John Lloyd Young Rings In the New Year A Few Days Early!
By Michele Black
“We changed up the order of the songs this evening based on what we felt was best received at the D.C. show,” Tony Award winner John Lloyd Young shared with me after his 8th smash, sold-out show at Sterling’s Upstairs at The Federal in North Hollywood. I attended the show in Washington D.C. and knew exactly what Young was referring to when he mentioned how enthusiastically this evening’s song selection was received in D.C.
Please indulge me as I take a moment to share my thoughts on his D.C. show that I attended on November 20, 2015. Over 500 loyal fans from all walks of life and from around the world converged on the Terrace Theater at The John F. Kennedy Center for The Performing Arts. Young’s fans adore him – that was apparent from the moment I arrived at the Terrace Theater where the foyer was a buzz of activity. Fans who have become friends through their mutual admiration, respect and love for this multi-talented man were excitedly awaiting the start of the show and chatting about spotting John Young around town and their interactions with him. Many who have seen Young on previous occasions on Broadway in the wildly successful musical “Jersey Boys”, and at Young’s earlier concerts in New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco had made plans to meet up in Washington D.C. There for one reason only – to once again experience what Young does best, entertain and bring the music!
Young made his D.C. cabaret solo debut as part of the Barbara Cook’s Spotlight series, and what an amazing debut it was. Young dressed gorgeously in a black tuxedo that I later learned from him was the tuxedo he wore starring as Frankie Valli in one of the scenes from Clint Eastwood’s film “Jersey Boys.” Young walked out to cheers and whistles from an elated audience, waving and blowing a kiss out to his fans. Young’s choice of “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” from his Jersey Boys days as his opening number brought thunderous applause from the appreciative Young/ Jersey Boys loving crowd. “Thank you so much! We waited 11 months for this time to come,” John Lloyd Young shared. At one point Young suggested everyone close their eyes to savor the moment, to which the audience responded “No!” The expression on Young’s face was priceless! The always witty and eloquent Young responded without missing a beat, “Well that was the most flattering refusal I’ve ever had!”
“All right, let’s imagine you’re closing your eyes, make a wish, let it go, cause I’m telling you I’m as excited to be here tonight as I hope you are. So, let’s take this moment right now to reflect on the fact that it’s all still ahead of us.” While Young may have sung “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” and then moved right into his rendition of the Platters’ “My Prayer”, the reality was for two hours Young’s fans couldn’t and wouldn’t take their eyes off him!
Right after “For Your Love” Young expressed his gratitude to the audience for coming out from all over the globe to be in attendance in D.C. and shared how he loved performing there in our nation’s capital and how much he loved being an American. “This is a fantastic city. I’m so proud to be an American when I’m here. Everything here reminds me of how proud I am to be here.” Young, no stranger to the D.C. area, was appointed by President Obama to the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities in 2013 and has been extensively involved over the past two years in the Committee’s “Turnaround Arts” project, a program that endeavors to use art education as a catalyst to help turn around our country’s struggling schools. Young’s fans appreciate that he uses his gifts and talents to better society. He also encourages them to do the same – Young leads by example.
In the spring of 2015 Young, along with Erich Bergen, Michael Lomenda, and Vincent Piazza, had the honor of performing for the Prime Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe and Mrs. Abe at the State Dinner in their honor at the White House. Clint Eastwood’s film “Jersey Boys”, in which Young, Bergen, Lomenda and Piazza all starred, was well received in Japan and was a favorite of the Japanese Prime Minister, resulting in the appearance of Young and the others at the White House State Dinner. Clearly the feelings are mutual – Young loves D.C. and D.C. certainly loves him!
“Another thing that I can’t neglect to do is, I didn’t see these guys in the hallway before we came in, so I wish you a great concert” referring to the band. Young was accompanied in D.C. by his musical director, the talented, Grammy- nominated Thomas Faragher and a dynamic combo of local D.C musicians that set the theater on fire musically, consisted of Bob Dodelin on Bass, Jim Roberts on Bass, and Frank Carroll on Drums. Young shared that he and Faragher had only met them the day before the concert, but were so impressed by their talent and musical expertise that they would definitely be using them again upon their return to D.C.
One of Young’s qualities and what I believe endears him to his fans, is the way he interacts with them; how he comes prepared not only with a knowledge of the music he is presenting, but with encouraging words he conveys to his audience. There’s always humor, history, an interesting tidbit of knowledge and information that he loves to impart to his fans. I love that about him. I’ve always left his concerts learning something new about the music he’s chosen to sing and the venue where he performs.
