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The Kingtones: A trip down memori-dori


I knew we were in for a treat Saturday afternoon when the audience started clapping--and the musicians were only organizing their charts. Then The Kingtones walked out on to the Green Stage sporting their best pink lame tuxedos, smiling and waving to the anticipatory crowd. They turned, pointed off-stage, and the crowd gave a roar of approval as Uchida Jun-san, the senior member, shuffled on stage with the help of the youngest member, Jimmy Irera, and a well-used cane. He grabbed the mic, smiled out into the crowd through his Ray-Bans, struck a note, and from then on it was a non-stop ride of doo-wop, standards, and classic karaoke rock.

Backed by a crack five-piece band, Uchida-san and company opened with "Still Of The Night" in all its doo-wop glory. The crowd was at a loss for some of the words but that didn't stop them from basking in the harmonies and clapping their hands as they slowly assembled at the front of the stage. As I looked out amongst them, I noticed not a grey hair in the lot (save for my growing collection, but I don't count because I can't see me), but the young 'uns were happily singing along with the back-up vocalists, and clapping when they did.

The baritone, Ishizuka-san, stepped out and got the crowd going with a great version of the Merle Travis classic "Sixteen Tons". Then it was "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes" and the crowd pleaser "Good Night Baby". The growing crowd was joyfully singing along until a pause, whereupon the sprightly Uchida stopped the band with a raised hand like the old pro that he is and declared, "Sugoi eigo, desu-yo?!" Then they were right back into it to finish the song off with some harmonies. Even the guy with the full-sleeve tattoos beside me was raising his hands in the air, gleefully jumping up and down and shouting out the words.

They brought out special guest Nancy, who belted out an amazing version of "When A Man Loves A Woman", minus a few, umm, syllables-articles-words. But hey, with a voice like that, lyrics are secondary.

By the time they reached the rousing version of "Tennessee Waltz" the crowd was bouncing, and when Nancy got back on the lead mic for another tongue-twister, "I Saw Her Standing There" the audience was primed to start "Peppermint Twist"-ing. They were pressing to the stage now, this motley crew of oldies-lovers, you would have thought they were trying to get early spots for the Chili Peppers.

They closed with Uchida taking the lead on "I Can't Stop Loving You", with the help of the young guy standing to my
right who was singing it out loud and strong. They bowed in classic 50's doo-wop style and we all gave them a great round of applause as Nancy and the others helped the elder one off the stage. He may have needed a little help walking, but nobody could deny that Uchida-san's voice and popularity was as strong as ever. Sugoi desu-yo, indeed.

report by Jeff


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