Andy Williams Opens At Arts Center
Asbury Park Evening News
By Marybeth Allen
August 6, 1968
HOLMDEL TOWNSHIP – If only he’d quit the comedy.
A good film editor would cut out the corny jokes, the phony homey touches.
And if Andy Williams is a good showman, he’ll skip the sidekicks that don’t quite go over.
He’s a singer. And he’s great. Now if he would only realize that he doesn’t need the crutches of all that lame humor.
Last night he opened his six night stand at the Garden State Arts Center. “I’ve never seen any place quite so large,” he told the capacity crowd, “I feel like I’m inside Jackie Gleason’s stomach.”
He has the image of being a clean cut “boy next door” type. And he shattered it. “Actually, I’m a swinger,” he commented…which makes you wonder what’s so bad about being wholesome.
So much – temporarily – for the quips and tales. He dedicated to the audience his rendition of Born Free. It echoed to the rafters and ended with a thunderous burst of applause. The audience was his.
But he shattered the mood. And for the rest of the pre-intermission program, it might well have been the Peter Nero Show. With elaborate gestures, the pianist plinked and pounded. The background and his suit were black. His hair was grey. It was dramatic and great…if you like that sort of thing.
Unfortunately, he seems to feel that to impress the audience, he must distort the songs. The simplicity of Simon and Garfunkle’s Sounds of Silence came over best. But he didn’t quit while he was ahead. There followed a medley of favorites from The Sound of Music – played in such a style that the musical’s greatest fans couldn’t identify them for sure.
Nero and his rhythm duo played Climb Every Mountain in a more jazzed up temp than Shore audiences had ever before heard. They sacrificed the song to show their talents. And it almost didn’t go over. Then the symphony joined in. There was identity – inspiration – and a peak had been reached.
With Williams for the program’s second half were the Osmond Brothers. If you’ve never heard of them, you will. The five brothers from Salt Lake City are one of the brightest, most promising groups to come along in years.
And when it comes to the sixth, applause brings the house down. The barely three feet tall four year old kid with a Herman Hermit style haircut stands smack in the middle of the stage and belts out I Dig Rock and Roll Music just like a pro. It’s another case of the biggest laughs going to the smallest guy. And chances are he’ll be coming up in the world fast.
Meanwhile, back to the Andy Williams Show. When he returned to the stage, he had changed from blue suit to white slacks, striped down the side with red and blue piping. And topping them was a brilliant blue pullover.
With the casual clothing came a casual, informal mood. He was the Andy Williams the crowd wanted him to be. He launched the concluding portion with We Can Fly. And the show went up up and away…leaving the audience wishing that his talents hadn’t been wasted earlier on the humor and clichés.
“I don’t get to sing to live audiences too much anymore,” he noted. “And it was a real pleasure to be introduced by a person instead of a peacock.”
The knack of live contact came back. He was playing to the audience, not just singing for himself. With outstretched arms, he sang Dear Heart. And the audience was again his. This time he held onto it.
He did Hawaiian Wedding Song and the mood was set by lighting effects that were among the most outstanding the arts center has had to offer. He prefaced Danny Boy with the words “I hope I never have to sing this to my son.” And if you listened to the audience instead of to the lyrics, you could tell that they were truly touched. You could tell by the nervous coughs and the restless stirrings.
And the audience was won by the song Andy Williams calls his all time favorite. It’s from West Side Story. And it’s Somewhere….there’s a place for us.