Sunday, January 24, 2010

Show Review: Ronnie Spector/Afternoon Naps @ Beachland Ballroom, 1/22/10

I begin with this: I expected big things from this show. Afternoon Naps are one of the best bands in town right now and Ronnie Spector is, well, Ronnie Spector. Add to that the $35 ticket price, the rumors of flown-in NYC musicians, and the general state of excitement hovering around the Beachland in the days running up to the show, well, I thought this would be an evening to remember.

Turns out, it was, but maybe not for the reasons one would expect, or hope.

I should also preface what follows with the fact that I love the Beachland and that I consider a couple of members of Afternoon Naps to be pretty good friends of mine, so I took an extra day to think about how I was going to write what I did.

The next day, when talking with a friend who went to the show with me, the main descriptor I could apply to the show as a whole was that it was weird. Weird in so many ways. The old crowd (which makes sense for a show headlined by a woman whose success came in the 60s), the bizarre security cop who alternated between yelling at strangers to not take pictures (when they weren't) and ignoring 10 photographers in a row when they did, only to run full speed down the side of the room to stop photographer #11, before returning outside to talk on her cell phone some more, the weirdo younger couple who made out to "Frosty the Snowman" before throwing up devil's horns, unironically, at the song's end, the angry family outing seated in front of us with the wife who wouldn't take off her coat or speak to her husband and the 12-year-old boy who was in the deepest, arms-crossed pout I've ever seen throughout the show, and so on and so on and so on.

And that's not even getting to the music. I've seen the Naps near 20 times now, and they played the songs they usually play, but given the strange stage schematic (clearly Ronnie Spector's peeps set up their stage and then made the Naps squeeze in where they could around the pre-claimed space), the unusual crowd, and maybe - to be honest - the failure to warm up vocally for one of the two singers pre-performance, made it a weird experience. The band wasn't in its element and, well, it sorta showed.

Ronnie Spector, though, she should've been in her element, but I think the sun has set on that career. Although there were some highlights - "Baby, I Love You" and "Be My Baby" especially - and at least one of her new songs, something about hearts rearranging, was pretty great, the rest of the performance was pretty poor, at least from Spector. Her band, of course, was first-rate, but it seems like Ronnie's next tour needs to be her farewell tour. During the show, I looked at my facebook page a couple times via my phone and saw that not only were a fair number of my friends at the show, scattered in different areas, but everyone thought poor Ms. Spector was either drunk or suffering from dementia. And, well, I was right there with them. Her audience interactions didn't really make sense, the abortive attempts at stage banter between songs often tailed off or just didn't make sense, her need to take seated breaks between and occasionally during songs revealed the fact her health wasn't up to the type of performance that had been designed, and her occasional moments of forgetfulness, including the way the entire first song of the encore went, were borderline alarming.

Worst of all, though, is that Spector's voice is gone. I mean, she isn't hoarse, but rather the ability to execute her vocals like she once did just isn't there. Instead, it seemed like karaoke night at the old folks home and the woman whose turn it was did a mediocre job of channeling little Veronica Bennett from 1962.

That, though, wasn't what folks were paying $35 (!) for.

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