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“Extraordinary!” Dion LIVE! at the Count Basie Center for the Arts

NEWS | FEATURES | PREVIEWS | EVENTS

By Spotlight Central, Photos by Love Imagery



originally published: 07/25/2022

After a two-year pandemic delay, the audience inside Red Bank, NJ’s Count Basie Center for the Arts auditorium this Thursday, July 14, 2022 evening is patiently awaiting the start of a long-anticipated performance by rock and roll icon, Dion.

Recalls Paul from Asbury, “I grew up listening to Dion and have way too many favorites to list, but I’ve seen him before and he’s just great.” Neva from Asbury reveals, “My favorite Dion song is ‘The Wanderer,’ but all of his music is such a nice stroll down memory lane.” Kristine from Ocean Grove concurs, adding, “Dion never disappoints, and the Count Basie Theater is such a great place to hear live music.”

The crowd cheers as the house lights dim and Dion’s musicians — saxophonist Arnold Hecht, guitarist Joe Menza, keyboardist Dennis DiBrizzi, bassist Eddie Denise, drummer Gary Weiss, and guitarist/musical director, Al “The Jersey Kid” Korosy — take their places on stage.

Hecht announces, “Hello, Red Bank! Are you ready to rock and roll? Put your hands together for Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, Dion!” Audience members stand and cheer as Dion takes the stage. “Everybody say ‘Yo!’ exclaims Dion, and the crowd responds with a hearty “Yo!”

Opening with the upbeat blues rocker, “I Got My Eyes on You Baby,” Dion’s voice rings out full and clear as he sings, “Hey, pretty baby, gonna rock tonight/Have some fun, gonna feel alright/Yo, I haven ‘t seen you, baby, in a long, long time/Hey, you look good, you blow my mind.”

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The band energetically backs Dion’s vocal before Al Korosy channels Chuck Berry on his guitar solo and Hecht plays a bluesy and fun tenor sax solo.

The crowd cheers and Gary Weiss’ drums start off Dion’s next tune, “Donna the Prima Donna,” a number which features four-part vocal harmonies and Dion’s patented 1950s-era sound.

Swirls of light on the screen behind the band add to the mood of “My Baby Loves to Boogie.” Dion’s vocal slides and whines before guitarist Joe Menza plays a sassy solo and Hecht is featured on a low rocking tenor solo on this modern blues number.

Dion welcomes the crowd exclaiming, “Jersey! Peace be with you! This next song is from my latest album, Stomping Ground.” Heads bop and feet tap on the minor blues song, “Dancing Girl,” as Dion sings, “The room was dark but I could see her there/Her face was lost inside her flowing hair/She was my dancing girl,” and Joe Menza follows up with a sweet guitar solo.

Dennis DiBrizzi’s keyboard solo and Arnold Hecht’s sax solo elaborate on this slow funky tune’s straightforward melody.

Audience members whistle and cheer to Dion’s stellar performance of his 1959 hit “Ruby Baby,” where three-part harmonies ring out on the “Ruby, Ruby, Ruby baby” backup vocal.

Dion announces, “We’ve got a play that’s on a Broadway track, and there’s a song in it that says you don’t know what you have until you lose it.” Here, he and the band perform “Serenade,” a slow number on which Dion sings with feeling, “I never saw my hometown until I stayed away too long/I never heard the melody until I needed the song,” to avid applause.

Following his upbeat rocker, “Ride With You,” Dion announces, “In four days, I’m gonna be 83!” joking, “I thought getting old would take longer!” After recalling, “I put this next song together on the street corner, and it still contains everything you want to know about love,” Dion and the band launch into his 1959 classic, “Teenager in Love,” the audience happily singing along on the ubiquitous “Why must I be a teenager in love?” rephrase

Dion tells the crowd about how some of his songs derive from “rhythmic percussion,” explaining, “You take a syllable and you make a record!” After demonstrating with examples like, “Bah ba-ba bah ba-bah ba-bah bah,” he and the band perform his 1959 debut single, “I Wonder Why.”

Opening with the famous, “Dun dun dun da-dun dun-da dun dun” intro, Dion and Co. turn back the clock for the crowd with the song’s nostalgic “I wonder why, I love you like I do/Is it because I think you love me too? lyric. Both he and the band impress with their top-notch vocal performances which inspire music lovers in the audience to cheer on their feet.

