Helaine and I went to see Neil Sedaka at the Shubert Theater in New Haven last night. In order to do the evening justice, let me split it into two – fund raising and performance.
The purpose of the night was to raise money for the St. Raphael Foundation and the Hospital of St. Raphael.
There are two hospitals in New Haven. Even with 511 beds, St. Raphael is the smaller. It’s certainly the less glamorous. I was glad to help.
As is often the case, a benefit like this dangles ‘fun’ as the spoonful of sugar which makes the giving easier. It’s a technique that works. The Shubert was mostly full, and a pre-show reception, a separate ticket from the main event, drew well too.
The goal of this night, to raise money for the hospital and its programs, was a success. Everything else is peripheral.
My job was to act as master of ceremonies.
At 7:45, I joined a group of people including the hospital’s president and the sister who runs the foundation, and went backstage. At 8:00 o’clock we walked in front of the curtain and I began to do whatever it is I do. The response was very good, but time was of the essence. I edited as I went along.
I can’t imagine anyone’s crying because I didn’t do more material.
By the way, if you’re worried about speaking before crowds, you should know in situations like this it’s nearly impossible to see the audience! You’re on a lit stage. They’re in darkness. On top of that, the spotlights leave you blind.
A few folks from the hospital/foundation spoke, then I introduced Neil Sedaka… or actually, I said the show would begin in a few minutes.
I would like to have said “Neil Sedaka” and had the show begin right there. It never does.
The Sedaka show starts with a five minute video retrospective. It’s other artists singing Neil Sedaka’s songs. There are a lot of those… and a lot of diverse artists. This guy is prolific and his writing style versatile.
As the video ended, the band began to play and on walked Neil Sedaka. He is shorter than I expected. Older too.
The band consisted of a keyboard player, guitar, drums, sax and girl singer, plus Neil Sedaka himself, playing piano/keyboards.
He can still sing. That was obvious within the first few seconds. His vocal pitch was always high. It still is.
There were songs I remember where he trilled his voice to a quick falsetto on the original recording. No more. Adults just can’t do that. Ask Frankie Valli! But mostly, there was little, if any, transposing and he sang the full range he had as a kid and staying totally on key.
Everything seemed recognizable and plenty of people sang along or clapped along as he played the hits. I certainly did.
After a few minutes, I began to think, “The sound’s a little thin.” It wasn’t Sedaka who was lacking. It was the band.
The songs called for more vocal backing – more additional voices than one. The sound was also missing the strings, tympanies and other non-traditional rock instruments that gave the originals more feel.
Could have been accomplished electronically? I don’t know.
Here’s an example. In Sedaka’s “Stairway to Heaven,” he sings: “I’ll build a stairway to heaven, ’cause heaven is where you are.” It’s followed by a kettle drum of some sort which changes pitch after being stuck. That is an integral part of the song. I felt cheated when it wasn’t there.
Maybe it’s the large venue and stage which cried out for more than a combo? Whatever it was, I wish he had more players with him.
Don’t get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoyed the show. I just wish there would have been a fuller sound.
It was a night I really enjoyed and a good cause which was well served!
After the show, we headed to a little mezzanine for dessert. Neil Sedaka showed up a few minutes later. A few people took our picture, and I’m looking forward to getting those files.
After all was said and done, I got lots of thanks from the organizers. It wasn’t necessary to thank me. That’s what I said and I wasn’t joking.
I’m a firm believer in using whatever notoriety I have for the common good. Whatever they got from me, I got back more in satisfaction. I’m glad I could help.