review by Janet I. Martineau
Imagine, in selecting a theme for a concert, ending up with a possible playlist of 800 songs.
“One Hit Wonders,” which opened a three-night run Thursday, showcased upwards of 30 pieces of music with an unusual legacy -- each was its singer/group’s only recording to appear on the Top 40 record chart, which makes it a hit.
Thankfully the group performing this concert is not a one-hit wonder. Grefe, Gaus, Grefe, Gottlieb, Roberts, Gottlieb, Grefe -- among them a husband and wife, two father/son combos and a lawyer with a singing voice to die for -- formed three years ago to raise money for the Saginaw Choral Society.
And what their fans have been treated to ever since, and again last night, is rock-solid musicianship -- tight vocal harmonies, soaring guitars, good-natured ribbing, solo riffs that shine, a playlist that is a grabber.
So what was on that “One Hit Wonders” playlist in the performance at Pit and Balcony Community Theatre. Rock, novelty tunes, country. I mean, who can forget such ditties as “The Bird Is the Word,” “Hot Rod Lincoln,” “Werewolves in London.” Or groups named Semisonic, Stampeders, Deep Blue Something and King Harvest.
If there was a complaint about the evening, it is that not every song title/performer/year was announced, and there was no program since the band wanted to maintain the element of surprise. We have named a few; the years spanned 1962 to 1995. The audience reaction varied as some knew the songs and others didn’t.
But either way, enjoying the aforementioned musicianship was a no brainer. Tim Grefe spoke/sang “Hot Rod Lincoln” as Dennis Gottlieb’s red-hot guitar provided fun sound effects. “Dancing in the Moonlight” featured that dynamite trio of voices belonging to Tim Grefe, Andrew Grefe and Stephan Gaus. “Walkin in Memphis” was a treat with Tim Grefe on vocal and wife Tamara Grefe on keyboards.
Tim Grefe, Andrew Grefe and Gaus teamed up in an eight-minute “Schtick” medley that included the novelty songs which, judging from audience reaction, EVERYBODY knew and loved.
From time to time the ensemble added in some guests -- Mike Brush on keyboards, Honesty Murrell on vocals, Steve Rodriquez on sax -- that enhanced the sound. Murrell’s vocals in particular were noteworthy, when she soloed and when she chimed in with the others (as she did so strongly with Tim Grefe on “Venus”).
The first two concerts from this group featured The Eagles last year and Crosby, Stills, Nash the first year -- meaning there was, in a sense, a unity of sound and style in the first two outings.
This one, by its nature, ranged all over the musical map in terms to sound and style -- and in the process taxed this band in delivering such goods. It was, sometimes, exhausting in watching the demands made on them vocally and instrumentally. They, sometimes, very briefly, even seemed unsure themselves as they started a number. But zap, they were soon right into it.
Go enjoy...if there are any tickets left for the last two shows. See how many of the songs you do or don’t recognize -- and how little that really matters, we were surprised to learn, in enjoying a concert to the fullest.