WILKES-BARRE — The sweet sounds of the golden oldies filled the F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts on Sunday as Joe Nardone presented another “Doo Wop Spectacular.”
Sunday’s concert was a make-up date for the “Christmas Doo Wop” show originally scheduled for Dec. 14 and postponed due to winter weather. The threatened heavy snow in the forecast stayed away this time, and the just under 1,000 in attendance were treated to more than three hours of music by seven acts.
The Paramounts, a quartet on the comeback trail more than 50 years after its brush with success, took the stage first. Each of the group’s four songs spotlighted a different lead singer and doo-wop standards such as “Goody, Goody” and “Could This Be Magic.” The quartet, currently signed to Scranton’s Debra Records, capped its brief set with original lead singer Milton Delgado and “Trying,” the original group’s near hit from 1959 that was squashed by the payola scandal.
Returning favorites Larry Chance & The Earls took the stage next for 30 minutes of music and comedy. The quintet’s set was highlighted as always by “Remember Then,” a Top-25 hit from 1962 that has long been a theme song for many doo-wop radio shows, and “I Believe,” which was dedicated once again to original group member Larry Palombo, who died in a skydiving accident while serving in the 82nd Airborne in 1959, and all other veterans and fallen heroes.
Although suffering from strep throat and struggling a bit with his voice, Chance still put on a fabulous show.
Harold Melvin’s Blue Notes, one of two acts added to the bill when original headliner Kenny Vance had to cancel due to illness, provided a refreshing change of pace as it took over for 35 minutes of Philly Soul.
No one from the original quintet (Melvin, Teddy Pendergrass, Bernard Wilson, Lawrence Brown and Lloyd Parks) is still performing with the group managed by Melvin’s widow Ovelia (in fact, Parks is the only surviving original member), but the quartet on stage Sunday did a fine job recreating No. 1 R&B hits like 1972’s “If You Don’t Know Me By Now” and 1973’s “The Love I Lost” and the No. 1 dance track “Bad Luck.”
After intermission, LaLa Brooks, one of the lead singers of The Crystals and the other act added to Sunday’s bill, did a six-song, 30-minute set.
As Darlene Love, who scored two big hits billed as The Crystals in 1962 (the No. 1 smash “He’s a Rebel” and the follow-up “He’s Sure The Boy I Love”), was in Hollywood for the Academy Awards in conjunction with the documentary “20 Feet from Stardom,” Brooks was in Wilkes-Barre setting the record straight about the group’s history with Phil Spector.
Brooks, who was only 13 when she started singing lead for the group, electrified the crowd with performances of “Then He Kissed Me,” “Little Boy” and “Da Doo Ron Ron” plus The Crystals’ first hit, “There’s No Other (Like My Baby),” which was originally sung by Barbara Alston. The now 66-year-old singer capped her set with covers of The Ronette’s “Be My Baby” (another classic from Spector) and the Ike and Tina Turner version of “Proud Mary.”
The Flamingos, featuring original lead singer and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member Terry Johnson, followed with an impressive 35-minute set of mostly love songs. The current trio started with “Mio Amore,” a minor hit from 1960, a gorgeous version of “When I Fall in Love” (also recorded in 1960 according to Johnson) and “Lovers Never Say Goodbye.”
Stan Prinston took over lead vocals for a powerful performance of “Ebb Tide,” and the group finished up with a fine rendition of “Till,” a surprisingly good take on Queen’s “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” and Johnson’s famous arrangement of the standard “I Only Have Eyes For You.”
The final performance of the evening was by Charlie Thomas’ Drifters, the only current version of the Rock and Roll Hall of Famers fronted by an original member.
Thomas, now 76, highlights the songs of the second incarnation of the group he joined in 1958 along with Ben E. King (the first incarnation was formed in 1953 as Clyde McPhatter’s backing group). Thomas began Sunday’s set with “On Broadway” and followed quickly with “This Magic Moment” and “Sweets for My Sweet,” one of the two hits for which Thomas, usually the group’s tenor, sang lead.
He then finished the main set with four more Drifters’ classics: “There Goes My Baby,” “Save the Last Dance for Me,” “Up On The Roof” and “Under the Boardwalk,” but he wasn’t quite finished. After briefly leaving the stage, he came back out to sing a medley of “Stand By Me,” “Cupid” and “Chain Gang,” then left the stage again, only to reappear for an uproarious version of the Isley Brothers’ “Shout.”