Pat Benatar joins husband and collaborator Neil Giraldo at Hudson Gardens on Aug. 4.Photo courtesy of Hudson Gardens
By Peter Jones
Hudson Gardens and Events Center in Littleton will be rocking the flowerbeds again this year with a summer of classic concerts as multicolored as the plant life.
The season will kick off with a distinctive electric-violin solo on June 2. The Orchestra, a post-heyday touring version of the Electric Light Orchestra, opens the summer’s first movement with an oeuvre of catchy classical rock. Although founding composer Jeff Lynne parted ways with the former ELO decades ago, the Orchestra is still a “livin’ thing” on the concert circuit.
Nazareth will be in the Gardens on June 9. The Scottish quartet founded in 1968 still boasts half of its original lineup, including 66-year-old singer Dan McCafferty, whose aching vocals turned “Love Hurts” into one of the great power ballads of the 1970s.
Colorado’s own Firefall returns for its annual show on June 16. The band was formed from the wreckage of the Byrds and the Flying Burrito Brothers before taking its country-folk-rock roots in a decidedly popular direction with radio-friendly hits like “You Are the Woman” and “Just Remember I Love You.”
“We knew from the very start that this was very special,” founding guitarist Jock Bartley told The Villager in 2011. “It just felt so pure and honest.”
War breaks out on June 23 when the veteran funk-jazz-rock soldiers take a “low ride” into the grassy venue. For more than four decades, the multiracial septet has kept audiences on their feet with a danceable integration of Latin, soul and American rock and roll: “Why Can’t We Be Friends?” is a War signature.
The Gardens head south on June 30 with .38 Special, a band that brought Southern rock from the backwoods to major urban arenas with a crossover sound exemplified by the 1981 breakthrough “Hold On Loosely.” 38 Special is still led by Donnie Van Zant, kid brother to the late Lynyrd Skynyrd founder Ronnie Van Zant.
It’s a bird! It’s a plane! Nope, and it’s not Neil Diamond, either. The next best thing – Super Diamond – flies in with its high-octane tribute on July 3. Super Diamond views its hero through an alternative-rock lens, emphasizing Diamond’s song-craft history and converting many a Diamond skeptic in the process.
“It’s definitely not a joke, but there’s certainly some campiness to the act,” lead singer Randy Cordero [aka “The Surreal Neil”] once told this reporter. “We get Neil Diamond fans that come expecting it to be a lounge show or something. But it’s heavy guitar, heavy drums. We do ‘Play Me,’ his quintessential love song, and we do it as almost punk rock.”
Fireworks follow this pre-Independence Day concert.
Australia’s Little River Band flows through on July 7. Although they were originally little known anywhere on the upside of Down Under, LRB was a “supergroup” back home. The band was formed by known Australian stars in 1975 with an eye toward finally breaking out of their homeland esoterica – and it worked. Witness: “Help is on the Way,” “Reminiscing,” “Lonesome Loser,” and the list goes on.
Hair-metal star and sometime reality-TV romancer Bret Michaels is next on July 14. The founding Poison lead singer saw his greatest toxicity in the 1980s glam scene before retooling as a solo musician and actor. Television may know him best as the star and would-be “prize” on Rock of Love with Bret Michaels.
Kenny Loggins and the Blue Sky Riders play Hudson Gardens on July 21.Courtesy photo by Pamela Springsteen
Kenny Loggins, scheduled July 21, has reinvented himself more times than even Michaels has. The 65-year-old Loggins began life in psychedelia’s Electric Prunes, then linked up with Poco’s Jim Messina as Loggins and Messina, before becoming a force in the 1970s singer-songwriter movement and reemerging in the ‘80s as the “Footloose” king of danceable soundtrack hits.
Boz Scaggs will perform at Hudson Gardens on July 28. Photo courtesy of Hudson Gardens
Loggins’s contemporary Boz Scaggs takes over on July 28. After exiting what could have been a fruitful career with the Steve Miller Band, Scaggs took a chance on a solo career that eventually paid off with the late breakthrough hit, “Lido Shuffle,” and a succession of critically praised jazz-influenced pop music.
Pat Benatar will hit the audience with her best shot on Aug. 4, sharing the bill with husband and long-time collaborator Neil Giraldo. Benatar was the gutsy rock pinup of the 1970s – giving Heart, a star of last year’s Gardens lineup, a run for its money – before transitioning to more-produced hits for the MTV generation.
Foreigner will keeps the ‘70s vibe alive on Aug. 11. The staples of arena rock have the lineup scars of changing decades – including the loss of original lead singer Lou Gramm – but can be counted on for a never-ending cavalcade of hits. The show ain’t over until you’ve heard “Cold as Ice,” and may not be over then.
The decade of Watergate and bell-bottoms maintains for the rest of the season. Styx, slated for Aug. 18, fused progressive-rock concept albums with arena-friendly hard rock, mostly because band members could never agree on a musical direction. The result is a set list with something for everyone.
The season closes Aug. 25 with Three Dog Night, a band that boasts one of the most diverse canons of hits – from the blue-eyed soul of “Mama Told Me (Not to Come)” to the pop-reggae of “Black and White” to the power balladry of “One.”
“At our concerts, people will go, ‘They had that hit? I thought that was Blood, Sweat and Tears,’” singer Cory Wells once told this reporter.
For information, visit www.hudsongardens.org.
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