“Yacht Rock”: The words conjure images of stuffy, ascot-adorned, wealthy individuals on insanely large boats, or perhaps Ted Knight’s Judge Smails character in the comedy cult classic, “Caddyshack.”
Recently, however, “Yacht Rock” has taken on a different meaning with a new feel. There are no boats, no salt air, no stuffy sailors. In their place are captain hat-wearing, mostly middle-aged denizens who are transported back to their youth via what was once classified as adult contemporary or soft rock music.
This summer’s Rock the Yacht 2019 Tour featured ’70s rockers Ambrosia and others in a two-hour, time-travelling, memory-evoking show that featured something for everybody. Music, it’s said, can make you laugh, dance, sing or cry. It can take you back to your youth, a first kiss, a first dance or joyrides with friends.
At Rock the Yacht shows at at The Mayo Performing Arts Center in Morristown, Aug. 20, and the Music Box at Borgata Hotel Casino and Spa in Atlantic City, Aug. 24, Ambrosia performed its own songs but also remained onstage throughout the evening as the house band for classic acts such as John Ford Coley, Denny Laine (of Wings and The Moody Blues), Elliot Lurie (of Looking Glass) and Peter Beckett (of Player and the Little River Band).
The Morristown concert opened with a pair of songs from Ambrosia, one of which was the megahit, “You’re the Only Woman (You & I).” They quickly ceded the stage to Lurie, whose first offering was the King Harvest hit, “Dancing in the Moonlight.” Lurie then brought out a surprise guest, Looking Glass drummer Jeff Grob, to perform, “Jimmy Loves Mary Anne” and one of the most-played rock songs of all time, “Brandy (You’re a Fine Girl).”
An Ambrosia interlude was next, featuring a staple found at many a wedding reception cocktail hour: “How Much I Feel” got the crowd dancing in the aisles, and was followed by a comedic introduction by drummer Burleigh Drummond for the next performer.
Coley took the stage and instantly began telling stories from the road. He also spoke of his former partner England Dan Seals, who died in 2009. Coley wasted no time getting laughs from the crowd before breaking into “Nights Are Forever Without You,” followed by “We’ll Never Have to Say Goodbye Again,” “I’d Really Love to See You Tonight” and the Todd Rundgren-penned, “Love Is the Answer.”
Coley was energetic and crisp, and the only act to receive a standing ovation when his set was finished. The crowd ate up his talent like the finest caviar onboard this now rocking ship.
Ambrosia took over once more and did a spectacular version of Bruce Hornsby’s “The Way It Is,” featuring keyboardist Mary Harris (Hornsby was an Ambrosia member in 1982). This brought the first half of the show to a close.
After a 2o-minute intermission, Ambrosia opened the second half with The Beatles’ “Magical Mystery Tour.” Laine was up next and he did not disappoint. Ending his three-song set with “Band on the Run,” he created a definite highlight of this greatest-hits evening and one that had the crowd singing along from start to finish.
After another spoonful of Ambrosia, Beckett confidently strutted upon the stage and amused the crowd with anecdotes from his past. He then drove down memory lane with a three-song set that included Player’s “Baby Come Back.”
The final helping of Ambrosia came in the form of 1980’s “Biggest Part of Me,” which wrapped up the main set of the show. The ensemble returned for the encore, which was really the only blemish on what was otherwise a night of smooth sailing. It seems there was a mishap with modern technology as the tablet that apparently had the lyrics in plain view went on the fritz. So the first song (which this reviewer was unable to decipher) quickly became a rockin’ blues jam. After a short pause, the musicians broke into a far more familiar piece led by Drummond’s pounding of the skins: Led Zeppelin’s “Rock and Roll.”
The impressive thing about these types of shows is not only the performances by these experienced musicians but also the response from those in attendance. The mostly 50something demographic had its smattering of 20- to 30somethings as well. Yet age didn’t matter as all sang, swayed and danced in the aisles. Music leaves impressions and strikes chords, and many on this night laughed and reflected, and some even cried.
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