Our Boys of Summer: Shawn Mendes and Hall & Oates

Every year near the end of summer I start to dread the imminent arrival of fall and cooler weather. The weather forecast is unacceptable to me unless it’s warm enough to leave for work in the morning without a coat and still warm enough to come home at the end of the day without a coat. The minute the temperature starts to require me to add layers to my clothing, I’m pissed and depressed. Not enough to make me want to move to Florida, but enough to make me wish it could be summer all year long. As the summer of 2019 nears its end, I decided to send it out with a bang.

My 13-year-old daughter recently expressed interest in going to her first concert. She’s currently listening to Shawn Mendes nonstop, so on August 28 I took her to Shawn’s concert at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia for a late birthday present. I’m not a fan of much of today’s pop music, but I’m happy to say that Shawn’s show was full of energy and he really knows how to work the crowd. In a pop music climate filled with electronic loops and Auto-Tune vocals, I was thrilled to see that Shawn doesn’t just use the guitar as a prop, he actually plays it. Vocal effects were used sparingly, as a supplement rather than a necessity. He can sing his ass off, so he doesn’t need the gimmicks. It was also a thrill to watch thousands of young fans singing along to his songs with the same fervor as if they were on stage with him. After fearing for the future of good, catchy pop songs, I am quite relieved to see that at least one member of the next generation of musicians is making sure that catchy hooks won’t go away any time soon. The expression on my daughter’s face during the show was well beyond worth the price of the tickets. I’m pretty sure she’ll remember that night forever.

My daughter’s first concert: Shawn Mendes

Megan at the Shawn Mendes concert August 28, 2019

Now back to the subject of the end of summer depressing me. I decided that I really needed a one-two punch to end the summer on a high note. After taking my daughter to her first concert to see her current musical hero, I decided I would take her to see a concert with two of my all-time greatest musical heroes, Daryl Hall & John Oates. She’s seen the new kid in town, so I thought I would expose her to the greatest musical duo of all time (in my opinion at least). She knows many of their hits by heart simply via osmosis because I listen to them so much. So off we went to Hall & Oates’ August 30 show in Atlantic City at The Hard Rock’s Etess Arena. I’ve seen Hall & Oates many times since I first saw them in the eighties. I’m elated to report that instead of just phoning it in as many veteran acts seem to do, Daryl & John are at the top of their musical game. Sure, it’s still a greatest hits show for the most part (with the exception of the rarely played “Is It A Star,”) because let’s face it, when you have as many hits as these guys do, that’s what most of the crowd wants to hear. It’s been a few years since I’ve been to a Hall & Oates show, but I’m elated to report that their performance is still superb. The hits often featured fresh arrangements while still staying true to the core essence of each song. The fresh arrangements don’t distract the listener, they simply breathe new life into the classic songs. I wanted to show my daughter what the masters of pop music can do, and Daryl & John did not disappoint.

And so our boys of summer cheered us up in only the way that music can. Shawn Mendes showed me why my daughter loves his music, and Hall & Oates showed my daughter why they mean so much to me, and that — in her words said with genuine enthusiasm– “those old guys can really still rock.” I’m pretty sure that’s high praise from a 13-year-old.

Hall & Oates live at the Etess Arena August 30, 2019
At the Hall & Oates concert, August 30, 2019

“Blinded by the Light” Movie Premiere in Asbury Park, NJ August 7, 2019

It was a magical night in Asbury Park, NJ. After scoring tickets with the help of Backstreets.com and 1iota.com, my aunt and I made the trip to Asbury Park for the Blinded By The Light red carpet premiere and party. Thunderstorms were in the forecast, but the rock & roll gods kept the rain away until after the fans waiting outside made their way into Convention Hall.

It was a thrill experiencing the movie in a theatre packed with Springsteen fans who cheered at all the right moments. Watching the film in the same room as Bruce and those who made the film was a once-in-a-lifetime joy that I’ll never forget. The movie isn’t just about a young man who discovers Bruce’s music, it’s about finding a sense of belonging in the world and pushing forward to live your own best life while still trying to hold onto your family and those you love despite all of the obstacles in your way. Most timely of all, it’s about rising above hatred, and how music can bring people together and change the world.

In addition to the film’s director, the author whose book the film is based on, and many of the actors, Bruce himself walked the red carpet with his wife, Patti, and later played four songs with Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes at the after party at Convention Hall. Just like Southside’s song says, at the end of the night I found myself saying “I Don’t Want To Go Home.”