Review: Gary Puckett and the Union Gap

Gary Puckett and the Union Gap

Courtesy photo

Gary Puckett and the Union Gap

There was something about that voice. The manly voice that crooned hits like “Woman, Woman,” “Only You” and “Young Girl.” That voice, and those songs, did it for me … me and countless others.

For weeks I’d looked forward to Friday night’s concert featuring Gary Puckett and the Union Gap at Yavapai College Performing Arts Center. I couldn’t wait to hear that voice live and on stage all these years later.

But first, opening acts offered the chance to reminisce on other popular groups and songs of the ’60s. The concert opener was Terry Sylvester of The Hollies, the evening’s representative of “the British invasion.” Guitarist/vocalist Sylvester, born and raised in Liverpool, England, modestly kidded about being “too old to still be doing this.” Nevertheless he seemed to enjoy his time on stage while offering up hits like “Long Cool Woman” and “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother.” Although intonation seemed a challenge at times, Sylvester passably delivered the hits of his Hollies days to an appreciative audience.

Next to perform was The Vogues, with two of the band’s original vocalists appearing. Sometimes the songs are more recognizable than the name of the group who made them famous. Recall “Five O’clock World,” “You’re the One” and “My Special Angel.” (Big sigh…) A combination of weak and outstanding vocals yielded a mostly satisfying execution of these old chart toppers. If only the instrumentalists hadn’t been amplified to the point of partly drowning out the voices.

Then, finally, the featured act, the one we’d been waiting for. Gary Puckett and the Union Gap took the stage clad in the group’s characteristic civil war union-style jackets — a sight to behold. But a flu-suffering Gary Puckett warned he wouldn’t sound great that night, unless of course we were willing to listen with the heart. We did.

Still, the voice I’d waited weeks to hear rendered the old romantic favorites in a jazzed up style that didn’t sound wholly Puckett-like, perhaps to cover for the effects of the misbegotten virus. Again, the instrumentalists made too loud a presence, making the vocals difficult to hear. But Puckett exhibited surprisingly high energy, seemingly determined to put on a show for his adoring fans. He told wonderful stories of the group’s rise to stardom, and let us get to know him in a way you never could by just listening to the old recordings. That’s worth something.

Puckett even made himself available in the lobby after the show, to anyone who wanted to meet him, chat, and get a photograph. Given his compromised state of health, fans would have understood had he declined to go that extra mile. It’s a testament to the man, I thought, that he refused to disappoint those who wanted to meet him.

Musically, it may have been a less than stellar evening. But it was all heart, and maybe that was enough.

Yavapai College Performing Arts Center is located on the campus of Yavapai College, 1100 E. Sheldon St. in Prescott. For information on upcoming events, visit the website at www.ycpac.com or call 928-776-2000.