen of other crazies in the standing room only room started doing the same. Was this an Electric Prunes gig or a Herman’s Hermits show…or The Clovers or The Searchers for that matter as Peter started singing “Love Potion #9”. The band is really something special, the two guitarists flashing an authentic British Invasion / Merseybeat sound with the keyboardist (looking like Jefferson Airplane’s Marty Balin’s younger brother one fan noted to me) and drummer providing a solid back-up for the British rock star with 80 to a hundred million record sales to his credit (give or take a million). Later backstage Noone was telling the band they should have played some Kinks…this writer reminding them that song #4 was “Dandy”. Of course some people think of “Dandy” as a Herman’s Hermits tune more than Kinks as it is from the 1966 Kinks classic lp Face to Face but was a Top 5 hit for the Hermits in October of that year. Noone/Herman”s humor was even more acute between the songs with a quip: “When we were kids in England we dreamed of coming to Uncasville, Connecticut, not Shea Stadium…” indeed..
Betty and Mo at our table were starting to behave, but then Noone went into Manfred Mann’s #1 hit from 1964, “Doo Wah Diddy Diddy”. The Hermits added something extra to the tune, like speeding it up a nice rock & roll notch making an overplayed composition something worth hearing again. Jay had to pull out the smelling salts for Betty and Mo…but we hadn’t brought any…what did they think this was… McCartney at Fenway Park a couple of nights ago? “A Must To Avoid” was next, song 7 at 8:16 pm (do the math, seven titles in 16 minutes)…it’s a tune the group The Fifth Estate used to sing the words “She’s A Muscular Boy” to. A genuine Merseybeat sound permeated the rendition, Noone then pulling out a harmonica for a bit of Johnny Cash-styled Country & Western. I was waiting for music from P.N.’s New Wave group The Tremblers or a track from a Peter Noone solo disc like “I Don’t Wanna Love You (But You Got Me Anyway)” – the cover of Sutherland Bros. & Quiver or “Oh You Pretty Things” , but Peter later explained to me his version of The Beatles “When I’m 64” was actually the same chords as “Oh! You Pretty Things”, so I guess it’s OK
While looking for people who never saw him perform before…and finding one…he started pitching his CDs into the audience, one zipping like a frisbee across the room… a version of The Monkees “Daydream Believer” was tremendous, and a brilliant move, but truncated to a mere two verses and some choruses before flinging more CDs around the lively Wolf’s Den. It was kinda like a Ray Davies Storyteller night without the storytelling, just the songs and out-of-control onstage banter that started to make sense, even for those not drinking. Davey Jones toured with Peter as part of the Bobby Sherman/Peter Noone/Davey Jones teen idol tour, but those incidentals were not spoke of as the mayhem onstage continued (and the mayhem at our table with Betty and/or Mo taking their obsessions to new, dark places…beginning to get more frightening for my camera crew…)
From 1989 to 1993 Noone hosted VH-1’s “My Generation” show, so he started stomping on a CD case (which he had relieved of its CD by tossing it across the room) and went into a version of The Who classic. At this point I had to put my sunglasses on and write the review as Betty or Mo started disrobing and throwing her panties at the stage. “What happens when you get older” Peter said to the audience “You still get underwear thrown at you…just a lot bigger.” A woman yelled out “They’re floozies”…I’m not sure whether they meant the term for the pants or the woman disrobing but Peter just said “it’s an over 21 audience, isn’t it?” and got in to the woman’s pants before indulging in a bizarre parody of Mick Jagger with the band doing a bit of The Rolling Stones’ “Start Me Up” as the accompaniment.
“No Milk Today” brought things somewhat back to normal as Hall & Oates played in another room at the big Casino. Now, really, what would you rather hear, “Kiss On My List” by the 80’s duo or Herman’s Hermits tearing it up? Noone picking up a glittering blue guitar making for three 6 stringed axes on the classic Hermits tune, the more than competent band changing styles throughout the evening. Dedicating a song to Lisa and “Gladys” Peter started feeling “Glad All Over” – a naughty but nice tribute to the late Mike Smith of The Dave Clark Five, and a terrific rendition indeed. “Silhouettes” brought those psychedelic balls out again while “Listen People”, Freddy & The Dreamers “I’m Telling You Now”, David Johansen’s big MTV hit “We Gotta Get Out Of This Place” (Ok, Ok, it was originally The Animals and Peter did his best Eric Burdon for us)…the exhaustive set rocketing to song #20 with “I Saw Her Standing There”.
Paul McCartney filled Fenway Park in Boston for two nights this week, but this was the superb trip down memory lane that you didn’t have to suffer through 40,000 fans to enjoy…the audience was having a blast which “Mrs. Brown You’ve Got A Lovely Daughter” (just Peter and a guitarist) and “Can’t You Hear My Heart Beat” perpetuated. A charming bit of Sex Pistols worked into a very groovey high speed “I’m Henery The VIIIth I Am” that the long-forgotten punk group The Dickies would have appreciated – very effective and fun. An exhilarating “There’s A Kind Of Hush” brought the first show to a conclusion …and Peter dashed off before Betty and Mo and dozens of other gals could rip his suitcoat off him…descending into the inner sanctum of the Mohegan Sun’s WOLF’S DEN to get ready for Set II which was a bit different (Dave Clark’s “Because” substituted for “Glad All Over”) , but just as effective. A superb concert on a wonderful summer night in early August. Encore!
Post Script – search for The Noonatics site to correspond with fans of Herman’s Hermits. The “newest inmates” (of the asylum, of course) are those just joining for the first time.