Saturday evening, March 26, 2011 Vanilla Fudge rocked the Regent Theater over on 7 Medford St., in Arlington Massachusetts, The venerable old hall which first opened in 1916 had Little Anthony & The Imperials perform there in the 1960s, but for most of the latter part of the 20th century, it was a wonderful old movie house. Now as a concert hall / movie theater there’s new energy and new life in the hall…and this exquisite show only proves the importance of saving these regional theaters wherever they may be in the world.
Bassist Pete Bremy joined original members Vince Martell (guitar & vocals), drummer Carmine Appice and lead singer/keyboard player Mark Stein. The theater was pretty much packed and…in a room that contains the volume, the Fudge used the dynamics of their sound to their advantage, blasting the roof off, when necessary, and bringing it down so that you could hear the proverbial pin drop. “Take Me For A Little While”, a masterpiece of pop music, was played to perfection with “Season Of The Witch”, “Eleanor Rigby” and other VF staples getting the treatment. As the group used to headline over Led Zeppellin in the early days, a killer “Dazed & Confused” with Appice sounding like he was playing on the original 1967-ish Jeff Beck Group albums (where Aynsley Dunbar did the honors…and I never understood why millions and millions of Zeppelin fans never grabbed copies of those two Beck classic which are so Yardbird-esque…but that’s a story for another day)…here was the VF/Cactus/Beck-Bogert-Appice drummer giving a clinic, not only on the John Bonham-heavy “Dazed & Confused” but with his show solo as well. The audience was all middle-aged…and people knew each other from the era (and the Boston area club scene) so the socializing was as key as the music being appreciated.
A seven minute or so “You Keep Me Hanging On” was the frosting on the cake…but in an extraordinary move, after the first encore of Vinny Martell singing “You Can’t Do That” the band told the audience that on Monday night, March 28, they would be performing a truncated “You Keep Me Hanging On” (the 45 RPM version or so) on the Jimmy Fallon Show…and wanting to practice it, this audience got to hear the song twice, the long version AND the short version. What a great idea and why haven’t bands done this before? Play the album-length version and the 45 version! It was terrific…and a splendid time was had by all.
Mr. Martell was in touch with me in the 1980s when I was working with the late Jimmy Miller, producer of The Rolling Stones. His solo tapes were impressive back in the day, and it is good to see Vinny shouldering some of the lead vocals and guitar playing that is truly inspired. Martell is one of the most underrated guitarists in rock…come to think of it, Vanilla Fudge is one of the most under-appreciated bands of that era. George “Shadow” Morton is a genius producer and the pairing of this group with that producer was a perfect storm creating a cosmic event that was re-created to perfection at this show. I don’t usually put so much emphasis on greatness in a review but have to do so here: Vanilla Fudge gave us authenticity, “the sound” and a great show. Encore.
Joe Viglione is the Chief Film Critic at TMRZoo.com. He was a film critic for Al Aronowitz’s The Blacklisted Journal, has written thousands of reviews and biographies for AllMovie.com, Allmusic.com and produces and hosts Visual Radio. Visual Radio is a fifteen year old variety show on cable TV which has interviewed John Lennon’s Uncle Charlie, Margaret Cho, Ray Manzarek, John Densmore, Felix Cavaliere, Marty Balin, Bill Press and hundreds of other personalities.