January 4, 2015

John Lloyd Young Holds ‘Em, Thrills ‘Em, Kills It in NoHo

January 4th, 2015

Photos by Kimberly Wilshire, Carol Boyd, Stubbleyou

By Stubbleyou, West Coast Jersey Boys Blog Correspondent

John Lloyd Young has been treating his West Coast fans to a busy performance schedule lately. Just having completed three sold-out concerts in four days, he had previously given back-to-back performances a few weeks before that. We asked JB Blog West Coast Correspondent Stubbleyou to give us his impressions of those two mid-October concerts in North Hollywood.

The eleven o’clock number became the eight o’clock number.

The show began with the familiar opening strains of “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You,” as John Lloyd Young appeared at the back of the room, making his way through the audience and reaching the stage at the end of the first verse. It was his way of saying “This is who I was,” but with the dozen or so songs that followed, he showed us “This is who I am.” Stepping out of the August Wilson’s spots and Clint’s kliegs into a new light all his own, the chanteur extraordinaire delved deep into the catalog of love songs from the fifties and sixties to redefine himself with a set list that showcased his talent, passion, style, and range in ways new to most.

But that was eight o’clock. The evening started much earlier, with fans lining up well before the appointed doors-open time of six-thirty. These two shows at Sterling’s Upstairs at the Federal had sold out in minutes, so it was no surprise that the excitement level was all a-buzz-buzz-buzz from the get-go, fostering introductions, chit-chat, and tale-swapping among those waiting in the warm California sun. With time to spare I walk the line and meet husbands and wives, mothers and daughters, aunts and nieces, granddaughters and grandmothers. Pairs of sisters, and lots of friends. Old fans and new fans. They came from New York, Massachusetts, Georgia, Utah, Arizona, and more. Some had seen the stage production of Jersey Boys over a hundred times, others had never seen it but had seen the movie fifty times or more. (A very few had seen neither; one of those thought “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” was by the Everly Brothers. Go figure.) And they were about eighty percent female, not that I noticed.

In the furniture business, a piece has to be a hundred years old before it can be called an antique. JLY suggests that at age fifty-plus, the songs he selected for this show and for his CD “My Turn” can rightfully be called standards. And so they were, not just because of their age but because of their beauty and their timelessness. Many have been recorded by dozens and even hundreds of different artists.

John established immediate rapport with the audience and held it for the entire evening. Early on during “Only You,” one of two songs by the Platters in the program, JLY strolled through the audience, exchanging one-on-one smiles, handshakes, and shoulder pats with virtually everyone in the intimate 100-seat venue. The blue-eyed soul of the Righteous Brothers’ Bobby Hatfield also appeared twice, in our brown-eyed handsome man’s moody renditions of “Ebb Tide” and “Unchained Melody,” which has been recorded by over 500 different artists. JLY seemed relaxed and comfortable throughout, showing a connection to his songs that can only come from his passion and respect for them.

John was surrounded by an ubercomptent group of musicians. At far left on keyboards was his musical director Tommy Faragher. Next was a guitar, then drummer Pete Thomas, a 2003 inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as part of Elvis Costello and the Attractions. Completing the quintet were a bass and a very versatile violin. The band provided lush and varied accompaniment to JLY’s voice appropriate to each tune, and also chimed in once in awhile with background vocals and harmonies.

We gained some new insight into JLY’s passion for his music when he sheepishly but enthusiastically described himself as a “music nerd,” delighting in showing us how the ending of an obscure Roy Orbison tune he just finished was identical to that of another much better-known song from The Big O (yes, that really was Roy’s nickname). He also shared interesting anecdotes and factoids about others of the songs he performed. How one was a minor hit in its original format in which a girl sang about a boy but after being “gender-switched” became a huge hit for a male artist singing about a girl. How one song exemplified a particular South American genre of pop tune dealing with the painful side of love. How the composer of another, well into his 90’s, is still out there peddling his wares.

A picture is worth a thousand words, right? Well sometimes a word, or a few words, can say a lot too, so let’s cut to the chase: JLY’s delivery of these songs was nothing short of spectacular. Perfect. Beautiful. Other words overheard throughout the evening were wonderful. Captivating. Mesmerizing. Odd as this may sound, I am particularly taken with JLY’s vibrato, which happily was featured many times throughout the evening, as it is in the Jersey Boys movie, where Clint Eastwood insisted all the singing be recorded live, with no auto-tune or other electronic enhancements. It beautifully combines the precision of digital and the warmth of vinyl, and is so soothing it can lower your blood pressure. When you look up vibrato in the dictionary, there ought to be a picture of JLY’s larynx.

