Article by Kathy Wagner
If you were lucky enough to attend last night’s Timothy B. Schmit show at South Orange Performing Arts Center, you already know why it was so special. Richie Furay — best known for forming the bands Buffalo Springfield (with Stephen Stills, Neil Young, Bruce Palmer, and Dewey Martin), and Poco (with Jim Messina, Rusty Young, George Granthan, and Randy Meisner – who was later replaced by Schmit) — joined the Eagles bassist and his band onstage for a couple of Poco songs. It was the first time the two had shared the stage since Poco’s induction into the Colorado Music Hall of Fame in January of 2015, and the smiles on their faces left little doubt that these two friends were having a great time.
Furay, who was celebrating his 73rd birthday, opened the sold-out show with a 45-minute set that brought several standing ovations from the enthusiastic crowd, which was filled with loyal Poco and Buffalo Springfield fans. Especially memorable was the moment when he acknowledged his wife, Nancy, proudly announcing that they have been together for 50 years. “We’re still together, “Hand in Hand,” shared Furay, as he launched into a beautiful version of his song by the same name.
Schmit took the stage shortly after 8:30pm with his four-piece band (which later expanded to seven, and sometimes eight), beginning the show with “One More Mile” from his 2009 solo release, Expando. It’s an incredibly catchy tune that will have you tapping your toes and singing along before you even realize it — a great way to start off the set. After the first song, he greeted the crowd and said how glad he was to be there, noting what a beautiful theater it was. Indeed SOPAC’s stunning 3-story glass-enclosed atrium and expansive facade is gorgeous. The 439-seat mainstage theater is a unique space, with superb acoustics, comfortable seating, and excellent sight lines. Audiences often compare the experience of being at SOPAC to hearing and seeing their favorite artist in their own living room.
The sound quality was perfect; you could hear every instrument, every small nuance, and the volume level was just right. There’s a reason why Schmit’s band sounds so good, each one of them is a highly talented and accomplished musician in their own right. As Schmit introduced them to the audience, he didn’t rush — he instead took his time and thoughtfully and carefully explained a little bit about each of their backgrounds — it was refreshing to see an artist show so much respect and admiration for those he shares the stage with. Chris Farmer, who primarily plays keyboards for these shows, also picks up the bass for a song or two, and even plays the tuba. Farmer was the bass player and vocalist with the Beach Boys for 12 years, and is skilled at singing tight, complex vocal harmonies. Over his tenure with the Beach Boys, he was asked to sing every part in their vocal stack — the leads, falsetto, bass, and middle harmony parts — and he effortlessly lends his vocal abilities to many of Schmit’s songs, particularly the high chorus in “Ella Jean” where Farmer’s voice just brings it to the next level. On drums and percussion, you’ll find Herman Matthews, who began playing drums at the age of seven and has been the backbone of world-class pop, rock, jazz, soul, R&B, and funk bands for over thirty years, working with such acts as Kenny Loggins, Richard Marx,and Tower of Power. On stage left is Hank Linderman, whom Schmit describes as his longtime studio partner and friend, a multi-talented musician who plays a lot of different instruments and has worked with him for many years. He was the engineer on Schmit’s Expando and Leap of Faith albums, and also did some engineering on the Eagles’ Long Road Out of Eden, along with many other artists’ albums. Linderman’s versatility is impressive to watch — he can go from a soft, gentle acoustic guitar piece to a high-energy, hard-rockin’ guitar solo with equal dexterity. He is an integral part of the show. The fourth band member, Bobby Carlos, is an exemplary addition to the line-up and wears multiple hats. He is Schmit’s bass tech with the Eagles, and is also a bass player himself. On this tour, he’s simultaneously handling tech duties while playing on several of the songs. He’s got a full plate, but he’s diligent and handles everything with ease, successfully keeping things moving along onstage. Last but not least, three female vocalists; Marlena Jeter, Lynne Fiddmont, and Mortonette Stephens, who have performed with such luminaries as Michael Jackson, Phil Collins, and Stevie Wonder. These ladies have incredible voices — they are truly a joy to listen to. Plus, their infectious smiles and playful dance moves during songs like “Downtime” and “I Refuse” are so contagious that you find yourself with a big smile on your own face just watching them. They love being up there.
Then, of course, there’s Schmit, who somehow manages to sound even better today than he did years ago. His angelic voice is flawless, so pure and exquisite, it’s captivating to listen to him sing. He admitted in an earlier interview that he was a little nervous about doing solo shows, having never done them before the release of Expando in 2009, but you would never guess there was even an ounce of trepidation on his part when you see him now. His relaxed stage presence and confident command of the emcee role, combined with his great sense of humor and humble demeanor makes for a truly enjoyable experience. It’s a pleasure to watch an artist who genuinely enjoys what they do, and he certainly does. There is heart and soul in the entire band’s performance, and the audience picked up on it immediately and happily joined them for a musical journey which included a heavy dose of songs from Leap of Faith and Expando, sprinkled with some Eagles and Poco tunes.
There were many special moments during the show, but one of the most powerful was when the band left the stage and Schmit performed a few songs completely solo on acoustic guitar and harmonica. He began with the beautiful “All Those Faces” from his latest release, which includes the album title, Leap of Faith, in the lyrics. Then, he played a song for Glenn. No last name was needed. You could hear a pin drop as he began to softly strum the familiar chords to “Peaceful Easy Feeling.” He sang the whole song alone in the spotlight. And when he finished, the entire audience stood and applauded for several minutes. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house. Another highlight of the evening was “Keep On Tryin’”, performed nearly a cappella with everyone (including Furay) gathered together at the front of the stage sharing microphones. The blend of voices was magnificent.
Near the end of the set, Schmit performed the divine “Secular Praise,” which on the Expando album features the Blind Boys of Alabama. The three female vocalists take the place of the “Boys” at these live shows, and deliver an impeccable performance. It’s glorious to hear them and drummer Herman Matthews sing the “Hallelujahs” on this one.
The encore consisted of a pair of Eagles songs: “I Don’t Want To Hear Any More” and “Love Will Keep Us Alive,” and then Schmit invited Furay back onstage to join them for the closing number: the Poco Classic “A Good Feelin’ To Know.” The crowd was on their feet, singing and clapping along — it was a perfect way to end the show.
To see a performance of this caliber up close and personal, in a small theater, is certainly a treat. Even if you aren’t familiar with Schmit’s solo material, you’ll definitely enjoy this show because of the way it’s presented; quality music performed by an extremely talented band.
One More Mile
Red Dirt Road
White Boy From Sacramento
All Those Faces
Peaceful Easy Feeling
All I Wanna Do
I Can See Everything
What I Should Do
Keep On Tryin’
I Can’t Tell You Why
A Good Day
I Don’t Want To Hear Any More
Love Will Keep Us Alive
A Good Feelin’ To Know
There are 3 more dates scheduled for this tour:
If you are lucky enough to live in or nearby one of these cities, don’t miss this show!
For additional information on Timothy B. Schmit, visit www.timothybschmit.com