(seen on 2nd July 2022)
The monkey admits that for a few years it has been embarking on a “see them while you still can” policy. Burt Bacharach, Debbie Harry, Elton John – all touring for probably the final time. To that we can add the venerable Frankie Valli. 88 and still able to deliver two solid gold hours of timeless hit songs.
Accompanied by the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra, the monkey’s first thought is to wonder how many of today’s chart songs would survive arrangement for an orchestra at all? Surely this must be a very reliable mark of quality that strings, wind, percussion and brass sections can add even more depth to familiar numbers when played live.
Best of all, the breadth of back-catalogue means that the hits offer a natural construction for the evening. After having to postpone the show for over two years, “Working My Way Back to You” is even more appropriate, and the fans were glad to greet him.
In a show packed with showstoppers, “My Eyes Adored You” came early on, the oval auditorium a starry carpet of phone lights twinkling and creating a very special memory.
Adding to them, well-chosen video footage on screens behind and above the performers resurrected the group’s early days, people, places and record sleeve designs to nostalgic effect.
On stage, noting that “Silence Is Golden” was a particular pleasure before a rather louder and melodious ending of the first half saw the talented tenor saxophonist and pianist gain their moments to shine on “Tell It To the Rain” to bring the interval in on a high.
Opening the second half with “Grease” revved the crowd to levels that released lightning. The prime singles of their era followed, “December, 1963 (Oh What a Night)” saw Valli indulge in a little light choreography with his backing singers a third of his age – and outshining them with his years of stagecraft experience.
This came to the fore as his encouragement during “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” had the crowd word-perfect and spilling into the central arena aisles.
“Sherry” proved the vocal is still there, that unique falsetto bouncing off the ornate plasterwork. Building up, “Big Girls Don’t Cry” perhaps, but they dance like when they were small. “Walk Like a Man” did similarly for those who were becoming men first time around and now share the message with their grandchildren.
The appropriate titles catalogue came through once again with “Bye, Bye, Baby (Baby Goodbye)” to take us through the first bows and on to the encore, first of “Rag Doll” before the ecstatic audience were treated to the grateful thanks of the living legend and the entreaty “Let’s Hang On!”
We can only hope he does, for long enough to let him work his way back to us many more times for years to come.
5 stars, standing ovation.