Call him Bob Hope: a seasoned and savvy entertainer who’s made some formidable friends, logged many a lap around the globe, raised a flotilla of funds, and marshaled a major entertainment campaign every holiday season.
But while the original Mr. Hope famously brought his USO-show mix of radio-era comedy, go-go-booted dancers and patriotic spirit to the troops back in the day, Bobby Bandiera calls an elite troupe of all-star buddies back to the boards of Red Bank’s Count Basie Theatre each December for an operation that’s designed to do good and lift morale on the home front.
When the guitarist, vocalist, bandleader and walking encyclopedia of pop music returns on December 23 to the venue where he regularly presents his acclaimed series of themed Jersey Shore Rock ‘N Soul Revue concerts, he’ll be in command of an eighth edition of the Hope Concert — one that boasts an array of stars, an expanded set of charitable beneficiaries, and — for the first time ever — a “twi-night doubleheader” of shows, scheduled for 7 and 9:30 p.m.
Bandiera — a Jersey Shore scene stalwart whose resume extends from long-running tenures in legendary bar bands (Holme, Cats on a Smooth Surface) to national and international tours as a member of Bon Jovi and the Asbury Jukes — has amassed quite the Little Black Book of contacts through his decades in the business. On Wednesday night, he’ll be drawing on some of that accrued good will once more for a presentation of classic rock hits and seasonal signatures with special guests that scheduled to include former employers Southside Johnny (whose New Year’s Eve show returns on December 31 to the Basie, following a one-year hiatus) and Jon Bon Jovi.
But wait, there’s more — including encore appearances by honorary Shore guys Gary U.S. Bonds (whose pioneering party-rock platters were a huge influence on Bruce Springsteen and his Asbury contemporaries) and Beaver Brown Band kingpin John Cafferty (who made his biggest splash with the soundtrack to the 80s favorite Eddie and the Cruisers) — plus the eleventh-hour lineup addition of Blondie queenbee (and Lincroft neighbor) Deborah Harry.
It’s an affair whose warmth and light have attracted other well-known pals to past editions (as documented in cellphone-footage snippets like this) — and a crucial countdown-to-Christmas fundraising vehicle for several locally based nonprofit organizations. Proceeds from the 7 p.m. Hope Concert are being dedicated to Red Bank’s own Visiting Nurses Associated Health Group, as well as to 180 Turning Lives Around and its range of programs for victims of sexual and domestic violence.
In addition, $10 from every ticket sold to the early show will be donated to the Basie’s “Arts for All” partnership with Red Bank Middle School, a program that was described here on redbankgreen.
The recently added 9:30 “A Little More Hope” show will benefit Mary’s Place by the Sea, the Ocean Grove facility whose mission is to support women during and after cancer treatment.
All told, Bandiera’s Hope Concerts have raised more than $3 million for their various beneficiaries, over the course of the past seven editions.
Take it here for available tickets ($250 – $500) to the 7 p.m. earlybird — and here for the 9:30 p.m. nightowl — both of which are reportedly close to capacity as this story is posted. And keep it tuned to redbankgreen for details, as the Count Basie closes out 2015 with the return of two homegrown seasonal favorites: Dunbar Repertory’s Black Nativity, and that dose of Asbury Jukes Auld Lang Syne.