In Concert

On a recent Throwback Thursday, a suggested playlist popped up on Spotify that caught my attention, “Oldies but Goodies.” I started the playlist enthusiastically, not having the ability to pre-screen the mix. The first song to play was Sisqo's "Thong Song." At that moment, I wasn't quite sure what offended me more, that a song from my middle school days was considered an oldie by some younger-than-me-millennial, or that Sisqo would be in a category of "Oldies but Goodies." An oldie evokes ideas of classics, songs that withstand the test of time and musical fads. Songs, bands, singers, and songwriters that make "Greatest Songs of All Time" lists by the most reputable industry minds. "Oldies but Goodies" are timeless, and the best example of this happened only one short week ago at Ravinia with The Temptations and The Beach Boys.

No better groups epitomize Golden Oldies than The Temptations and The Beach Boys. Together they represent an incredible era of music from the 50, the 60s, and 70s from the pop-like rhythm and blues of Motown to the surf sound with electric guitars and vocal harmonies. Both musical styles were on full display Sunday night at Ravinia.

The Temptations performed with the gusto of men half their age. Their glee was palpable as they breezed through their dancing arrangements in perfect unison to their major hits like "Ain't to proud to beg," "Papa was a rolling stone" and their anthem "My Girl." Accompanied by a big band and master of ceremony, the group moved seamlessly from song to song not breaking for more than a breath or a drink of water. For 45 minutes straight the five men put on a show that is simply unseen in today's music. They were charismatic and engaging, their vocals and showmanship from another era. Unfortunately, their performance was lost on the audience in the pavilion seats. With tickets running as high $150/seat you'd expect those spending the money to see the group up close would be eager to see them, sing with them, dance with them. On the contrary, the pavilion guests appeared by bored, almost inconvenienced when they were asked to get up and sing and dance along. It seemed like they were there more for nostalgia; not present as fans of the music or the musical legends, but in remembrance of a bygone era and in mourning for youth. The seats were lost on those that tried to buy their time back.

The Beach Boys' set, in contrast to the rhythm of Motown, played with the same ease of an ocean at sunset, each song getting its play and lazily meeting the next. "Good Vibrations" had plenty of time to crash across the lawn seats before the group started "Sloop John B" or "God Only Knows." I rode the sound waves out to the lawn to meet up with friends and stretch my legs from the pavilion seats. Perhaps it was the extra space and freedom of the lawn seats, or perhaps just The Beach Boys themselves, but people were up, dancing and belting out every word. Beach balls by the dozens were hit from fan group to fan group, smiling and laughing even when some were smacked into heads, or in my case, my wine. The evening really captured the surf sound, listening to wavy-like music against a setting summer sun with a cold drink and good friends. This vibe still couldn't penetrate the pavilion seats, and having left my seat I couldn't return until there was a designated break in the music set. Though the group took at least 4-5 minutes to get from song to song there wasn't enough time to get people to their seat. But watching the audience I was reminded of The Beach Boys' earliest days, performing in matching short-sleeved button up shirts, slouchy with their hands in their pockets. Most guests sat the same way, slouchy, hands in their pockets and grimaces on their face. I spent the rest of the show on the lawn hitting beach balls, drinking wine, and crooning along to "Kokomo."

You can classify Sisqo as an oldie to appeal to older millennials and get clicks on trendy music apps, but true oldies (songs and bands) live across generations, draw thousands of fans to a suburban music venue, and can be enjoyed by kids young and old. Those are the only songs that can be considered Oldies But Goodies, even if the goodies can't be enjoyed by the people who are now "oldies." Ravinia has shows that extend through September, see what they have to offer at www.ravinia.org.



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