With A Little Steven Help From My Friends

For three hours, on a Friday night, the rock-n-roll capital of the world was Red Bank, New Jersey. A well-stocked audience of fans and patrons alike were treated to a late-sixties retrospect of Age of Aquarian sounds plus a set dedicated to the spirit of Woodstock. Rockit performed renditions of classic songs: “House Of The Rising Sun,” “Joy To The World,” “Almost Cut My Hair,” “Spirit In The Sky,” “You Keep Me Hangin’ On” and several others.

The occasion, produced and hosted by the Count Basie Theatre, fêted four individuals who have made significant contributions to the arts in Monmouth County: Freeholder Lillian Burry, Monmouth County Arts Council Director Mary Eileen Fouratt, Maureen Van Zandt, and “Little Steven” Van Zandt. The Vanguard Award honorees spent intermission time at a Meet & Greet with the Basie’s patrons.

Back on stage, The Woodstock cast recreated the summer of ’69 decked out in psychedelic threads and colorful accessories. “Volunteers,” “White Rabbit,” and “Piece Of My Heart” heated up the crowd for a rousing double drumming percolation of Santana’s “Soul Sacrifice.” Several songs were prefaced with a rock-n-roll mini-history lesson, culled from Teach Rock, a comprehensive body of music history developed by Steven Van Zandt and Dr. Warren Zanes which is offered free to both educators and music fans.

For the last song of the evening, Mr. Van Zandt joined Rockit on stage, playing guitar and singing backing vocals on “With A Little Help From My Friends,” one of the highlights of the original Woodstock performed by Joe Cocker. Earlier in his Vanguard Award acceptance speech, Van Zandt emphasized the importance of musical tradition and how playing in bands is an invaluable education about life, working with others, and getting one’s ideas recognized and appreciated.

“This was one of the best nights in Basie history,” said Basie CEO and President Adam Philipson. “We could not be more proud of Bruce, his teachers and the kids who shined so brightly! The event raised over $20,000 for future scholarships to Rockit among other programs.”

Rockit founder and director, Bruce Gallipani reflected on Mr. and Mrs. Van Zandt’s presence at the rehearsal sessions: “When the kids played their songs for the Van Zandts at rehearsal, it was like watching them audition for the most important gig of their lives. They also cooperated very much when a key change or wardrobe tweak was suggested. The Van Zants were on their side and tried to make them feel comfortable.”

Gallipani was unsure if Little Steven’s participation would extend to the concert stage on the big night. When he posed the question after rehearsal about joining Rockit for “With A Little Help From My Friends,” Van Zandt wanted the spotlight to stay on the kids but asked what key the song was in as he got into his car.

“He came over to me after they introduced the Woodstock portion of the show and asked if we had a guitar and fuzz he could use,” Gallipani noted about the night of the show. “He also requested that he share a microphone instead of having his own.”

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Text and Photos by Glen DiCrocco | glendicrocco.com

Watch the video of Little Steve performing “With A Little Help From My Friends” with Rockit.