Light of Day ‘Kickoff’ show includes uplifting Mr. Reality/Highway 9 reunion

mr. reality reunion

PHOTOS BY CONNI FREESTONE

From left, Rob Tanico, Peter Scherer and Gordon Brown at House of Independents in Asbury Park, on March 10.

Williams Honor previewed songs from their upcoming eX album at the House of Independents in Asbury Park, March 10. But the group, led by lead singer Reagan Richards and guitarist Gordon Brown, also looked to the past, during their set, in the form of a feel-good reunion of Brown with Peter Scherer and Rob Tanico.

The three harmonized in the Shore-based bands Mr. Reality, Highway 9 and Samhill in the ’90s and 2000s; this year, in fact, marks the 30th anniversary of their first album together, Mr. Reality’s self-titled 1992 debut, on the major label, SBK. At House of Independents, they sang that album’s “Waiting for September” as well as Highway 9’s “Casanova,” from that band’s 2002 album What in Samhill? (also on a major label, Epic).

“Nothing feels more ‘home’ than this here, right now,” said Scherer towards the end of “Waiting for September.”

(You can watch a video of these two songs, below.)

The show — which also featured The Weeklings, Big Hix and the duo of Bri LoBue and Matt Lindia — was billed as the “Kickoff” concert of this year’s Light of Day WinterFest. Even though there were some WinterFest concerts last weekend, March 10 was the first of four busy days of Light of Day shows that will continue through March 13, with most of the action concentrated in Asbury Park (though the main concert will take place March 12, at the Count Basie Center for the Arts in Red Bank).

Williams Honor at House of Independents, March 7.

Williams Honor sometimes performs as an acoustic duo featuring Richards and Brown, but the House of Independents crowd got to see them at full force, supplemented by six other musicians (guitarists Ron Haney and Bobby Mahoney, guitarist and banjo player Scott Bradoka, keyboardist Arne Wendt, bassist Brian Gerty and drummer Tom Cottone). The big sound works well with Richards’ big voice, and eX songs such as “First Comes Love, Then Comes Damage,” “I’ll Be Damned” and “I Can’t Wait to Be Ashamed” are both catchy and full of attitude — a good mix for contemporary country radio.

The band also played old favorites such as “No Umbrella” and “Send It to Me” and capped their set with Jimmy Cliff’s “Trapped,” using an arrangement close to the one Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band have used since they started covering it in the early ’80s. (LoBue played the Patti Scialfa role, adding the crucial high harmonies in the chorus.)

They added a banjo to the arrangement of “Trapped,” too, which is kind of the opposite of what The Weeklings did in their set, taking the country flavor out of The Beatles’ “I’ve Just Seen a Face” and delivering it as a fast, hard-hitting rock song. The Weeklings also played the Beatles songs “The Word” and “Baby, You’re a Rich Man” (putting their own spin on these, as well), but stuck, mostly, to their catchy, Beatles-influenced originals.

Both Williams Honor (acoustic) and The Weeklings will perform at the main Light of Day concert, March 12. For a complete listing of all Light of Day offerings, visit lightofday.org.

Light of Day has raised more than $6 million for the fight against Parkinson’s Disease and related disorders since its inception, more than 20 years ago.
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UPDATE: Due to illness (not COVID-related), Steve Forbert will not be able to perform with his band the New Renditions, in the March 11 Light of Day concert at House of Independents (James Maddock will replace him) or the main concert, March 12, where he had been scheduled to play a solo mini-set (Miss Emily will perform in that slot, instead).

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