Hearts, chocolates and flowers? Nah, not this Valentine’s Day! Not when you have the deliciously talented, and oh so sweet John Lloyd Young in concert! There’s something brave and rather confident about a date taking their significant other, whether that is a husband (mine included!), boyfriend, or partner to see John Lloyd Young on of all days, Valentine’s Day! Bring them they did! 300 strong to The Samueli Theater at The Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Orange County, for this the last of a three day sold out concert series called “My Turn,” a reference to Young’s debut album of the same name.
Young is known previously for winning the Tony as well as several theater awards during his tenure on Broadway. Where he originated the role of Frankie Valli in Jersey Boys, then going on to star as Clint Eastwood’s choice to play Frankie Valli in the film of the same name. There’s no doubt Young is certainly making it clear that while well aware of the fact those roles made him a house hold name, and appreciates the open doors that they have afforded him, is now determined to put his Jersey Boys days behind him. Not one to look back Young is making it known with his latest series of concerts that it’s his “turn.” With each concert Young has begun to omit the songs from Jersey Boys, while introducing songs that showcase Young’s own voice by singing what Young considers standards from the 50’s, 60’s and early 70’s. His hope is to endear them to his audience as much as the standards of the 40’s have become favorites again through the recordings of other artists of our day. I’d say after hearing the album, Mr.Young is well on his way to accomplishing that goal.
“My Turn” is a mix of Blues, Jazz and Funk 50’s and 60’s R&B ballads that gloriously spotlight Young’s extraordinary vocal range. Young chose New York City to debut “My Turn “ at the Café Carlyle two years ago this month, where it was very well received. Lest you think that there has been any sort of lag of any kind in Young’s activities between the Café Carlyle and the Segerstrom Center appearances, I assure you there have not! Young’s recent travels have taken him to Washington D.C (four times since October,) where he served on the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, to performing at any number of charitable events. As well as,showing his mixed media art in galleries from California to Florida. Young has been, a very busy, busy man! Of late those of us that live in California have had the great fortune (sorry really not gloating, ok maybe just a bit!) of seeing Young tour his album from Sterling’s Upstairs at the Federal in North Hollywood in October, to Nikko’s in San Francisco on New Year’s Eve, and now an appearance at Segerstrom’s in Orange County for a three day sold out engagement.
There’s one thing among many positive things that I can say about Young and that is he can always be counted on to bring the music and bring it well. “My Turn” is a well thought out album jammed packed with the standards made famous in the 50’s and 60’s. Young’s gorgeous voice beckons the listener to follow him back to a time past where love, heartbreak and romance ruled the radio waves. It was that voice, on this special night in the dim lights of the Samueli Theater that the audience sat in excited anticipation waiting to hear.“Ladies and Gentlemen please welcome Tony and GRAMMY award winner and star of Clint Eastwood’s Jersey Boys – JOHN LLOYD YOUNG !“ A hush came over the crowd and then there it came clear and strong out of the speakers, that voice with just one note sends hearts aflutter. Singing beautifully and hidden from our sight for just a little tease of a minute was Young. The spotlight illuminated and there was Young walking slowly from the back of the house singing first in a capella and then joined by Young’s five piece dynamic band came the song “ My Prayer” made famous by The Platters –
“When the twilight is gone and no songbirds are singing When the twilight is gone you come into my heart And here in my heart you will stay, while I pray….” I swear I heard sighs coming from all over the loft and the main floor as Young made his way toward the front of the venue. Before we knew it he was on stage and immediately going into “Only You.” What a perfectly romantic song choice for such a special day. I was sure I heard hearts breaking all over the venue (mostly the husbands, boyfriends and significant others as their dates couldn’t take their eyes off of Young! So much for being brave and confident! )
I’ve had the pleasure of seeing Young perform several times in the past six months. I marvel at his continued ability to bring a fresh approach to each show, coupled with his unique command over his audience made for a very special Valentine’s Day show. Having a front row seat to one of Young’s performances like I had tonight gives an audience member a whole new perspective on just how good Young is at using that gorgeous baritone, that he can slide effortlessly into a falsetto to capture the hearts and minds of his audience.
“So happy to be here at Samueli Theater, I’m an Angelino so this is my back yard, although I did have a little career on the East Coast.” Upbeat and smiling Young introduced himself and his mega talented band led by musical director Tommy Faragher; who Young was quick to credit with being the one responsible for “talking him off the ledge” when his manager Dona wasn’t around to do it. Moving on to introduce the rest of the band, Young made it a point to call our attention to the fact that there was a Hall of Famer in our midst his drummer Pete Thomas. Last but certainly not least were Marcus Watkins on guitar, Eric Holden on bass and Kevin Kumar on violin. Young noted that Faragher, Thomas and Watkins were all with him since “My Turn” was first recorded.
Heading back to the center stage Young gave us just a taste of his humorous side that we’d be treated to as the hour went on. “Glad to see some familiar faces…. I see there are some new ones as well… let’s get singing . …hopefully they’ll return.”
Wasting no time Young launched into “Ebb Tide” saying “This is a perfect song, being that we are in the state with the longest coastline.“ Absolutely it was a perfect song to highlight Young’s amazing baritone and would be perfect no matter where Young was singing it in the world. After three brilliantly performed love songs at this point in the show, Young takes a slightly different turn in choosing to leave behind the love songs to throw in a couple of heartbreak songs. After all, not everyone is happy on Valentine’s Day! What I love most about Young and the way he transitions from one song to another are the little tidbits of history behind each song he has chosen.
