Even though Donny and Marie were nowhere to be seen, I couldn’t help but conjure up their image as Bethel Woods' first trio of concerts was a little bit country... and a little bit rock and roll. Opening night attracted a sold-out crowd, anxious to catch headliners Lady Antebellum, who were waiting in the wings as husband and wife country duo Keifer Thompson and Shawna Thompson, (AKA Thompson Square) warmed up the crowd. Combining both classic rock and country, the pair has quickly caught fire since their debut album began to climb the charts as recently as 2010, and it was clear that there were scads of T.S. fans in the house, as they enthusiastically cheered the two on, while singing along with their number one country hit “Are you gonna kiss me or not?”
After a brief intermission, the applause was deafening as Darius Rucker took the stage. Having first gained fame as the lead singer and rhythm guitarist of the rock band Hootie & the Blowfish, Rucker is a consummate entertainer and his smooth style, sexy moves and Hollywood smile were infectious. As Rucker broke into “Get up and dance with me,” the crowd did just that, and when he introduced his kids, who are currently on tour with him, the place went wild. Acknowledging his country roots, Rucker performed a variety of songs, including his number-one country hit “History in the Making,” before handing the mike over to the stars of the show, country pop trio “Lady Antebellum.”
Seven-time Grammy winning vocalists Dave Haywood, Hillary Scott and Charles Kelley are currently unstoppable as their meteoric rise continues unabated. Backed by an amazing band, their signature three-part harmony resonates with their audience, and when the trio declared that Bethel, NY was “probably the most beautiful venue we have ever had the good fortune to play,” the screams of approval echoed far beyond the gates of the Performing Arts Center, nestled into the rolling, verdant hills.
Legends in the making gave way to living legend Ringo Starr (and his All Starr Band) on Saturday night, as the former Beatle bopped and swayed his way through a string of hits supported by consummate musicians, who rotate on an annual basis. In addition to All Starr alumni Richard Page, Todd Rundgren, Mark Rivera, and Gregg Bissonette, new to the All Starrs are Steve Lukather (Toto) and Gregg Rolie (Santana & Journey). Starr, who has proven himself long ago, has wisely joined forces with incredible talents who have amazing track records of their own, and the combination is entertainment at its finest.
After performing interesting choices like Santana’s “You’ve Got to Change Your Evil Ways” and Rundgren’s poppy hit “Bang the Drum all Day,” Starr mused aloud by saying “And now, I think I’ll do a song from that other band I used to be in” before launching into “Boys” from the Beatles’ “Please Please Me” album, released in 1963. Keeping with the theme, Ringo suggested that “If you don’t know this one, you’re in the wrong place” as the first notes of “Yellow Submarine” wafted through the cool night air, drifting toward the stars illuminating the Milky Way overhead.
After a solid one-two punch, Sunday provided another glorious sunset as sixties superstars The Beach Boys took center stage to celebrate their 50th anniversary Global World Tour, sounding as if they were still in their heyday. Original members Brian Wilson, Mike Love and Al Jardine were joined by on again-off again group vocalists Bruce Johnston and guitarist/singer David Marks as they belted out hit after hit, including “Fun Fun Fun,” “Surfer Girl,” plus “And Then She Kissed Me” to name but a few of this incomparable troupe’s endless array of chart toppers. Wilson, who referred to the groups “Surfs Up” album as having “hit the airwaves a while back, in 1862” was self-deprecating to a fault, poking fun at himself and his compatriots, while gratefully acknowledging their fans “unwavering support through the years”.
In addition to a slew of solid gold hits, the boys performed a few numbers from their brand new album “That's Why God Made the Radio,” which promptly debuted at number three on June 5, soaring to Billboard's Top 200 Albums chart a week later, which makes it the highest charting start for any Beach Boys album. Uber-fans Monica and Gary Takourian, of White Lake, who drove into the lot in their 1966 Cadillac Eldorado, sporting surfboards and a Beach Boys 50th anniversary placard on the hood, were a shining example of the Beach Boys never-ending phenomenon. In an ironic turn of fair play, it’s not commonly known that Beach Boy Bruce Johnston actually wrote the Barry Manilow hit “I Write the Songs,” but everyone knows who sings them. Long live the Beach Boys.
If the past week is any indication, The Bethel Woods Center for Performing Arts (already ranked among the top 15 in the country) will once again provide a backdrop for “Good Vibrations” all summer long and far into the future. For tickets and information, visit www.bethelwoodscenter.org  or call 866/781-2922.