Comets wow at Moon River Theatre

12 Jun

I admit, I didn’t really know too much about Bill Haley and the Comets until last night.

After a couple of drinks at Andy Williams Moon River Grill, I caught the Comets show over at Andy’s theatre. I forget what an impressive theatre Andy owns. It’s huge and the interior is decorated with pieces from his art collection. Japanese kimonos hang on one wall. A collection of BIG works of modern art hang on the sides of the auditorium and the proscenium, which frames the stage, is a work of art itself.

 A short video introduces the Comets and offers up a short rock and roll history lesson. Then suddenly the video stops, the curtain rises and the original Comets – as they are billed – take the stage signing their hit, “Shake Rattle and Roll.”

The first thing that entered my mind … ‘Damn they are old.’ Well, don’t start dialing me up yet. They are old. The lead singer and front man of the legendary group is 72, and he’s the young one. Dick Richards and Joey D’Ambrosio are only original members of the classic group who remain in this production. Bill Haley passed many years ago and several different versions of the group have toured under the name throughout the years. The group sold more than 80 million records during their half-century careers.

Joey, 72, plays a mean saxophone and handles many of the vocals. Dick Richards, 86, beats the drums like a hyper kid on a sugar high. Both impress. The crowd at Moon River clapped, danced and sang along the entire show. Veteran performers on standup bass, guitar, and keyboards join the original members onstage. I didn’t realize how many tunes the Comets made famous. Rock around the Clock, Mombo Rock, Crazy man Crazy, Shake Rattle and Roll and If the house is a Rockin,’ just to name a few.

 Throughout the hour-long show the band reminded the audience of simpler times when drive in movie theaters and lovers lane were king; When malt shops and slow dancing reigned supreme. The crowd swayed back and forth in their seats when the band let loose with Lost in the 50’s Tonight. Old couples placed their heads on their spouse’s shoulders and spooned in their seats. I love it when old folks hold hands and sneak a kiss or two in the dark. That’s love.

 At one point in the short show, Dick launches into a six-minute drum solo. It seemed like he either didn’t know when to quit, or simply couldn’t stop the run-away train that was his percussion solo. The crowd leapt to their feet with a standing ovation for his efforts. The show ended with the group’s most famous tune, Rock Around the Clock. Dick Clark, they inform the audience, called the song “America’s rock and roll anthem.”

 Rick Hirst, 61, and his wife, Fern, 60, traveled from North Carolina on a Honda Gold Wing to get to Branson. The Burley Idaho couple told me they loved the Comets trip down memory lane. “I’m amazed that these guys can still get up and do that stuff,” Rick laughed. “We used to do that kind of shaking when we were younger, when we were kids. You know … dance and wiggle around like that.”

“Our kids would have been so embarrassed,” Fern added. “I’m shocked they still have the strength and stamina and breathe to do that stuff.”

“I’m worn out just watching,” Rick said.

Fern and Rick both said they are still big fans of music from the 1950s and ‘60s. It’s the music the couple grew up listening to. “A show like this lets me remember our younger years and when you graduated from  high school,” Fern explained. “I can’t help but love it.”

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