Picnics canceled again! “Bennie & the Jets” perform indoors


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August 1, 2008
by John Ehrlich

For the third time in four weeks, the threat of rain during the town’s Wednesday gazebo concert forced the picnics indoors. Those who made the trip to the dry venue at Seven Bridges Middle School on July 30 were treated to a happy blend of Elton John’s music and top 40 treats from two bands.

Photos by John Ehrlich

“The weather wasn’t on our side this year,” said New Castle Recreation and Parks Assistant Superintendent Wayne Bass. “With thunderstorms predicted we had to err on the side of caution.”

Bennie & the Jets plus Bookends

Bennie & the Jets, the Springfield, Massachusetts Elton John tribute band salvaged the evening, however. Greg Ransom at the piano emulated Elton John at his most garish stage, complete with an outrageous outfit, a spotlight to shine on the crowd and an Oriental rug under the piano. Dressed in a black suit bearing gold and silver sequin stars, straw hat and sunglasses, Ransom belted out favorites from “Philadelphia Freedom” and a mellow rendition of John’s tame, but melodic first ballad “Your Song” to “Candle in the Wind” (the Marilyn Monroe, not the Princess Di version). The vocals sounded like Elton John’s, as one would expect, but the piano antics were something extra as the lead singer crawled under the ivories and kept on pounding the keys while singing.

The audience of 94 hardy souls, including many families with kids, sang along to “Crocodile Rock” and “Honkey Cat,” and at times danced in their seats.

The band’s title song, “Bennie and the Jets,” tells of a fictional band of which Elton John is a supposed fan. Bernie Taupin, John’s co-composer, has said that the song’s lyrics are a satire on the music industry, portraying the greed and glitz of the early ‘70s music scene. So it’s intentionally ironic that Elton John’s number one tribute band should select it as their title track. The song peaked at number one on the singles charts in 1973.

If you missed the band and want to catch them, consider their August 29 concert at B.B. King on 42nd Street in New York City, but be prepared to fork over $25. Unlike the New Castle Recreation and Parks concerts, it’s not free.
The concert opened with “Bookends,” which features Chris Brown and Joe Summo performing tribute standards from various bands, including Creedence Clearwater Revival. Started as a duo back in 1976, Bookends blossomed into one of Westchester’s top party bands and played together for about five years. After a hiatus the crew got together for reunion gigs. These shows worked well and the band regrouped to perform again this summer.

The Wednesday Concert Series was sponsored by Prudential Holmes and Kennedy Real Estate. “It’s nice to do something for the community,” said Diane Richards, a member of the firm, who attended with her 11-week-old charmer, Grace.

Photos by John Ehrlich

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