Hoboken music store Guitar Bar, led by owner James Mastro, invited a crowd to gather at Sinatra Park for its eighth free play-along concert on July 21. The 98 F heat did not deter a large group of people to turn out, blending their voices and guitar prowess as one and elevating our mood. Indeed, this event showcases the power of music to heal and connect us.
Mastro — accompanied throughout the evening, on various instruments, by Larry Heinemann, Boo Reiners, Keith Hartel, Tom Costagliola, Jeff Surawski, Tom Warren, Orion Turre, Jonpaul Pantozzi and others — opened with Bob Dylan’s “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door.” The simplicity of Mastro’s rendition was beautiful. Boats sailed by behind him, the sun blazed on us all, volunteers held up chord charts and when the crowd sang with the band, I was moved not only by Dylan’s deeply evocative song, but also the crowd’s peaceful purpose. In a world fractured by divisions, that was a perfect moment.
As I stared at the Manhattan skyline behind the band at a neighborhood that usually calls to me, I felt like there was no better place to be, right then, than Hoboken.
Mastro injected his trademark humor into the show several times, including when he called for security in response to a toddler who ran back and forth in front of the performers, brandishing a tiny, polka-dotted guitar.
The energy on the stage changed to a fever pitch when Tammy Faye Starlite sang a blistering version of British indie punk duo Wet Leg’s “Chaise Lounge,” accompanied by Hartel, Heineman and Mastro.
Reiners fronted the band on soulful renditions of Jimmy Reed’s “Baby What You Want Me to Do,” and Neil Young’s “Are You Ready for the Country?”
Hartel rocked out to Neil Diamond’s “Brother Love’s Travelling Salvation Show” with a healthy dose of gospel, and Iggy Pop’s “Lust for Life” (written by David Bowie). Tom Warren sang The Beatles’ “The Ballad of John and Yoko,” featuring Mastro on keyboards, and Jackie Wilson’s “(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher.”
The evening closed with The English Beat’s “Save It for Later,” led by Heinemann of the Karyn Kuhl Band, and Mastro’s enthusiastic version of T. Rex’s “Bang a Gong (Get It On).”
As in previous years, the show represented an attempt to organize the world’s largest band. While several hundred people gathered, they fell well short of the record, which is 953.
The show is part of Hoboken’s Concerts in the Park series and one that I look forward to every year. Visit hobokennj.gov.
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