Aplscruf's Music, Art, and Literature Blog

Harry Belafonte at the Puyallup Fair 9.12.2000

Harry Belafonte

In Concert at the Puyallup Fair

Tuesday, September 12, 2000

Ok, I really feel old.  The only musical entertainment I attended this year [2000] was an opera and Harry Belafonte who played at the Puyallup Fair.  What happened to the rocker days? [Oh, they showed up eventually, along with a mid-life crisis!]  I actually purchased the Harry tickets for my mom as a Mothers Day gift, but thought my dad would go with her.  The tickets were only 10 bucks apiece.  Dad decided he did not want to go, so Mom asked me.  I had heard Harry once when we lived above the winery in Kirkland.  My son and I were taking a walk on the hill above Chateau Ste. Michelle, and we could hear him in concert.  The Calypso music was echoing through the valley and up the hill toward us.  It was fun to listen as we walked along.  I thought the concert at Puyallup would be a good time, but I only knew the [now infamous] Bon Marche sale song: the Banana Boat song, “Day-O.”  […one day only at the Bon Marche–ugh!]  It turned out to be one of the best shows I’ve ever seen.

I left work before lunch and picked up Mom.  It was such a hot day, and my air conditioner in my truck was not working.  By the time I arrived at her house, I was already in a sweat.  We ate some lunch and left her house by about 1:15, wanting to beat any rush hour traffic before we hit Puyallup.  The sun was beating down on my legs as I drove.  We got there pretty quickly and paid the 5 bucks to park in the lot across from the fair gates.

It was about 2:30 when we entered the gates.  We grabbed a map and tried to figure out where we were starting.  We had until 7:00 to see the fair.  We wandered around the exhibits and grabbed some food and drinks from people with questionable hygiene practices.  I asked the server to please hold the e-coli after ordering my hamburger.

We walked around some more until about 6:30.  Mom was tired of walking, so she wanted to go in the grandstand area and sit in our seats.  I was reluctant, as the concert would not start for at least a half hour.  I went ahead and sat with her, not wanting to tool around by myself.

I knew our seats would be good (6th row), but I thought they would be over to the side.  As the ushers showed us to our seats, I got excited.  We were front and center, 6 rows back!  Excellent!  Too bad it wasn’t Tom Petty, I thought, but this was going to be a great show.  Mom was pretty excited, too.  Right before 7:00, as most people were taking their seats, I saw a familiar face take a second-row seat.  I leaned over to Mom and said, “Hey, that’s Scotty from ‘Star Trek’!”  She didn’t recognize him at all.  The old man, who looked about 80, shuffled to his seat.  He looked puffy, his balding head of hair was tousled, and he had hearing aids in both ears.  His wife, who was about 40, was seated next to him with their new baby.  I had recently read in the newspaper about their having a baby.  He lives somewhere in the area, on one of the islands.  My suspicions were confirmed when a large stagehand swiftly jumped off the stage, gave Scotty a big hug and said, “Scotty!  I thought that was you!” And, “Wow, you’ve been busy,” as he motioned to the baby.

At 7:00 the MC announced there would be skydivers directly above our heads.  There they came.  We had neck aches watching them descend.  They landed just to the right of the stage on a bull’s-eye.  That was entertaining, but I was anxious for the show to begin.  Finally, about 7:30, the band started setting up.

I was really excited when I saw the bongo drums and other percussion instruments.  The band members came out, casually dressed, young and full of energy.  There was a percussionist, I believe from Puerto Rico, who played the bongos, wooden bells, and small drums.  There was a drummer from Mississippi, only 16, who could play as well as any rock drummer I’ve ever heard.  The bass player was from West Africa and kept the beat going.  The lead guitarist–I don’t remember where he was from–was gooood.  The keyboardist was from Paris and was possessed by the devil himself.  He must have sold his soul to play so well.  And there were two backup singers, one young man I believe from Jamaica and the other young woman was probably American.  She was dressed in a red, flamenco-style dress, very flattering to her little figure.  She looked a bit like Gloria Estefan.

Then out strutted Harry.  He was wearing black slacks and a shiny black shirt with puffy sleeves and a low-cut v-neck front.  One sleeve was colorfully decorated with a bright paisley design.  The v-neck was lined with green, slim lapels.  For 72, and I’m a little embarrassed to say this, the man looked great.  He was obviously physically fit and feeling good.

He started with about three songs that were so lively and fun, I couldn’t stop moving my feet, legs, hands, head.  I was expecting more mellow, almost campy  50’s-style elevator music, I guess; but what I got was Calypso and then some.  The keyboard had a synthetic function that sounded like kettle drums.  The musicians were so incredible, Harry could have just stood there and sounded great.  Harry, though, was a true showman.  He strutted, wiggled, and danced across the stage.  He never sat down nor left the stage in the almost two-hour performance.

He did stop, after the beginning set, and tell us about his cause.  He is the ambassador for UNICEF, taking over where Audrey Hepburn left off.  He spent some time explaining his next mission to Africa, where he would be helping educate people about AIDS and how to prevent it, so no more little babies would be orphaned.  He is quite incredible.  I asked Mom later if she would feel like traveling on a mission to Africa when she was 72!  She said, “No way!”

Back to the music–he dedicated the song, “Try to Remember the Sounds of September” to Audrey Hepburn.  He did another slow duet with the young woman, which was a little uncomfortable to watch, since the song was entitled, “Skin on Skin.”  It looked like Grandpa was after the pretty young thing.  But that was over quickly and it was back to the energetic music again.

Near the end, he finally got to the old familiar favorites.  He told a story about when he told his Mama he wanted to be a singer.  She warned him that he should only play music that he liked; because one day, he would play a song he did not like, and that song would be the one that people would come to adore, and he would have to play it over and over and over…There were actually two songs that he played after his comedic prelude:  “Kingston Town” and the other, of course, the “Banana Boat Song!”  He really got the crowd involved in the singing.  Since the lyrics repeated, and everyone in the audience knew the music (I was one of the youngest in attendance), he hardly had to sing!  He was truly fun to watch as he begged the audience to sing along.  At one point, he asked the women over 40 to sing, and, as expected, all the women shut up immediately.  Even the band stopped playing, as a kind of  joke to say, oh, come on!  After Harry convinced the audience that women over 40 were sexy, they all chipped in and sang the next verse!  He also sang a song called “Matilda.”  That was quite a lively song, too.

The concert was so energizing.  I gladly would have paid $100.00 to see Harry and that fantastic band again.  I felt almost ashamed to have paid so little to see such a great performance.  He even had each band member play a solo on their instruments near the end of the concert.  They were all incredible, better than any rock concert instrumentalists that I have seen.  They were all young, so I’m wondering if he recruits them to get them noticed.

Mom enjoyed the concert, too.  She said there’s nothing better than seeing the artists live.  I completely agreed.

September 6, 2010 Posted by | 2000, Harry Belafonte, The Puyallup Fair | , , | Leave a comment