There was a special treat for the audience on the second night. Mel Carter, whose classic “Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me” is a crowd and personal favorite from JLY’s repertoire, was in attendance. John introduced him just before singing a truly electrifying rendition of that song, and a rousing standing ovation followed. You could feel the love and admiration. Now JLY had let on the night before that Mr. Carter would be coming, so – forgive my own partial nerdity here – I sent myself scurrying around the house rummaging through my old 45’s. (If you don’t know what a 45 is, ask your mother. Or someone over 45.) Eureka! I found a couple of Mel Carter records, including my favorite, “When A Boy Falls In Love,” as well as a few early Four Seasons singles, and I will tell you that I am their original owner just as proudly as if I were talking about a ‘58 T-bird. After the show Mr. Carter – I can’t bring myself to call him Mel – was kind enough to autograph it and chat about his days as Sam Cooke’s protege as well as his upcoming projects. A personal thrill for me. The icing on the cake – not that it needed any – was also getting Johnny Y’s Johnny H on the “Sherry” single on Vee-Jay records, a piece of petroleum by-product, I realized later, that is older than he is.

No collection of sixties standards is complete without something from Hal David and Burt Bacharach, and JLY chose to complete his set – and his CD – with their “A House Is Not A Home,” the title song from the 1964 movie of the same name. Delivered more in the style of Luther Vandross’ 1981 version than the original by Dionne Warwick (who else?), this is the cut you want to play for people unfamiliar with JLY’s voice. In the last two and a half minutes, he hits some low notes lower than any you’ve heard him hit before. From there he scampers effortlessly upwards to his more familiar falsetto, landing every hemisemidemiquaver precisely where it needs to be along the way. Amazing range, how sweet the sound.

And speaking of those low notes, I’d love to hear JLY interpret Bill Medley, that other Brother from the Righteous mother, in his best known lyric, “You never close your eyes … anymore when I kiss … your lips….” JLY is one of the few who could sing both parts of the Righteous Brothers’ catalog. Hey, how’s this for an idea? He could perform one part of one of the RB’s classics, say, “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling” or “Soul and Inspiration,” record it live on one of those looping devices like Jimmy Fallon did on his show with Billy Joel, then later in the program play it back and sing the other part, harmonizing with himself. What do you think?

After the show JLY showed his trademark appreciation for his fans by chatting individually with anyone who wanted to, giving each his full attention and establishing or reinforcing that personal connection that so many of his fans feel toward him. He also showed relaxed patience autographing all sorts of things fans had brought along, from CD’s to books to full-size movie posters to, in the case of one happy music nerd, an old vinyl record that has now become a new souvenir.

John Lloyd Young will be back in SoCal next month for three concerts at the Segerstrom in Costa Mesa.


  1. Great article; brought back fondmemories of that night in October. Oh what a night!

    Comment by Helen — January 4, 2015 @ 10:20 pm

  2. Although I wasn’t at the October shows, I was there one week ago (December 28) and I can tell you that John Lloyd Young was as “blow your mind” fabulous at that show as at the earlier ones. Stubbleyou catches the electricity of the evening, giving the areader a wonderful “you are there” reflection. Kudos, Stubbleyou! You honor yourself and your subject with your spot on writing skills!

    Comment by Cheryl Blevens — January 4, 2015 @ 10:21 pm

  3. Good job, Stubbs!

    Comment by Nancy D. — January 5, 2015 @ 12:26 am

  4. Great review Steve! It was just as magical as you described.

    Comment by Kathy Reed — January 5, 2015 @ 2:40 pm

  5. Steve, this is so beautifully written!!! Now I must see a show.

    Comment by Carolyn Miller — January 5, 2015 @ 7:20 pm

  6. I am from the UK and seeing JLY perform is on my “bucket” list. Your article only highlighted the importance of this. I only hope he is going to perform again at the venue sometime this year and Ill be there- no matter what!!!!

    Comment by Wendy Boult — January 6, 2015 @ 6:48 am

  7. I have never been to a JLY concert (but I would love to attend one). This review brought me as close to a concert as I can get without actually being there. Thank you so much for the wonderful article.

    Comment by Karen Brendel — January 6, 2015 @ 7:58 am

  8. So many Jersey Boys correspondents we now have to divide them between East Coast and West Coast! haha

    Congratulations Steve! What a stellar recap of the night. Makes me want to be there with you all. Glad John is doing well and making the magic that made him famous in the first place. He’s a master of his craft. Looks like you have a new side job now, too!

