April 24, 2010, Connecticut-
Bernie Williams and his band performed at the Wolf Den, Mohegan Sun’s open concert area that will also hosts such names as Jordin Sparks and American Idol’s Kara DioGuardi this summer. When we first arrived about a half hour prior to show time we immediately noticed the very long line outside the Wolf Den. This venue works on a “first come first serve” basis. The word of Bernie’s appearance apparently spread quickly as word had it that people had been lining up since 2:00 pm that afternoon for an 8:00 pm show! The seats were filled up quickly with people lining up all around the venue to catch the show any way they could. We’ve been to shows at the Wolf Den before, and the situation is such where people tend to gamble and watch the show in passing. It couldn’t be more different for this show. From where we sat, we saw that the people lined up around the theater did not plan to leave at all and lose their spots. They stayed the entire show, which lasted approximately 90 minutes.
Chants of “Bernie Williams” (a la the New York Yankees roll call) engulfed the theater as Bernie took the stage. He smiled at the energy and the band quickly transitioned into their first number, “Moving Forward,” the title track from Bernie’s newest album. It was a bold start with a lot of energy and smiles. This will be the running theme throughout the review. From when we first took a look (and listen) to Bernie’s band it was back in October of last year. In just a short time Bernie and his band have gelled together nicely. There is a cohesion and camaraderie amongst all the performers. Bernie’s confidence in his musical performance is also shining. It really comes over in the concert and the crowd was certainly feeling it.
Bernie’s band consists of a keyboardist, two drummers, guitarist, bassist, two brass players (saxophone and trumpet), and a singer. The guitarist was none other than the well known, “Chieli Minucci.” During Bernie’s, “La Salsa en Mi” there was a great group solo between Richie Cannata (the music director and saxophonist), Chieli, and Bernie. They played off each other in a way that made you feel they were communicating completely with their instruments in a musical language. Watch for it when you go to a show.
Bernie, at certain points in the show would talk about the next number and about his music in general. I think the audience wanted more of Bernie’s anecdotes though regarding the songs he performed. This will give them more of a connection to the music.
Eren Cannata brought in some vocals to the jazz instrumental band with Jon Secada’s “Just Another Day.” This is a great song, and Eren has just the right sound and passion to take on the solo. It would be a great addition if the songs with vocals were more evenly dispersed amongst the song lineup so as to keep a balance between completely instrumental numbers and ones with vocals.
For an open theater, the sound was strong, although some people in the back said they couldn’t hear certain portions of the show, particularly the singing. The setting may also have caused some feedback sounds on the brass at different points which overwhelmed the general flow of the show.
During Ritmo de Otono, one of our favorite songs (although it’s tough to choose one favorite!), Richie Cannata impressed with his fast finger work on the saxophone. It’s a solo you’ll want to hear. It would be fun if Richie had a banter with Bernie and spoke too at times in the show.
The finale was emotionally charged and so energetic with all the performers coming together to really wow the audience. That wasn’t all though. Bernie came back out on the stage to sign off with his signature, “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” At this point everybody came up near the stage to take pictures and of course sing along.
We really enjoy seeing how much Bernie’s passion is coming alive through his music. His confidence has increased and the audience can’t help but be drawn into his musical world. Keep on the lookout for when Bernie Williams and his band will be in your neighborhood. Attend a show, you’ll be so glad you did.
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