Tommy James and the Shondells
June 29, 2019
Southern Ground Amphitheater
Review and Photos by Robert Kern
Tommy James and the Shondells showcase their legacy in Fayetteville, GA
23 gold records. 9 platinum albums. Over 100 million records sold worldwide. 32 Billboard Hot 100 charting hits and 2 number one singles, when the charts really meant something. Covered by artists including Joan Jett, Billy Idol, Prince, Bruce Springsteen, Dolly Parton, REM, Carlos Santana and Cher. He’s had songs featured in more than 40 motion pictures and several television shows. His critically acclaimed autobiography, “Me, The Mob and The Music” is soon to be made into a major motion picture. The fact that he’s not in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame isn’t just an oversight, it’s almost criminal.
With all of these huge accomplishments, it would be easy for Tommy James to rest on his royalties, yet at 72 he’s still touring and performing to sell-out crowds. On a muggy Saturday night at Southern Ground Amphitheater in Fayetteville, GA, those in attendance witnessed first-hand the immense talent and musical legacy of Tommy James and the Shondells.
Seemingly in a good mood and in great voice, James and his band wasted no time diving into their 15 song, hit filled set. Opening with the 1971 song “Dragging the Line”, they immediately doubled-down and sent the crowd into a frenzy with their monster single, “Crystal Blue Persuasion”. It reached number 2 on the charts in the summer of 1969, kept out of the number one position by “In the Year 2525”, by Zagar and Evans.
Highlights during the 80 minute performance included “Say I Am”, “Gettin’ Together”, “Ball of Fire” and “Do Something to Me”. The biggest responses throughout the evening were reserved for “Crimson and Clover”, “Hanky Panky”, and “I Think We’re Alone Now”, played twice during the show – once acoustically featuring Tommy James solo and once electric featuring the entire band.
During the show the band played a particularly cool version of the 1970 classic, “Tighter, Tighter”. Written and produced by Tommy James and originally recorded by Alive and Kickin’, it was a nice surprise addition to the setlist and warmly received by the crowd.
Closing the set prior to the encore, the band kicked into “Mony, Mony”. This raucous version went on for close to 15 minutes and featured a straight run through at the outset, then morphed joyously into a free-for-all jam session. While the band played on, Tommy James climbed off the stage and strolled through the crowd shaking hands, posing for selfies and signing autographs. He was overheard several times thanking those attending for coming out to see his show and appeared genuinely touched that so many were there to see him perform. The band then wrapped up the song as Mr. James rejoined the group on stage, and they briefly departed to lots of shouts and extended applause.
For the encore the group performed “Sweet Cherry Wine” and “Mirage”, the latter featuring an extended reprise of “Mony Mony” to close the show. With a wave and a smile, Tommy James and his Shondells left the stage a final time, but not the venue. After the performance, James graciously entered the merchandise tent and stayed for another hour signing autographs and taking photos with anyone that remained after the concert. After looking over the long line of fans waiting for their opportunity to meet him, James shouted “don’t worry folks… we have a no fan left behind policy here”, indicating that everyone who waited would have the chance for their own brief meeting. It was a really nice and gracious gesture by one of rock and roll’s elite and something that is almost unheard of today.
Music icon. Legendary performer. Gentleman. This is Tommy James. If he brings the Shondells and this tour to a music venue near you, don’t miss it!