Jeanne Sager | Democrat
PROVING MUSIC FANS come in all forms even folks born years after a band got its start - 15-year-old friends Zoe DeJesus and Sam Meighan were front and center singing along with their favorite Cheap Trick hits at Saturday’s concert in Bethel.
Another sell-out at Bethel Woods
By Jeanne Sager
BETHEL It was the sleeper hit of the summer.
Cheap Trick, Heart, Journey. Bands synonymous with the ’70s and ’80s secured Bethel Woods’ second sell-out of the season, its third in the performing arts center’s three-year history.
Some 15,000 fans poured through the gates for the close-out pavilion show Saturday night, ready to see two of the bands among VH1’s 100 Greatest Artists of Hard Rock and the headliner, the latest incarnation of the band that first went wheelin’ through the skylights in the late ’70s.
It was a surprise for Bethel Woods, admitted spokeswoman Shannon McSweeney.
“We didn’t anticipate it selling out,” she said. “But a few weeks before, we started seeing ticket sales really picking up.”
A week before the show, McSweeney sent out a press release stop calling Bethel Woods, you’re too late.
Earlier in the season, country band Rascal Flatts, backed by Taylor Swift, charged their way to what was then the second biggest crowd in Bethel Woods history.
Less than three weeks later, the Jonas Brothers blasted them out of the number two spot, bringing 15,000 screaming tweens to Bethel for the center’s second sell-out.
Saturday’s rock line-up pushed the country numbers even farther from the top, with a crowd full of fans who first heard the bands when they, too, were tweens.
Today they’re in their 20s, 30s, 40s and 50s not the youngest crowd at Bethel Woods, but an audience that hasn’t been showing for the New York Philharmonic or the Boston Pops.
They were there to rock.
And they did.
From the second Robin Zander bound onto the pavilion stage, followed quickly by Rick Nielsen in his signature “geekwear,” music that was two decades old sounded new again at Bethel Woods.
Throwing red guitar picks every which way including behind himself onto the stage Nielsen made frequent instrument changes before finally bringing out that five-headed guitar.
Zander put the crowd through their paces with “Want You to Want Me,” “Dream Police,” and other familiar songs from their extensive repertoire.
The Midwestern boys made way for the California girls. After a 45-minute set and short intermission, sisters Ann and Nancy Wilson proved they’ve still got plenty of Heart.
Ann’s powerful voice and Nancy’s guitar prowess very nearly stole the headlines from top-of-the-ticket Journey, with a Woodstock-appropriate cover of The Who’s “Reign O’er Me” and thrilling renditions of their own hits “Barracuda,” “Crazy On You” and “Straight On.”
But it took Steve Perry replacement Arnel Pineda, the 41-year-old Filipino found covering Journey hits on YouTube, to close out another season of music on the pavilion stage at Bethel Woods.
Close your eyes, and you could hear Perry. Open them, and you saw the type of show rock bands of the ’80s made famous.
Sweeping his long hair out of his face, he ran up and down the stage all night, juggling his mic and launching himself over amplifiers and speakers.
Pitch perfect, he lead the crowd in sing-alongs to hits from the 1973 start of the band to the present, backed by original Journey guitarist Neal Schon, original bassist Russ Valory and long-time pianist Jonathan Cain.
Through “Open Arms,” “Any Way You Want It,” “Don’t Stop Believing,” “Faithfully,” and more, Pineda played the part of a little kid having the time of his life playing with his favorite band onstage.
And if it was fun for Pineda, you can believe it was fun for the crowd too.
By luck of the draw, Rob and Mary Nicoletti of Callicoon ended up with seats beside another Callicoon resident Jim Schultz.
From the generation that boosted the bands of the night to stardom, all three have been following rock bands to Middletown, Albany and beyond over the years.
Having the bands in their own backyard, Rob said, was “phenomenal.”
“I love this,” Mary added. “They just need to get more people here, more bands like this. They need to get Bon Jovi!”
With only a few concerts left in the overall season and the pavilion stage shut down for the year, the marketing and production side of Bethel Woods is kicking back up.
They’re debating over bands to bring and wondering who will go on tour next year.
With two sold out shows and one near sellout this season, they’re finding their mark.