Music Review: Mark Farner / Burton Cummings Boston Esplanade July 21, 2012

The Mark Farner/Burton Cummings and Rick Springfield shows at the Hatch Shell were in jeopardy when Oldies 103.3 flipped to “Amp” Top 40 nonsense on June 28, less than a month before the best pairing WODS put together for the Hatch Shell in years. WZLX took up the campaign (though not with as much time to promote; Mix 1041 is handling the Springfield event) yet, somehow, the word got out and the Esplanade was jammed for this terrific double-bill.

Burton Cummings went on early, about 6:45 PM, opening with “Albert Flasher” and taking the huge crowd through hit after Guess Who hit. Prior to singing “These Eyes” the singer noted: “I will toast the memory of this song,” drinking from a glass. “…because I just got a wonderful award as the co-writer of this song from BMI…this song has now been played in the United States over 4 million times on the radio just in this country. Put’s it up there with songs like “Lady Madonna”, “Bridge Over Troubled Water” I had no idea when I was a kid I would ever be lucky enough to be part of a record that did that well. So this, dear friends, is a memory for which I shall remain grateful forever and ever. It goes like this.” A terrific note-for-note recreation played to the audience on a perfect summer night, little or no humidity, the sun about to set and the boats on the Charles River no doubt enjoying this concert as well. “No Time”, “American Woman”, “Clap For The Wolfman”, “Share The Land”, a superb “Undun”, “Laughing” were all highly entertaining. Cummings’ band of 13 years actually did Deep Purple’s “Hush” at soundcheck, the group collectively known as The Carpet Frogs ( features David Love on guitar, Tim Bovaconti on guitar, Nick Sinopoli on percussion, vocals, Sean Fitzsimons on vocals/drums and Jeff Jones on bass/vocals. Jones was in the group Ocean who hit in March of 1971 with the Gospel/Pop hit “Put Your Hand in the Hand”. No doubt when Cummings returns to Boston we’ll get to hear the rest of his set. “Stand Tall”, his Top 10 solo hit from 1976, was conspicuous in its absence.

Mark Farner was equally as charged as Burton Cummings. Almost eleven years after the Mohegan Sun Casino concert of August 31, 2001 where I originally interviewed (and taped) the Farner band the lead singer/guitarist of Grand Funk Railroad actually had more energy at the Esplanade at 63 years of age (birthday September 29, 1948) at 52 years young. Amazing. Though I had a camera and taped “B” roll at the July 21 show, all one has to do is go to YouTube to re-live the concert experience in highlights. There’s a YouTube of Mark Farner playing drums and a variety of the songs from the concert “We’re An American Band” featuring the original lead guitarist of Grand Funk ! along with a exquisite renditions of “Bad Time”, “The Locomotion” and GFR’s “Heartbreaker.”

Has it really been six years since Farner’s For The People album was released? “Nadeen” and “Symptoms” are classic Mark from that disc but the throngs at outdoor events want the hits and both Farner and Cummings obliged them to the delight of all. “I’m Your Captain” was elegant and powerful reminding all why this important singer/guitarist led one of the two biggest selling album groups of the 70s…(they being Grand Funk Railroad and Mark Farner). We who have followed GFR and Mark solo through the years cannot wait for an encore show and in the capable hands of former manager of The Dream (Extreme), Joanne Codi, good things will be happening for this artist – and his fans – and soon.

Joe Viglione is the Chief Film Critic at He was a film critic for Al Aronowitz’s The Blacklisted Journal, has written thousands of reviews and biographies for, 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.