Young’s knowledge, wit and intelligence as well as his talent keeps drawing his fans back and D.C was certainly a testament to that. For example, regarding the history of the Terrace Theater where he was performing that evening, Young shared that the theater was a gift from Japan to the United States and that the United States Ambassador to Japan has the same last name as the man in whose honor the center was built. I found that pretty witty because he was referring to Caroline Kennedy without saying her name. Young then quoted Kennedy from a speech she made at the Democratic National Convention regarding kindness and decency, “Not only do we need a prosperous economy, but we also need a prosperity of kindness and decency.” Young took that opportunity to say “I want to thank all 500 of you for being exemplars of kindness and decency tonight.” Not many performers take the time to thank their audiences, some barely interact with them. Not so of Young – he was particularly gracious in expressing his gratitude to all who were in attendance.
Moving on to the music, a standout for me was when Young sang “In The Still Of The Night” and decided to use that opportunity to walk out into the audience and greet the crowd. He made quite a few fans’ hearts flutter by shaking their hands, hugging and sitting next to them during a musical interlude in the song, during which where he instructed the audience to “Turn around there’s nothing to see back here!”, as he redirected their gazes back to the amazing band on stage.
Another fun, surprise moment came when Faragher and Young were discussing Young’s meeting up with “The President” while out in D.C. “The President”, as it turns out, happened to be the president of his fan club, who apparently in the course of their conversation encouraged Young to include “Sherry” in his set list. Young agreed! Now standing before us he was insistent on our participation! Of course we all complied! Kudos to his fan club President for being in touch with Young’s fan base well enough to know what would make them happy. It was a hit! It was a nice touch in light of Jersey Boys celebrating its 10-year anniversary on Broadway.
Pulled from Young’s album “My Turn” were my all-time favorites, the gut wrenching, emotionally charged “Hurt So Bad”, and “Show and Tell.” Two new song selections not on “My Turn” made the D.C. song list. “I’m Almost There”, written by Faragher and confidently performed by Young, is my favorite of the contemporary selections. “Alone Together”, a collaboration by Young and Faragher, contains lyrics that speak of people being alone in separate places in front of a computer screen, cell phone, etc., but at the same time, through technology they can still maintain a sense of togetherness. I can’t wait until both those songs are recorded. I have no doubt they will be hits. Rounding out my favorites for the evening hands down was when Young brought out that beautiful falsetto and owned Smokey Robinson’s “Who’s Loving You”, “Ooh Baby Baby” and Earl Shuman’s “Hey There Lonely Girl”. Standing ovations abounded as Young brought his audience to their feet on four separate occasions. First for Dusty Springfield’s “Just One Smile”, followed by the gorgeously presented Righteous Brothers “Unchained Melody” and the third ovation was for an absolute crowd thriller “Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me.” Such wonderfully eclectic music selections that Young made his own.
Lastly, Young earned his fourth standing ovation of the night with his choice of “A House Is Not A Home” for his encore, and what a great selection. Young sang richly and with such depth you could feel the emotion of the song as he skillfully drew his audience into the desperation of the lyrics; beautifully done and simply gorgeous. I must not forget Young treated the audience to a little change of pace and did justice to rock icon Paul McCartney’s “Maybe I’m Amazed”. I first heard him sing it back at Sterling’s Upstairs in October. I was really happy to hear it find a place on Young’s D.C set list.
All in all, it was a glorious, triumphant debut for Young and I was thrilled to be a part of it. Two hours, 24 songs (one in Mandarin) and four standing ovations later, the always charming Young had the audience eating out of his hands and begging for more! It was truly an amazing night of music and entertainment by an extraordinary performer, and one Young can certainly be proud of!
Fresh off the success of his D.C. show Young returned to Sterling’s Upstairs at The Federal in North Hollywood to bring in the New Year a few days early and once again as he did seven times in the past year, sold out the venue in a record breaking half hour! Who waits in line since 3 a.m. on a cold December morning on the streets of North Hollywood? You do, if you’re one of the many die-hard John Lloyd Young fans who came from as far as Japan, Russia, England, Germany, Brazil, and all parts of the United States determined to garner a coveted seat for the chance to participate in the magic that is Young’s sold-out concerts, up front and personal!
My first acquaintance with Young and his fans was back at his first sold-out Sterling’s concert in October of 2014. Then, as with his December 29th show, fans had traveled from all over the world to see him. Many of them have followed Young since his Broadway debut in Jersey Boys where he originated the role of Frankie Valli, making history in 2006 as the first actor in theater history to win all four theater awards in the same year: the Tony Award – Best Actor in a Musical, Drama Desk Award – Best Actor in a Musical, Outer Critics Circle Award – Best Actor in a Musical, and Theater World Award – Outstanding Broadway debut; all for Jersey Boys.
