The '50s came back in the flesh Sunday night when rock stars from the old days played the Celebrity Theatre in Anaheim. The show was called "The 30th Anniversary of Rock 'n' Roll," and although the 30-year designation may have been a bit arbitrary (Elvis' first records were made in 1956), the rock 'n' roll part was no joke.
Entertainers such as Donnie Brooks (who co-promoted the show), the Coasters, Bobby Day, Lesley Gore and Dodie Stevens sang golden oldies, their own works and some made popular by others. Everyone in the (sparse) audience--including several people quite a bit younger than the performers--seemed to know all the words as they sang along.
The show was a lesson in the resilience of rock: Even the oldest songs sounded vital and contemporary. The Coasters, including two original members (Billy Guy and Clarke Williams), were in especially good form with a set that included "Yakety Yak" and "Charlie Brown." Other standouts were Day, who performed his hits "Rockin' Robin" (which was redone by Michael Jackson in 1972) and "Itty Bitty Pretty One" (which is being used in Del Taco ads), and Al Wilson ("Show and Tell," 1974) who brought class and elegance to the proceedings with his excellent performance.
There were also tributes to several early rockers who have passed on. Stevens, for instance, sang Jackie Wilson's "Lonely Teardrops," and Al Wilson offered a show-stopping performance of Otis Redding's "Dock of the Bay." There was also a lengthy tribute to Elvis Presley by impersonator Raymond Michaels, who was dressed in '70s-era Presley finery: a white, bell-bottomed jump suit open to the navel, with green and gold spangles and a hip-hugging belt.
Thirty years worth of popular music is a bit much to cover in three hours, but these folks gave it a good shot. Chicago Blues, California surf music and doo-wop were covered in the first half of the show. The '60s came after intermission, when the Buffalo Springfield Revisited (featuring one original member, Bruce Palmer) included a rousing version of the protest song "For What It's Worth" and a rendition of "Bluebird," replete with a psychedelic space-jam.
Gore, looking like a miniature version of Dr. Ruth Westheimer, sang "You Don't Own Me" and "It's My Party (and I'll Cry if I Want to)." And Otis Day and the Knights, best known for their appearance in the 1978 film "Animal House," closed the show with a hit that's been popular for three decades--"Shout," done in the '50s by the Isley Brothers, in the '60s by Lulu and in the '70s by the aforementioned Day.