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WBAB Rock 'n' Brews Fest at the NYCB Theatre at Westbury

WBAB Rock 'n' Brews Fest at the NYCB Theatre at Westbury
Mike Perciaccante By

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Edgar Winter, Vanilla Fudge, Peter Rivera formerly of Rare Earth & Savoy Brown's Kim Simmonds
NYCB Theatre at Westbury
WBAB Rock 'n' Brews Fest
Westbury, NY
August 1, 2014

Blues-rock guitar virtuoso Johnny Winter passed away in St. Gallen, Switzerland on July 16, 2014 at the age of 70. The music world lost the man who, in 2003, was ranked by Rolling Stone as the 63rd greatest guitarist of all time. The guitarist was also multi-instrumentalist, a great singer an award winning producer and a member if the Blues Foundation Hall of Fame. His last CD, Step Back (Megaforce, 2014) is scheduled to be released posthumously on September 2,2014.

The Rock 'n' Brews Fest, also known as the Rock 'n' Blues Fest, (the third annual version of the tour) scheduled for the NYCB Theatre at Westbury on Friday, August 1, 2014 was originally slated to be headlined by Johnny Winter. Instead, it became a tribute in his honor. The show featured his brother Edgar Winter, Vanilla Fudge, Peter Rivera of Rare Earth and Savoy Brown's Kim Simmonds.

The night's festivities began with an introduction by local WBAB disc jockey Fingers who waxed poetic about Winter, his music and the bands that would be gracing the stage at the intimate Long Island amphitheatre. Bound together by both an era and the love of a musical genre, the middle-aged audience cheered the DJ's words and Winter's memory. The four late '60s/early '70s bands were also grouped together by the era during which they achieved their greatest success and by the music that they created—a rock 'n' roll that was directly influenced by the blues.

British blues-rock band Savoy Brown was formed by guitarist Kim Simmonds in 1965, in Battersea, South West London. The original lineup included singer Bryce Portius, keyboardist Trevor Jeavons, bassist Ray Chappell, drummer Leo Manning and harmonica player John O'Leary. Over the years there have been multiple line-up changes. A roll call of former band members reads like a Who's Who of British rock. "Lonesome" Dave Peverett and Roger Earl (who would together form Foghat), Hughie Flint (from John Mayall's Bluesbreakers) and Bill Bruford (who gained fame as a member of Yes) all were members of the band. Over the years, only Simmonds has stayed with the group since the beginning. On this evening, Simmonds, sans Savoy Brown (with Coco Powell on bass, Doug Rappaport on guitar and Jason Carpenter on drums filling in quite capably) led off the all-star extravaganza with a strong set highlighted by the bouncy "Nuthin' Like The Blues" from Goin' To The Delta (Ruf Records, 2014) and "Poor Girl" (on which he played both harp and guitar) from Savoy Brown's Looking In album (Decca, 1970).

For those who are unaware, Rare Earth was Motown Records' first big hit-making act consisting of only caucasian members. Originally called the Sunliners when it was formed in 1960, Rare Earth came into being in 1968. After recording an unsuccessful debut album, Dream/Answers for Verve Records in 1968, the group was signed to Motown in 1969. Peter Rivera was the band's original drummer and was the lead singer five Top 10 hit singles. During his time in the band, Rare Earth sold over twenty-five million records. Rivera began his set by announcing, "We played here 41 years ago." As the crowd cheered in approval, his backing band which also featured Powell, Carpenter (who was now manning the keyboards) and Rappaport, eased into "Hey, Big Brother." "I'm Losing You" followed. Rivera was in a great mood (and in fine form behind the skins). He introduced what was arguably Rare Earth's biggest hit "Get Ready (Cause Here I Come)" by stating that it was "the first record I ever sang. This song was like 21 minutes long." He then counted down, "1,2,7,12,14!" and the band was off. The set ended with and extended version of "I Just Want To Celebrate" from One World (Rare Earth/Motown, 1971). The song wrapped-up with an extended coda that featured the audience clapping and singing-along with Rivera.

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