Little did I know when I first reviewed Young’s Sterling’s Upstairs show that I would go on to travel not only to North Hollywood, but to Orange County , San Francisco, Washington D.C. and in a few weeks to New York City for a total of an astounding 12 times in less than a year in support of Young’s music. The past few shows at Sterling’s have taken on a different spin leading up to his performance in D.C. with the inclusion of several new songs not on his “My Turn” CD.
With outstanding musical direction from Thomas Faragher on piano, and accompanied by Alan Deremo on Bass and Charlie Paxson on Drums, this powerhouse trio launched Young into an hour set of fantastic music that kept the house engaged, rocking and mesmerized; it was an incredible evening. Taking the stage to thunderous applause Young began his set with the always beautiful Platters hit “My Prayer” captivating the audience with his expressions of kindness and fun banter. Young went on to thank everyone for being at Sterling’s, as well as thanking those who attended and made his D.C. show a success.
Turning then to acknowledge a group of fans that had traveled internationally from Japan, Young held up hand-written notes in Japanese welcoming them to his concert. I had the privilege of sitting up front and loved watching the expressions of the international fans that were experiencing Young’s concert for the first time. Loved that when he would sing to them, they’d giggle and put their hands over their face. Completely adorable! He really does have quite an effect on his audience.
Mixing things up a bit Young featured eight selections off his “My Turn” CD opening with “My Prayer” then “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” much to the delight of the Jersey Boys fans. What he did next was what was the most fun. Saying that the light was in his eyes and that he couldn’t see the audience past the first ten feet, he decided to come out into the audience as he did in D.C., moving off the stage and into the crowd amidst cheers and gasps from his fans. Young, smiling, blew us all away with that commanding falsetto as he sang “In The Still Of The Night.”
Returning back to the stage to dish up plenty of heartbreak with the soul crushing “Hurt” and “Hurt So Bad”, Young unleashed that spectacular baritone and treated the crowd to the romantic “Ebb Tide” and “Unchained Melody” – it was just pure musical bliss. “Show and Tell” will always be my personal choice. I loved the energy and also the banter around that particular selection – Young had this to say and I’m paraphrasing, “This next song if I don’t sing it … I always hear from several of you.” I confess I’m one of those several that he hears from if he doesn’t play it! I love it that much!
Joking with the audience that he was trying to make them believe that the next song was a tear jerker, Young enlisted the help of the audience to sing “Sherry” insisting that he couldn’t possibly do it without their full participation. And just like in D.C. the crowd went wild and Young rewarded their enthusiasm by not only singing “Sherry” but doing the dance steps that went along with it from Jersey Boys. For that the audience in turn gave Young a rousting standing ovation
Shifting gears and winding the show down, Young selected two songs that were absolutely gorgeous – one he sang in Mandarin – “Ming Ri Tian Ya” (If Tomorrow Comes) a song about a dying man trying to comfort his lover, and another “You Take My Faith Away” which is particularly emotional simply because the betrayal of love and trust that is interwoven throughout the song is so wrenching “You Take My Faith Away” was gifted to Faragher and Young by composer Dennis Lambert and Young performs this song to heartfelt perfection. I’ve heard Young perform this song several times, and it never fails to bring tears to the eyes of some in the audience. Another contemporary tune that has been added to Young’s list and sung with his own brand of sassiness is “Almost There” penned by Faragher and absolutely crushed by Young.
Faragher and Young’s collaboration “Alone Together” was up next; this song speaks right to the heart of loneliness that often accompanies times of isolation. Young sings it in such a way you get the feeling that he identifies with and has lived a part of what he’s singing. Those who listen to this poignant song come away with an element of hope that, while they may be alone at the moment, there is always a chance of connection from behind the screen. It’s a gorgeous, heartfelt song and perfectly suited for Young.
Thank you John Lloyd, for another memorable evening, I look forward to seeing you at the Café Carlyle in New York in February.
- My Prayer
- Can’t Take My Eyes Off You
- In The Still Of The Night
- Say No More
- Hurt So Bad
- Ebb Tide
- Ooh Baby, Baby
- Show and Tell
- Just One Smile
- Unchained Melody
- Ming Ri Tian Ya ( If Tomorrow Comes)
- You Take My Faith Away
- Almost There
- Alone Together
- Who’s Loving You?
Get yourself a copy of John Lloyd Young’s CD “My Turn” available at the links below; you’ll be glad you did!
Ticket information for the Café Carlyle February 9- 20, 2016
Contact information for Mr. Young:
Dona R. Miller
Dona R. Miller, Inc.
Tel: 323 774 2768
Email for business inquiries only: