Little Anthony (second from left) and the Imperials at their 2009 Rock Hall of Fame induction / Associated Press photo
Everyone left the Dakota Jazz Club with a smile Wednesday night thanks to Little Anthony and the Imperials.
The 1960s hitmakers, who reunited in 1992, put on a highly entertaining hourlong performance in the late show — a mix of ribbing-each-other banter, smooth vocal blend and the sweet tenor of Anthony Gourdine. At 71, he still has that boyish tremelo, though he doesn’t quite have the heyday power.
But with two other members from the glory years — founder Clarence Collins and Ernest Wright — and newcomer Robert DeBlanc, Gourdine compensated with comedic shtick worthy of Henny Youngman. One guy teased Gourdine about the size of his running nose. "It’s one of the thousand lakes." Another Imperial corrected: "You mean 10,000 lakes." It was like a nonstop game of the dozens between songs.
Some fans might have been disappointed by the modern covers — Prince’s "Kiss," a reggae medley of "Stir It Up"/"I Can See Clearly" and the Police’s "Every Breath You Take" (with the Four Tops line "sugar pie honey bunch" mixed in) — that are probably included in the repertoire to connect with casino crowds.
But the R&B-and-doo-wop-loving Dakota fans were going out of their heads for the hits that landed this New York vocal group in the Rock Hall of Fame — "Hurts So Bad," "On the Outside (Looking In)" and "Goin’ Out of My Head."
Little Anthony and the Imperials will perform again at 7 and 9 p.m. Thursday at the Dakota.