Kicking off with a dynamic 12-string-powered explosive rendition of their 1973 hit, “I Wanna Be With You,” Raspberries played their first live concert together in over three decades, one year ago today. On November 26, 2004, the reunited Raspberries delivered a blockbuster performance, generously drawing from the band’s four acclaimed albums—Raspberries, Fresh, Side 3 and Starting Over.
Fans from around the globe including Japan, England, and the Netherlands converged to witness this historic reunion.
“It was just mind boggling,” recalls Carmen. “We have some very special and devoted fans who’ve followed this band and stayed with us all this time.”
The Cleveland Plain Dealer bared eyewitness to the historic event saying, “Raspberries were back in season Friday night—finally!—at the House of Blues in downtown Cleveland. A reunion concert by these hometown rock ‘n’ roll heroes drew 1,200 fans from across North America. Tickets sold out in a scant 15 minutes. The reunion itself, however, was a long time coming.
“When lead singer Eric Carmen, guitarist Wally Bryson, bass player Dave Smalley and drummer Jim Bonfanti last performed together on The Mike Douglas Show in 1973, Richard Nixon was in the White House, the Watergate scandal was in the news, and The Way We Were was playing at the movies.
“‘We always knew it would feel so right,’ Carmen sang. Judging from the deafening applause, the feeling was mutual on the part of the baby-boomer audience. ‘Starting Over,’ ‘Let’s Pretend’ and ‘Overnight Sensation (Hit Record)’ exemplified the group’s ‘power pop’ sound. The music was stacked with catchy melodies, Beatlesque harmonies and hard-hitting grooves.
“Two and a half hours after they played their first notes together in over 30 years, as the climactic final chords of their smash hit, ‘Go All The Way’ echoed throughout the halls of the newly christened venue, the verdict was in, Raspberries delivered the show of a lifetime.”
A lot can be said about Raspberries’ first public performance in over 30 years. “I almost started to cry during the first couple songs,” revealed original Raspberries roadie Kevin Dugan. “They were really fantastic. They started out on a high note and though it seems impossible they kept going higher. From what I witnessed, that show exceeded everyone’s expectations, they were that good. Everybody hit their mark perfectly. It was a dream come true.”
“I was nervous,” admitted Wally, “but I was excited at the same time. Once we started playing it was obvious that the crowd was totally ours. It was a great night! We just nailed it.”
“It was pretty amazing,” agreed Eric. “I remember having my back to the audience on that stage before the curtain opened and I felt like we were four guys in a trench in a war about to get shelled. It wasn’t really stage fright. I don’t get stage fright. In fact, I’m more comfortable up on a stage than just about anywhere else. It’s just that there’s a certain adrenaline rush right before you hit that first chord and that was really there for everybody. We all did a little handshake as we walked on stage behind the curtain.
“Someone might have said, ‘Go get ‘em, boys.’ From the reaction of the audience, I guess we did.”
“Sitting at my drum set behind the curtain as the pre-concert video played got me real excited,” enthused Jim. “I remember thinking, ‘Wow! This is gonna happen here in just a moment!’ Watching the curtain rise as I played the opening drum roll of ‘I Wanna Be With You’ was an emotional moment. I get a little choked up thinking about who was there—especially my daughters—for them to see the band together was just huge for me. It meant everything to me. The good news is that I couldn’t see them, because if I could I would have had to struggle to hold the tears back.”
“After the show, I was completely exhausted,” added Eric. “In fact, I don’t know when I’ve ever been so exhausted—just emotionally drained. It was just about as much fun as I have ever had up on a stage.”
“I knew that we had a full house,” added Dave, “but aside from our family and about twenty old friends, I didn’t know what kind of crowd it would be. Needless to say, I was overwhelmed by the crowd’s reaction to that first show. It was a real accomplishment! Everybody was just thrilled that the band had done well and that it was such a successful event.
“It was emotional, it was crazy, it was insane, but it was fun. When I was up on stage and looked into the crowd there were people just jumping up and down. They didn’t care what they looked like—they could have been 53 years old but were acting like they were nineteen—and I say right on!”
Garnering raves from press and fans alike, the band’s triumphant reunion show went so well that this one-off reunion was extended into a 10-date national trek dropping anchor in such locales as New York City, Chicago, Denver, and Los Angeles.
To the boys in the band: Eric Carmen, Wally Bryson, Dave Smalley and Jim Bonfanti; the Overdubs: Jennifer Lee, Paul Sidoti and Billy Sullivan; the crew: Kevin Dugan, Ernie Kassoff, Al & Denise Kaston, Adrienne Lewis, Rusty Pitrone; photographers Janet Macoska and Gene Taylor; my co-author and Raspberries reunion co-conspirator: Ken Sharp, and Raspberries fans everywhere: those lucky enough to have been there and those who wished they were... Happy Anniversary!
In my lifetime I have seen just about everybody worth seeing: The Who, Led Zeppelin, the Stones, Queen, McCartney, Springsteen, Aerosmith, U2, Elton John. You name ‘em, I’ve seen ‘em. But seeing Raspberries onstage performing two hours of some the finest power pop music of all time was by far the greatest (and unabashedly the most emotional) concert I have ever attended.
Webmaster, EricCarmen.com November 26, 2014