What’s wrong with a night of music that lets you revisit the innocence of youth, even if it’s sheer nostalgia?
Nothing, as evidenced by a concert Thursday by Herman’s Hermits starring Peter Noone as the penultimate show in the Sounds of Summer Series at Quakertown’s Univest Performing Center.
Peter Noone of Herman's Hermits performs Thursday at Quakertown's Univest Performance Center (JOHN J. MOSER/The Morning Call)Peter Noone of Herman's Hermits performs Thursday at Quakertown's Univest Performance Center (JOHN J. MOSER/The Morning Call)
Noone and his four-man band played a 75-minute set jammed with 23 songs that included 11 of the 14 Top 20 hits the band had during its 1964-69 heyday. And it threw in a couple of covers by contemporary bands such as The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and others.
It was a relaxed, fun night and Noone made it that way – still boyish at 70, bounding on stage in a light-blue three-piece suit with his mop of blond hair to start with the band’s 1964 breakthrough hit “I’m Into Something Good.”
Hits made up the bulk of the set, and nearly all stood up exceptionally well – its 1964 Top 5 cover of Sam Cooke’s “Wonderful World,” “Silhouettes” and “Dandy” – a perhaps underappreciated hit that added more punch than Herman’s Hermits’ usual songs.
And the band made it clear that Herman’s Hermits may be underappreciated as a whole. It’s Top 10 hit “A Must to Avoid” was very good – extremely hooky, and clear source material for the sound that made The Monkees such a big hit just a couple of years later.
As if to prove that point, Herman’s Hermits just two songs later covered The Monkees’ “Daydream Believer.” And while Noone isn’t quite Davy Jones vocally, the band did the song well.
But Noone clearly is a performer. He went out into the crowd of more than 900 often – at one point early in the show for a three-song stretch, then again twice later for single songs.
He also did a lot of joking commentary, riffing on playing an outdoor theater in the small town of Quakertown with an impressive amount of local references.
And, of course, there were the jokes about age. Noting there were some younger people in the audience. “We were expecting a bunch of old people, to tell you the truth,” he said. “This is a pleasant surprise.”
Later, he said he had no worries about people rushing the stage: “There’s no one here going to be able to rush the stage,” he said. But with the crowd, and given the band now has performed more than 50 years, it was appropriate and not overdone.
As can be expected in a show of so many songs, Herman’s Hermits included covers. Its B-side cover of Frankie Ford’s “Sea Cruise” mashed with Johnny Rivers’ “Rockin’ Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie Flu” also was sung from the audience and became an audience sing-along.
It did The Beatles’ “All My Loving,” The Yardbirds’ “For Your Love” with a minute-long drum solo, and Manfred Mann’s “Do Wah Diddy Diddy,” which actually a really good song, but was performed as a throw-away. But Gerry & The Pacemakers’ “Ferry Cross the Mersey” fit so well, it could have been a Herman’s Hermits song.
On a cover of The Searchers’ “Love Potion No. 9,” the crowd sang along, even though it wasn’t Herman Hermits’ song. The band even did The Rolling Stones “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” – which Herman’s Hermits’ “Mrs. Brown You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter” displaced at No. 1 in 1965.
And on acoustic guitar, adopting a southern accent, Noone played the 1965 B-side “Travelin’ Light” and mashed it with Johnny Cash’s “Fulsome Prison Blues,” even playing harmonica.
The group also dipped a bit deeper in its catalog, singing “The End of the World,” the B-side to its hit “I’m Henry the VIII, I Am” – with Noone again going into the crowd to give out T-shirts, CDs and even a vinyl album. And its 1966 lesser single “No Milk Today” actually was among the best songs of the set.
And that was good, because occasionally other Top 10s didn’t hold up as well. “Just a Little But Better” sounded dated.
But it’s a wonder that, with all that filler, the group passed over its Top 10 hits “This Door Swings Both Ways,” “Leaning on a Lamp Post” and even its final Top 20, 1967’s “Don’t Go Out Into the Rain.”
But it closed with a strong run of hits. “Listen People” was sung slowly, nicely and gently, with good instrumentation. “Can’t You Hear My Heartbeat” was very good, and still fun. And “Mrs. Brown You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter” was as good as ever.
The main set closed with “I’m Henry the VIII, I Am,” and by the third verse, it became a crowd sing-along stretching to six minutes as Noone again went into the crowd to urge people to sing.
The encore was Herman’s Hermits’ 1967 gold hit “There’s a Kind of Hush,” and it was a fitting close – a song that warmed the spirit after a night that took the crowd back to the innocence of youth.
The Sounds of Summer Series at Univest Performance Center concludes Aug. 23 with Little River Band. Tickets, at $22.09 for general admission, are available at www.eventbrite.com. VIP tickets nearest the stage are sold out.