A few thoughts on the Turtles’ Happy Together Tour, which landed at the State Fair grandstand Monday, for the third consecutive year:
* The Turtles, who headline the tour, do the same shtick every time but I still laugh at the jokes (some musical, some verbal) of Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan, who is becoming more and more like George Carlin, in both look and demeanor. But, ultimately, it’s the Turtles’ voices, especially Kaylan’s bravura leads, that make it so fun to hear “Elenore,” “She’d Rather Be with Me” and “Happy Together” again.
* There were two newcomers (Gary Lewis and Chuck Negron) and two repeaters (Mark Lindsay and Gary Puckett) in this year’s lineup. The 68-year-old Lewis, Jerry’s kid, looked to be in great shape – everything but his voice, that is. It’s still a little thin. He compensated with his personality, providing context, information and jokes. When the backup band gave him strong vocal support, he was more effective, especially on the Beach Boys-evoking “She’s Just My Style.”
* Negron, one of three vocalists in Three Dog Night, was the night’s pleasant surprise. While he’s battled drugs over the years, he hasn’t lost his voice. He still has power and range, though he didn’t quite go for that high note on “One.” Again, bolstered by the excellent harmonies of the backup quartet (Three Dog Night was a harmonizing group), Negron, 71, triumphed on “Eli’s Coming” and “Joy to the World.” He may have seemed a little tentative in his stage presence but he was a welcome addition.
* Like a lounge act, Hibbing-born Puckett, 70, has the patter and shtick down but he doesn’t have the vocal range or character anymore to do justice to “Young Girl” and “Lady Willpower.” Similarly, Lindsay, 71, who was lead singer of Paul Revere & the Raiders, came across like a lounge lizard, though he rocked more than Puckett with the likes of “Kicks” and “Hungry.”
*Seniors Day now features acts from the mid-to- late 1960s. Seniors Day used to feature my parents’ acts like Roy Clark, Steve Lawrence & Eydie Gorme and Roger Whittaker; now it’s music we baby boomers grew up on. I spotted one of my high school classmates in the crowd singing Gary Lewis & the Playboys' "Everybody Loves a Clown" on the giant video screens.
*Happy Together is a fun, breezy, nostalgic evening that works because of smart pacing and packaging, a terrific quartet that backs all the acts and the Turtles’ spirit and enduring musical prowess.