Trimming down the best music from the 60s, 70s and 80s is a Herculean task. So when Decades Rewind co-founder Peter Gatti creates the set list for a live music retrospective, he looks to the prospective audience to determine which songs make the cut. If the audience isn’t likely to know all the words, it’s off the list. Simple as that.
“The pool of material is just massive, which is a good thing and a bad thing at the same time. The good thing is, as the show grows and we change the medleys, we have plenty to pull from. The hard thing is what do you pull?” says Gatti. “We want music that is immediately recognizable. Our mission from day one was to move people and bring them back in time. We hope that people will be able to revisit some good memories.”
Decades Rewind revisits the soundtracks of generations, beginning with the 80s and traveling back through the 70s and 60s, from Madonna to Motown and everything in between. A multi-media wall accompanies the music with visual displays of pop culture images relevant to each decade. The show is staged Dec 8 and 9 at the Times-Union Center for the Arts (www.fscjartistseries.org).
“There was such a common area of American culture with so many fads and changes. In the 60s, you had the hippie movement, if you will. The 70s had disco, which cut into rock ‘n roll for a while. Then rock came back in the 80s. Way back in the 60s you had Motown, which was really the first attempt at rock ‘n’ roll,” says Gatti.
The video wall features three screens choreographed with imagery from the Vietnam era, Woodstock footage, old cars, and former presidents along with the cost for a gallon of milk, house, or car in each decade.
“It’s almost like a documentary. Decades Rewind represents the eras I grew up in, and there [are] just so many genres to choose from in those decades,” he says. “We include different styles with a disco medley, a funk medley, a pop medley and a dance with over 100 costume changes. We definitely try to keep it from getting stale.”
Unlike similar revues that keep the band in the background, Decades Rewind puts the band in the forefront. They all play an integral part of the show and enjoy equal time in the spotlight. “We are a full-fledged band. Our guitar players are amazing. There are no background tracks and because of that energy, the music sounds and feels like you remember it,” says Gatti. “The thing I hear most after every show is that it brought back so many memories like ‘we used to sing that in the car driving on vacation’ or whatever. Those are the things we try to bring out in people.”
With co-founder and drummer Mark Blinkhorn, Gatti began to conceptualize the Decades Rewind show based on the best times of his coming-of-age period. They recruited veteran players and developed a smoking live band to give the show a level of authenticity often missing from other musical tributes.
“When we start the show, no one really knows what to expect. Is this a concert? Is it a musical? Is it a theatrical show? Quite frankly, it’s all of the above. But the audience doesn’t really know what to do yet,” says Gatti. “After the first medley, one of our entertainers introduces herself and explains that this is audience participation. We want you to sing and dance and have fun. Going into our second medley, people start getting into it and by the time we get to the 70s, the disco ball is spinning and the whole place is standing up and dancing.”
Decades Rewind debuted in small theatres just last November and has been going strong ever since. “We started with about 14 songs, and one thing led to another, and the next thing you know we’re performing about 60 songs, give or take,” says Gatti. “We’re loving it, and the crowds are really enjoying it, and we’re just having the time of our life.”
Gatti says the song lineup is a reflection of the audience, but it also plays to the strength of the cast members. As a keyboard player, he looks forward to those moments in the show that allow him to show off his skills.
“We brought in some people that are very good at playing a specific style or artist, so we try to incorporate that as much as we can,” he says. “I’m a classic rocker at heart, and, although we enjoy playing everything, we do an arena rock medley. We do a song by Boston called ‘Foreplay’ with a big organ solo, and then right after that we do ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ in its entirety which, to me, is one of the best rock ‘n’ roll songs ever written. I really enjoy playing it and the crowd sings along to every word. It’s one of my favorite moments in the show.”
Liza Mitchell December 6, 2016 – EUJacksonville
Decades Rewind: A Tribute to an Era
January 29, 2017 Sunday 7pm
Shubert Theatre, New Haven