darlene-loveRock and Roll Hall of Famer Darlene Love, above, and not-so-secret Santa Brian Kirk, below, return to the Count Basie stage for their respective holiday shows this Friday and Saturday.

brian-kirkA holiday tradition bit the fake-snow dust in 2014, when a retiring David Letterman hosted musical guest Darlene Love in her umpteenth and final annual performance of the soaring “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home).”

But Red Bank audiences can vouch that Ms. Love and her Christmas-pop signature are alive and well. And when the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer returns to the Count Basie Theatre stage this Friday,  she’ll bring along some special friends with a Jersey Shore connection — while kicking off a weekend that boasts another special sleighride from a locally homegrown Santa: Brian Kirk.

The 2016 edition of Love’s ‘A Souled Out Christmas’ is another opportunity for the still-going-strong 75-year-old to belt out her classic covers of “White Christmas,” “Winter Wonderland,” “It’s a Marshmallow World” and more. She’ll be backed by special guests LaBamba and the Hubcaps — the wall-of-sound band led by Richie “LaBamba” Rosenberg, whose long-playing career as trombonist and arranger (for Bruce Springsteen, Southside Johnny, Diana Ross and many others) has been supercharged by his decades as a highly visible member of Conan O’Brien’s TV bands.

Asbury Park-based promoter Sammy Boyd presents the 8 p.m. event as a benefit for the music education programs of the nonprofit Little Kids Rock foundation. Tickets ($59 – $129) can be reserved right here.


When redbankgreen talked to Brian Kirk a few years back about his newly minted status as producer and ringmaster of an annual “Santa for…” fundraiser show at the Basie, the Red Bank businessman (and longtime frontguy of Shore party favorites Brian Kirk & the Jirks) mused to the effect that “maybe I get whatever organizational skills I have from my mother, who used to work as a volunteer at St. Mary’s Thrift Shop in New Monmouth — they ran a tight ship over there!”

Truth to tell, the owner of Key Telecom has been a paragon of organization for many years, one whose summertime “Dunesday” benefit blasts (formerly hosted at Sea Bright’s Sandy-savaged landmark Donovan’s Reef) complemented his public persona as leader of one of the most happy-go-lucky beach bar bands in all of coastal creation. When Kirk and his assembles Jirks return to the Basie stage this Saturday, for their fifth annual Christmastime concert, they’ll have further cemented a relationship with the event’s designated charity of choice: Lunch Break, the borough-based community resource that provides year-round meals (and a whole lot more) to Red Bank families and residents of all ages.

Expect the by-now traditional mix of danceable tunes, “Kirky Style” comedy and special musical guests, in a “three hour jingle balling of a show” that uses playfully risque doses of irreverent humor and cheerfully raucous rock-outs in seriously funding the ongoing mission of Lunch Break’s volunteers, and their ever-expanding range of charitable, educational and support services for our community neighbors.

Take it here for tickets ($25 – $75); bring a non-perishable food item for Lunch Break’s holiday food drive — or go here for more info on the many upcoming holiday-themed events at the Basie, including two shows by Holiday Express (12/19-20), Kenny Rogers with Linda Davis (12/21), and Bobby Bandiera’s all-star Hope Concert IX (12/23).