Following the rockin’ blues shuffle, “Take It Back,” a fan yells out, “We love you, Dion!” The band leaves the stage and Dion takes a seat with his acoustic guitar to perform the bluesy “Built for Comfort.” Following avid applause, Dion talks about Stomping Ground, the blues album he recorded at the beginning of the pandemic with artists including Jersey’s own Bruce Springsteen and Patti Scialfa. Launching into “Angel in the Alleyways,” Dion sings, “There’s angels all around, I know, don’t you?” as Eddie Denise’s bass and Gary Weiss’s drums propel the song ever forward.

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Dedicating his next number to all the men and women in the US who keep us safe, Dion performs his 1968 folk-rocker, “Abraham, Martin and John.” His voice cries out as he sings, “Anybody here seen my old friend Abraham? / Can you tell me where he’s gone?” Audience members stand and cheer for his poignant performance by him.

Dion exclaims, “I love this town!” before introducing his fellow band members, grabbing his electric guitar, and performing the funky rocker, “King of the New York Streets,” which features both Korosy and Menza on guitar solos along with Wright’s sax punctuating the song.

After explaining, “I grew up in the Bronx where ‘surrender’ was a dirty word, but there is a ‘sweet surrender,’ which means running to someone who loves you unconditionally,” Dion and Co. perform “Sweet Surrender.” Dion sings with feeling, “I thought I was bad and I had to get good/I thought I was smart but I misunderstood/Felt I was weak and I had to get strong/I was sure I was right then I found I was wrong ,” on this heavenly tune.

Audience members explode with cheers and applause when they recognize the opening chord to Dion’s 1961 #1 hit, “Runaround Sue.” After Dion croons the rubato “Here’s my story, it’s sad but true” intro, the tempo shifts and the crowd stands and dances at their seats, clapping and happily singing along on the song’s famous “Keep away from Runaround Sue” refrain. As the musicians continue to rock, Hecht plays a rolling sax solo while blue and purple lights shine down on the band.

The crowd whistles and cheers as Dion and Co. segue into one of Rolling Stone’s “500 Greatest Songs of All Time,” “The Wanderer.” Music lovers in the house join the party emanating from the stage with Dion leading the way crooning, “They call me the wanderer/Yeah, the wanderer/I roam around, around, around.” As lights dance over the audience, the crowd continues to clap along to the rockin’ rhythm before Dion waves “goodnight” and exits the stage leaving music lovers cheering for more.

As audience members make their way out of the auditorium, we chat with several concertgoers who share their thoughts on Dion’s performance this evening. Exclaims Michael from Toms River, “I loved it! He was in a better voice than ever. He is just spectacular, and the musicians around him are fantastic, too.” Matt from Toms River agrees, adding, “Dion sounds awesome, and he has so much energy, too,” before concluding, “I loved hearing all of his classics from him, but I loved hearing his new music from him, too.”

Carol from Freehold recalls, “I first saw Dion at Palisades Park when I was 12 years old. I’ve been a fan for 60 years, and Dion does not disappoint — he only gets better with age.” Rich from Monroe Twp. agrees, adding, “He’s amazing — he still sounds great!”

Whereas Mark from Livingston calls Dion’s performance tonight, “Fabulous,” before admitting, “I’m planning to see him two more times,” Chris from Keyport notes, “At age 83, Dion is vibrant, beautiful, and entertaining,” and Terry from Keyport contested, asserting, “He’s still fresh!”

Donna from Neptune contends, “Dion’s performance tonight was delightful! Along with the classics, I love his new music,” explaining, “I enjoy listening to him sing the blues — I hear him all the time on the radio,” prior to acknowledging, “I bought these tickets two years ago for my son’s 20th birthday. He just loves Dion.” She declares Donna’s son, Evan, now 22, “Dion slayed it! This show was absolutely worth the wait.”

Lastly, we chat with Jill from New York City who asserts, “Dion’s performance tonight was beyond my expectations! To hear the iconic Dion singing live was amazing, and I love how he’s evolved into his new music from him, ”confessing,“ It made me very emotional, ”before concluding,“ He’s just extraordinary! ”

To learn more about Dion, please go to diondimucci.com. For information on future shows at Red Bank’s Count Basie Center for the Arts — including Herb Alpert and Lani Hall on July 29, Art Garfunkel on October 21, and Holiday Doo-Wop with Kenny Vance and the Planotones, Jimmy Clanton, The Crystals’ LaLa Brooks, and more on December 3 — please click on thebasie.org.

Photos by Love Imagery

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