Derek Gentile: Musings on a dizzying musical weekend at Tanglewood

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PITTSFIELD >> Had a hectic musical experience this past weekend. Fun, mostly, but packed. Four shows in five days, all at Tanglewood. By the end, I was on a first-name basis with some of the security guys.

I'm not complaining, but there were a lot of thoughts about each of the four shows that just didn't get into print. So, by virtue of this column, here are a few.

On Friday night, I saw Dolly Parton and her stripped-down band. I said it in the review: I wasn't sure this would work. I was wrong. Parton, first of all, is a pro. She played seven separate instruments, and I've been told she plays closer to a dozen.

One of her last songs was, "I Will Always Love You," a song she wrote in 1973. And a song that the late Whitney Houston covered, with great success, a few years later. I had never heard Parton's version of this song, which, in my opinion, shed a different light on this number. Houston's version was joyous and explosive. Parton's version felt more intimate and closer to the words themselves.

The next night was Earth, Wind and Fire. Phillip Bailey's beautiful vocals on "Reasons" and "After the Love Is Gone" moved me to tears. One of the things you fear, as vocalists age, is that they lose their vocal punch. Bailey has not. And Earth, Wind and Fire — and their fans — are the better for it.

Brian Wilson, in contrast, has lost a step vocally. He faltered a bit in the early moments of his show the next afternoon. Of course, he knew he was going to have to sing at least parts of 36 songs over the next 2 1/2 hours and saved himself for the end. It was a good plan.

Seeing the nearly forgotten Billy Hinsche in the band was kind of a treat. Hinsche was the multi-talented musician for the celebrity band, Dino, Desi and Billy. Neither Dean Martin Jr., (Dino) or Desi Arnaz, Jr., actually played instruments. They got gigs because Ratpackers Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra and Joey Bishop lined up shows opening for each of them. And, like Milli Vanilli (remember them?), DD&B played onstage with backing tracks. So you see, nothing is really new.

Jackson Browne, who played on Tuesday, recalled first playing at Tanglewood in 1971. He opened for America. Browne told the audience on Tuesday that he played his set and spent the rest of the night on the lawn, watching the show.

Coincidentally, that was also the first time I was at Tanglewood as a young teen. I didn't know a lot about Browne, but I remember liking what I heard. Although, I remember telling him in a phone interview a few weeks ago that I was also a huge Crabby Appleton fan then, as well. (Google that band. You'll understand.)

Contact Derek Gentile at 413-496-6251.


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