For example, unlike most performers who will plow right through their set list with very little interaction with the audience, Young while careful not to take too much time away from his performing takes a moment to set up each song on his list. In Portugal there are hundreds of little cafés Young shared and these cafés he went on to say cater specifically to a genre of Portuguese music called “fado.” What fado is, Young continued are songs that are sung with deep heartbreak and emotion “and if fado is sung correctly the Portuguese say it’s likened to a knife twisting deep into the chest.” Little Anthony and The Imperials “Hurt So Bad” would serve as Young’s choice for his “fado.” Showing back up was that banter Young had been entertaining us with throughout the past hour by telling us that to sing the fado song correctly, he had to become an honorary American Portuguese singer! And for a brief moment we really did believe we were sitting in a tiny run down café somewhere in Portugal, as Young sang with heartbreaking intensity his interpretation of “fado.” Then it was over, the audience left heartbroken, sympathetic and overwrought with emotion for the pain Young was experiencing on this the night of love. Well… don’t believe it, this guy is too much, he rips our hearts out, hands it to us on a heart shaped platter by singing a tear jerking, over the top, gut wrenching song, only to have him look out over the audience after the song is over and announce “Ok no more honorary American Portuguese singer.” The look of “What the F just happened ?“ is all over the audience’s faces. As Young proceeds to move on talking about how the next song was an obscure song, sitting in a vault gathering dust, with it’s intended release date to be sometime in 1969 and how that never happened.
Going on to mention that the finding of this song, is likened to finding a Rembrandt stashed away in a dusty attic somewhere in Amsterdam, Young continued on to say the name of the song is “Say No More.” However, he refuses to tell us the name of the songwriter until after he is finished singing it. “Those that weren’t here last night, and the night before try to venture a guess what it is!” Ah yeah right really Young guess who the songwriter is? Are you kidding us right now? We’re still trying to recover from the fado! The knife is still in our chests, we’re bleeding all over the floor, and you want us to guess the name of the songwriter? I’m telling you this guy is humorous. Something tells me he is mad funny in his day to day life. Right after finishing off the song he reveals who the songs writer was. Sorry I’m not going to tell you go to one of Young’s concerts and hopefully he’ll sing it the night that you are there! Young drawing a laugh from the crowd as he mused, “umm let’s bring it down a bit where in Cabaret that means sit on a stool.” Shortly thereafter we were served up a sexy, dazzling, bluesy rendition of “Since I Fell For You. Young certainly knows how to “bring it down a bit.” The atmosphere wasn’t down for long before Young shifted the song list from selections that emphasized his baritone, to those that showcased that falsetto he is so famous for sending through the roof when necessary.
Taking a brief moment to do a semi apology to those celebrating Valentine’s Day Young said ”By the way those of you who are here celebrating Valentine’s Day with a date please don’t get too bummed out because some of these songs are awful…just be glad you’re here with a date ….and therefore can hear break up songs…so all these songs are love songs.. just depends on your perspective.” Too funny!
Incidentally, not one Jersey Boys song in sight for the shift, in their place were “Hey There Lonely Girl” and “Who’s Loving You.” By the way, just before Young sang “ Who’s Loving You” he shared with us how when he become famous for playing another person famous for their falsetto. Hmmm, gee wonder who that was? That he would inadvertently be asked at the stage door “How did you know you had a falsetto?” and the answer would be something lame and not the correct answer to the falsetto question. However, after remembering back to the first cassette tape Young had purchased as a young boy of another little boy singing “Who’s Loving You,” that the logical answer came to light when realizing that after singing every single day along with the young boy to “Who’s Loving You.” “And as my voice changed I could still sing along with that little boy and of course I realized,” Young went on to say “you’re someone who has a falsetto.” That’s a bit of an understatement. It’s not just a falsetto, its an amazingly disciplined, beautifully trained instrument that Young gifted us with this evening.
Rounding the set out with a song not featured on the album was Dusty Springfield’s “Just One Smile” written by Randy Newman. Stand outs and my personal favorites were of course “Show And Tell,” Mel Carter’s “Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me“ and The Righteous Brothers “Unchained Melody. “ “Well , it’s time to wrap it up.” Young said as awes and sighs could be heard all around the venue. Young not missing a beat came back with,” Look.. here’s the deal … the sooner I wrap up “ Young then gives a look to the audience as if to say “It’s Valentine’s Day , you really should want me to wrap it up!” Young then went on to say that for those that didn’t have a date “ I don’t have a date either … therefore…I’m your date tonight… I have 25 dates!” HA! That brought cheers and whistles from the ladies in the venue. Just before singing his closing number “Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me,” Young recounted the story of the thrill of performing the song at one of Young’s recent concerts were Mel Carter was in attendance. Ending way to soon for the audience’s liking, Young finished, waved and walked off the stage only to return to sing a heartfelt encore “A House Is Not A Home,” which brought the crowd to its feet in a standing ovation in appreciation for an outstanding hour of great entertainment.
While Young gave 100% tonight, by the audience reaction the evening was over way too soon! One of the many joys of being in the audience of a John Lloyd Young concert is that Young is a solid performer. You don’t feel as if you’ve been sold a load of auto tuned vocals when you arrive at his concert and he sounds nothing like the album. Young’s vocals are the real deal- clear, concise and strong without an auto tune to be found. Nor does he hide behind his band and a hoard of back up singers, it’s all Young. If you have the opportunity to see him in concert you are in for a night to remember. Until then grab “My Turn.” It’ll hold you over until the opportunity arises!
Set List “My Turn”
- My Prayer
- Only You
- Ebb Tide
- Hurts So Bad
- Say No More
- Since I Fell For You
- Hey There, Lonely Girl
- Show And Tell
- Who’s Loving You
- Just One Smile
- Unchained Melody
- Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me
- A House Is Not A Home
My Turn is available on iTunes and Amazon
Image credit Andrew Stiles, courtesy of SCFTA.
Image credit by Lily Lim