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Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Calendar > Arts and Culture

Dion wanders to Woodstock

By Nathan Mayberg

By: Kevin Ferguson/Courtesy of Bethel Woods Center for the Arts
Dion performs Sunday at Bethel Woods Center for the Arts.
Fifty-eight years after Dion DiMucci formed Dion and the Belmonts and became one of the great icons in American music history, “The Wanderer” made his way to Bethel Woods Center for the Arts.
Dion lit a fuse last Sunday night that shook the crowd into the aisles and had them dancing to his doo-wop classics in front of their chairs on a cool summer night at the site of the original Woodstock festival.
He looked right at home as he sang with his blast of a backing group, the Belmonts having long ago disbanded. Some of Dion's biggest songs were actually backed by The Del-Satins.
Dion meant business from the first chords on his opener, "Ride with You," a pumped up electric guitar-fueled spectacle from his new album “New York is my Home”. Dion howled high notes as if he was the missing link of The Three Tenors.

He flowed right into his 1963 crowd-pleaser 'Donna the Prima Donna," which had the faithful singing along as Dion threw in soaring howls from right field.
He may have just turned 77, but DiMucci sounded as if he was shot straight out of a cannon from 1963.
His 1962 hit "Love Came to Me," found his backup group nailing the signature notes of those doo-wop words “shad-doy-ya-do” that the Del-Satins once sang. Meanwhile, Dion sang “I live in dreams, strange as it seems, love came to me. When I opened my eyes, I realized love came to me. Only this time for real.”
He didn't miss a beat as he switched from 1962's “Ruby Baby” to newer tunes like "Gangster of Love." Covers of Eddie Cochran's 1958 classic "Summertime Blues" and the 1950's anthem "Shake, Rattle and Roll" by Bill Haley and the Comets, had the crowd rocking.
Perhaps no song was more impressive than "I Wonder Why," the first hit for Dion and the Belmonts in 1958, and one of their most fun songs, with wild doo-wop parts captured by Dion's new group.
Saxophonist Arno Hecht stood out all night, taking over the stage with brilliant solos and hitting the key bass notes on vocals.
Dion introduced "A Teenager in Love" as a song he wrote when he was 17 that tells "everything you want to know about love." The crowd sang along as guitarist Al Korosy played impressive slide guitar with a mellow breeze in the air.
In between tunes, DiMucci reminisced about the old days.
He talked about his time with the legendary Buddy Holly, whom he befriended in 1958, but then lost in 1959 during the ill-fated Winter Dance Party Tour that Dion was a part of. Holly, Richie Valens and The Big Bopper all died in a plane crash. Dion called Holly a “visionary” who was only 22 at the time of his death.
DiMucci showed off his own guitar-playing chops, sitting down to play the blues on the acoustic guitar with piercing notes that sounded as he may break the strings with his force.
By the time he got to the nightcap with his two most recognizable hits, “Runaround Sue” and “The Wanderer,” the crowd was in a frenzy. Dion went into an extended electric guitar solo for the finale to bring the house down.
And the opener was no slouch either. Ronnie Spector, of the Ronettes, dazzled with a top-shelf backup group from the start with her former group's 1963 hit “Baby, I Love You” to the closing words of the Ronettes classic "Be My Baby."
Spector sent out goosebumps for her cover of the Johnny Thunders classic “You can't put your arms around a memory” which she recorded with the late Joey Ramone.
In between songs, Spector got emotional talking about her late sister Estelle, the former Ronette, on a night full of emotion.

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