Review: Little Anthony & the Imperials

Little Anthony & the Imperials put on one hell of a show. They give you, in the bodies of a vocal quartet with a small, tight backing band, everything that used to get packed into a sprawling R&B revue. It’s a real rip-roaring show, not what you’d expect from a group that had their first hit in 1958.

They are all in fantastic voice – lead singer Anthony Gourdine can still belt and wail with the best of them, but he also has a marvelous tenderness when he sings soft and high. They did all of their big hits, including that 1958 milestone “Tears on My Pillow”, and the uptempo “Shimmy, Shimmy, Ko-Ko-Bop” (which Gourdine claims not to like, but he still gave it his all).

They saved what is arguably their best song “Goin’ Out of My Head” for the end of the show, and their rendition is truly soaring and epic. Better still than their hits, though, are a handful of exciting covers. Their bluesy take on Bonnie Raitt’s “Don’t Worry Baby” is truly scorching. Most amazing of all, their final song is a version of “Every Breath You Take” by the Police – every bit as epic as “Going Out of My Head” – that makes it sound tailor-made for a soul quartet like the Imperials, especially when Anthony attacks the phrase “baby, baby please” in the bridge. Stunning.

These guys also have incredible comic timing and a nonpareil comfort and chemistry with each other – singing to one side, it’s just fun to be in the room with them. This was one of those situations where a show so completely surpassed my expectations that I don’t have the slightest hesitation in recommending it. Go see these guys; they’re a hoot, and the show’s a total blast.

For tickets, click here.

To learn about Jonathan Warman’s directing work, see jonathanwarman.com.

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