    Comment by Gary — January 8, 2015 @ 2:06 am

  9. What a great article, Stubbs. Wish I could be out on the Coast more often, but unfortunately I’m being sent East rather than West these days. Maybe JLY will consider a show across the pond?? So happy JLY is doing these shows, and gathering more and more and more fans and so much more notoriety (not that he needs it).

    You gave such a marvelous summary of the program, Stubbs. JLY can cover both parts of “You’ve Lost that Lovin’ Feeling”?? How about both parts of Johnny Cymbal’s “Mr. Bass Man” first?? Not an “antique” yet, the “kid can sing.”

    And why so nebulous about the the tune that became a big hit after gender reassignment? Ruby and the Romantics took it to No. 23 on Billboard and No. 34 on Cash Box in 1963, but we both know that Ruby’s “day had come” earlier in the same year. Not such a minor hit..presumably Ruby sold about half a million copies…but yes, Eddie Holman’s, Robert John’s, and John Lloyd Young’s covers are more well-known!! Ruby and who again???

    Now who is the composer in his 90′s? Bob Gaudio is still a few decades too young, but according to the categorizaion of entities over 50, is an “antique” already. Don McLean is still short, and Berry Gordy is close as is Burt Bacharach, but no cigar yet!! Stubbs, I’m Stubbed!!

    It’s so so nice to read you on the JB Blog again, Stubbs, and I so miss collaborating with you. I’m hoping I’ll get to see you in NY for the 10th anniversary on November 6. I’m hoping wonderful Jersey Boys fan leaders Linda SooHoo and Audrey Rockman are in the early planning stages right now!!

    Comment by Howard — January 8, 2015 @ 6:14 pm

  10. Great job Steve! Beautifully written! Every show I have seen so far has been nothing short of breathtaking. The combination of his amazing voice, acting skills, handsome face, and sweet heart are a winning combination. The only bone I have to pick is the line about his voice lowering blood pressure…..nothing about JLY lowers the blood pressure for any fan I’ve talked to. ;)

    Comment by Dawn Deines — January 11, 2015 @ 3:27 am

  11. Like the Wendy Boult I am also from UK and seeing JLY live is a must do for me ! This review has reinforced that. Excellent review thank you so much.

    Comment by Mary Hooker — January 12, 2015 @ 5:40 pm

  12. I am totally enthralled with John Lloyd Young, his music and performances, this CD is just wonderful. All around if I was 30 years younger!!!! With this review making it mandatory to see John Lloyd Young live….I’m just as in love with his “My Turn” renditions as am with the soundtrack…I have scavenged everything John Lloyd Young…an avid fan…. Please publish concerts in the Ca., Az., Nv. areas, with as much lead time as possible. I need to schedule kidney dialysis around it… My goal is to see John live.
    Thank you,

    Comment by Mary E. Erickson — January 17, 2015 @ 4:08 pm

  13. YaaaYeee !!!! I got tickets to one of the Feb. shows!!!! I saw Elvis LIVE many times..I’m just as excited to see JLY Feb 12, I hope the first of many concerts of his.

    Comment by Mary E. Erickson — January 19, 2015 @ 4:02 am

  14. Come to London JLY please

    Comment by Mary Hooker — January 31, 2015 @ 7:13 pm

  15. please come to London want to see you sing your own songs ,,got my turn now waiting for number two so hurry ,,make sure you pick a venue with wheelchair acces pleaseeeeee

    Comment by Geraldine — February 6, 2015 @ 9:36 pm

  16. In vicarious anticipation of John’s upcoming show tonight and this weekend, I came back to re-read your exquisite coverage of his earlier two shows in North Hollywood. (Warm California sun, you say? It wasn’t painful enough that many of us east coast and New York-area fans missed his show; you had to throw that in too! Brrrr.)

    Although JLY has no doubt given tidbits about and insights into his musical selections in the past, your coverage of it at this venue certainly piqued my interest so that next time I see him, maybe I’ll listen more and stare less – in between songs.

    About eighty percent female, huh? Your coverage was about 100% perfect, not that I could help notice!

    John’s show sounds like it was varied, entertaining and dynamic … leaving everyone feeling as though NOTHING was left out – which is exactly how I felt about your eloquent coverage. Bravo to you both!

    Comment by Audrey Rockman — February 12, 2015 @ 11:10 pm

  17. I had the pleasure of meeting you recently at the Segerstrom performances.(2 of 3) Your reviews are right on!!!! JLY does not disappoint-an incomparable talent-to be sure. You, as a connoisseur of music appreciation, I did notice you moving with the beat. Overall, his vocal range, song selection, emotion, and charm is an outstanding experience!!! When/where is the next concert???!!! We may meet again.

    Comment by Mary E. Erickson — February 21, 2015 @ 12:51 am

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