Andy Howells reviews Frankie-The Concert celebrating the music of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons at Newport’s Riverfront Theatre.
Frankie – The Concert does what it says on the label and delivers the Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons Concert experience. A homage to the definitive New Jersey sound that took the pop charts of the 1960s and 70s by storm, the sheer energy of the band transfixed the audience from the off on Saturday evening.
Stephen James not only looks the part of Frankie Valli in his multi-coloured collared jacket, but also sounds like the master too. He embraces the unique Valli falsetto that transcended from The Four Seasons original 60s 45s, and rips into the opening number, Working My Way Back to You Babe with perfection.
The Frankie band support James to perfection, replicating the unique New Jersey Four Seasons sound while adding their own live experience flare, thoroughly looking like they are enjoying the experience as much as we are.
Jordan Hill brings his own personality to the essential Bob Gaudio backing vocal on Big Girls, Don’t Cry and later, when inviting Sherry, Baby to “come out- in Newport” -tonight.” Jordan also joins Stephen on The Young Rascals Groovin’ done “The Four Seasons way” – “on Newport Avenue” – Newport in New Jersey? – oh, what a nice dream!
Kelly Brazil’s powerhouse vocal compliments Stephen’s falsetto on a rare Valli/ Aretha Franklin duet from the 1967 Mike Douglas Christmas Special and makes it a definitive highlight for the evening. Kelly remains prominent throughout the evening adding vocal backing and on-stage energy for many of the songs, including Spanish Harlem, Who Loves You? and the Valli solo gem You’re Ready Now.
Elliott Blower adds further authenticity to the double drum roll intro for Walk Like a Man while Chris Birch on lead guitar and Rupert Hindson on Bass mesmerise as they own the chords and riffs on The Night, Opus 17 Don’t You Worry ‘Bout Me and The Temptations’ My Girl. Adding further depth on tracks such as Grease and Beggin’ on the horn section was Adrian Gibson on Trumpet and Liz Greenwood on Sax, while neatly presenting the keyboard sound on Oh! What A Night! and many others was the charismatic Luke Staniland who also shared a few dance moves early in the evening.
There was time for reflection with Stephen’s vocal on Fallen Angel, a track Frankie Valli wrote for his late daughter, Francine, of which I found particularly moving. Then unity between the band and audience, as we were invited to shine the lights from our phones for Can’t Take My Eyes Off You. Many were out of their seats, dancing in the aisles as the band rounded off with Let’s Hang On (and Stephen demonstrated how long he could hold a note in the intro). The feelgood vibe had got under my skin and hung on well into The Night!
The best homage to Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons I’ve ever seen, do not miss the Frankie – The Concert experience when it comes to South Wales again, Saturday evening was a sell-out and the next one is sure to be as well!