Thursday, January 26, 2017

In the Pocket delivers crowd-pleasing night of Philly music history at World Cafe Live

Concert review

In the Pocket delivers crowd-pleasing night of Philly music history at World Cafe Live
By Andy Vineberg, staff writer 
Bucks County Courier Times
Jan 26, 2017 


You know all those music awards shows that feature an all-star jam at the end of the night? David Uosikkinen's In the Pocket project is like that for an entire concert — only all of the musicians have Philadelphia connections. 

Uosikkinen, long-time Hooters drummer and Bristol Township native who is celebrating 50 years in music in 2017, brought In the Pocket to World Caf√© Live Wednesday night, and his ever-evolving lineup of area musicians delivered a dynamic, crowd-pleasing set of songs near and dear to Philadelphia. 

The project has recorded and released 15 "essential songs of Philadelphia," each accompanied by a behind-the-scenes making-of video from South Jersey producer Steve Acito. All are worth listening to and watching, but it is onstage where these songs really come to life. 

Wednesday's show started with an emotional tribute to recently deceased Soul Survivor (and ITP regular) Richie Ingui. Before the music began, the video for the making of In the Pocket's 2016 rendition of the O'Jays' "Back Stabbers," which featured brothers Richie and Charlie Ingui of the Soul Survivors on lead vocals, was shown on the large screen behind the stage. (That song also paid tribute to legendary area guitarist TJ Tindall, who played on the original "Back Stabbers." Tindall was an In the Pocket regular who died a week before the band recorded the song). 

Following the video, the entire ensemble — more than 20 musicians in all — took the stage, fronted by Charlie Ingui for a (pardon the pun) soul-stirring performance of "Expressway to Your Heart." An emotional Ingui, who was clearly moved by the enthusiasm of the crowd, sung with the intensity and passion of a man a third his age, and the other musicians fed off his energy.

It was a true show-stopper ... and it was only the first song of the night. 

From there, the concert was one giant party, nearly two and a half hours of great songs and great performances. Most of the songs had direct ties to Philadelphia, but others were just all-time classics that the musicians clearly had a blast performing (such as Kenn Kweder fronting "Like a Rolling Stone," Richard Bush fronting "Suffragette City" and Jeffrey Gaines fronting "(What's so Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding" — all among the night's many highlights). 

More than 30 years after the heyday of Philly new wave favorites The A's, Bush remains one of the most dynamic rock 'n' roll frontmen in the city's history, splendidly working the crowd on the Dead Milkmen's "Punk Rock Girl" (alongside Tommy Conwell), as well as David Bowie's "Suffragette City" and the A's own "A Woman's Got the Power." (You can catch Bush's band the Peace Creeps when they open for the Plimsouls Re-Souled Friday at Boot and Saddle). 

Other highlights included Ben Arnold fronting Robert Hazard's "Change Reaction" (introducing the song with, "there's been a lot of change lately, and a lot of reaction"), Beru Revue guitarist Greg Davis singing his band's "It's Good to be the King," Kweder's boozy version of the late Billy Paul's "Me and Mrs. Jones" and a double dose of Todd Rundgren classics — Gaines fronting Nazz's "Open Your Eyes" and Cliff Hillis' note-perfect "I Saw the Light." 

While the night was largely about celebrating the past with musicians who have been on the scene for decades, there were a few nods to the present, most notably in the presence of big-haired, big-throated 18-year-old throwback Joey Ditullio, a South Jersey native who was awarded the opening slot after the Ingui tribute and delivered a raucous version of Cinderella's "Shelter Me," as well as a cool performance of the Stories' 1973 hit "Brother Louie," featuring bassist Kenny Aaronson, who played on the original.

The night also featured a song from the current lineup of still-active 1980s South Jersey-based power pop band Smash Palace — original member Stephen Butler on vocals and guitar, Cliff Hillis on rhythm guitar, Fran Smith Jr. on bass, Wally Smith on keyboards and Uosikkinen on drums. 

The celebration of the city's musical history was not limited to rock and R and B — the setlist included an infectious version of the Trammps' dance classic "Disco Inferno," fronted by Graham Alexander, who showed his versatility by following that up with Little Richard's "Lucille." 

Tommy Conwell dominated the end of the show with a blistering five-song set, including his own, seemingly impromptu tribute to Richie Ingui with his "If We Never Meet Again," before most of the ensemble returned to the stage for an encore of the Hooters' "Beat Up Guitar" and its appropriate refrain, "The town that rocked the nation, Philadelphia, Pa."

The night was not without a few extremely minor technical hiccups, but this did nothing to detract from the flow of the show and, if anything, added to the loose, unscripted feel of the evening. With 20-some musicians coming on and off the stage throughout the night and lineup changes before nearly every song, it's amazing the whole thing ran as smoothly as it did — a testament to the musicians' professionalism and passion for the project.

(My favorite "unscripted" moment of the night was Conwell having to good-naturedly ask Uosikkinen to "slow it down, Dave" at the start of his "Everything They Say Is True.") 

Overall, it was a great night of music and Philly pride — Uosikkinen deserves serious praise for starting this project in 2010 and repeatedly bringing all these musicians together (and for being the only one who never left the stage — at one point even playing through a mid-song repair to his drums.) 

In the Pocket's next show is April 15 at the Ardmore Music Hall.

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