It’s just about the last of the big holiday-themed entertainment events to take the stage of the Count Basie Theatre in Red Bank each December — a frankly awesome rock and roll extravaganza that plants a glittering star atop the tree at an eleventh hour when various Scrooges, Nutcrackers and vocal choirs have scurried off to their last-minute shopping excursions.
Ask Bobby Bandiera and he’ll probably tell you that a dose of charitable spirit is more important than ever in the final countdown to Christmas and Hanukkah — and that the day-to-day survival of our neediest neighbors doesn’t take a holiday break when the rest of the community settles into its family traditions.
On Friday night, the guitarist, vocalist, bandleader and walking encyclopedia of pop music returns to the Basie boards for the ninth edition of an event that’s become his signature contribution to the season: the Hope Concert.
A music-scene stalwart whose résumé extends from long tenures in legendary Shore bands (Holme, Cats on a Smooth Surface, Holiday Express) to national and international tours as a member of Bon Jovi and the Asbury Jukes — and an ongoing command as field marshal for his acclaimed series of themed Jersey Shore Rock ‘N Soul Revue concerts at the Count — the have-guitar-will-travel Bandiera has amassed quite the Rolodex of contacts through his decades in the business.
It’s an asset that manifests most memorably each holiday season, as the Hope Concert ringmaster finds himself joined by friends who have included Jon Bon Jovi, Southside Johnny, Gary U.S. Bonds, Debbie Harry, Marshall Crenshaw, John Cafferty, Nicole Atkins, Ben E. King, and Bruce Springsteen. Friday’s Hope Concert 9 promises the returns of Bonds and Southside (whose annual New Years Eve show is back again for 2016) — as well as Gene Cornish of the great 1960’s hitmakers the Rascals (“Groovin’,” “Good Lovin” and so many others), Academy Award winning singer-songwriter and producer Franke Previte (“The Time of My Life”) and “more to be announced.”
Equally important as the onstage talent are the folks at the other end of the annual fundraiser: a hard working corps of charitable volunteers, educators and community outreach specialists whose good works reverberate long after the last guitar note fades to fuzz. For the 2016 concert, Bandiera has designated a group of beneficiaries that include the nonprofit Foodbank of Monmouth and Ocean Counties, and its year-round mission to feed the neediest members of our community, with some 70 of its 300 feeding programs located within 10 miles of Red Bank.
For the first time, the Hope Concert will also help fund the Latino outreach programs at nearby Two River Theater, an initiative that has brought the community bi-lingual performances, special free matinees and an annual Crossing Borders Festival of new plays each summer. 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 last year on redbankgreen.
All told, Bandiera’s Hope Concerts have raised more than $3 million for their various beneficiaries. So while the name “Bob Hope” may have already been claimed by another legendary entertainer who famously entertained the troops every holiday season, our own Mr. Hope and his elite team of all-star buddies continue to do good and lift morale on the home front.
Take it here for available tickets ($100 – $500) to the 8 p.m. show, which will feature a special opening set of holiday favorites by Tim McLoone and the Shirleys. And go here for details on the April 22 return of Bandiera’s Jersey Shore Rock ‘N Soul Revue; a “Handle With Care” tribute to the music of all five original members of the super-dupergroup the Traveling Wilburys.