Few people in the world have a voice so iconic that they are recognizable after only one note. What was inescapable last night in that bandstand in Virginia is that Frankie Valli is without a doubt one of those talents. Just back from their European tour, Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons came to Wolf Trap’s Filene Center yesterday, August 19th, and in keeping with their several decades worth of toe tapping hits, delivered a show to remember.
Starting with a projected montage of the group’s many faces, hits, and highlights over the years, the stage burst to life, full decimal with “Grease.” Horns swaying, bass guitarist jumping, and current Four Seasons quartet peacocking through their choreographed moves, the man we all came to see walked on stage and the noise was deafening. It instantly became clear, if it was ever a question at all, that reviewing this legendary artist could be summed up into one word: timeless. Seamlessly the group moved from “Dawn (Go Away),” “Save It For Me,” and “Beggin’” before transitioning to several chart toppers from the 60s off of their latest album, Romancing the 60s. From “Spanish Harlem” by Ben E King with its incredible saxophone solo to a mash-up of “My Girl” by The Temptations and “Groovin on a Sunday Afternoon” by the Rascals, Valli and his team deftly put the Four Season’s twist on the classics. A particular highlight and hat-tip to the first live performance Valli’s saw growing up, which headlined a one Francis Albert Sinatra at NYC’s Paramount Hotel, the show blended the Valli vocal stylings and Sinatra orchestration of “I’ve Got You Under My Skin.”
What impressed and surprised me most was, at 79 years old, Frankie’s voice hasn’t aged a day. Backed by his talented and tight harmonizing Four Seasons, the iconic falsetto tenor Frankie Valli is known for still cuts through the air, strong as ever. The only changes from the group’s breakout days are those to physical aspects of the show with Frankie now preferring to stand in a small portion of center stage for the majority of the show instead of bouncing from corner to corner like so many of the music acts nowadays. This somewhat subdued physical demeanor lent itself perfectly to a dead pan comedy style between sets that kept spirits high and smiles higher. Working with the energy limitations of continuing to tour while nearing the age of 80, Valli genially kept running jokes throughout the one act show: “Is it time for intermission yet?” he’d ask; “We’re going to slow things down now, because I need to.”
As a musician whose career has spanned decades, I was curious to see what the performance would choose to cover of New Jersey’s golden boy. Naturally pulling from all the hits, “Sherry” made an appearance, as did “Walk Like a Man” and my personal favorite, “Who Loves You.” Lesser known titles (if there is such a thing with a group as well known as this) of “Swearin’ to God,” “Tell it to the Rain,” and “Silence is Golden” also took featured slots in the middle set of the evening. But it was, appropriately, “December, 1963 (Oh What a Night)” that closed the show on an incredible high that brought this already enthusiastic reviewer to her feet.
The show was skillfully (and enthusiastically) orchestrated under the flying piano skills of Valli’s long time musical director, arranger, and friend: Robby Robinson. Another incredible talent was the saxophone player (often picking up the flute or tambourine as well), Rick Keller. He and the Wolf Trap horn section kept the stage crackling with energy, from “Working My Way Back to You” to “Big Girls Don’t Cry.”
Absolutely a party from start to finish, this Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons performance kept me humming and dancing all night long in a way that even those Jersey Boys on Broadway couldn’t top.
Running Time: One hour and 45 minutes, with no intermission.
Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons played for one night only on August 19, 2015 at The Filene Center at Wolf Trap – 1645 Trap Road, in Vienna, VA. For future performances and information: call (877) 965-3872, or check out Wolf Trap’s calendar of events.