A mere eight months after the release of Felix Cavaliere’s autobiography, Memoir of a Rascal, the singer-organist already has something worthwhile to add to the next printing: the story behind his unlikely 2022 tour with Rascals guitarist Gene Cornish.
What made the tour highly improbable had nothing to do with the longstanding differences and legal issues that have plagued The Rascals for decades. It was a matter of health.
While Cavaliere and Cornish were touring in September 2018, the latter collapsed onstage in Montana due to a heart arrhythmia, and he subsequently had a pacemaker implanted. Their plan to hit the road again in October 2018 didn’t pan out, but Cornish felt up to the task this year, so their short Time Peace Tour this fall marks his return to the stage playing Rascals material with Cavaliere.
Billed on the tickets as The Rascals: Felix Cavaliere & Gene Cornish, they rolled into Morristown, New Jersey, on Nov. 16 with a seven-piece band for a show at the Mayo Performing Arts Center. Cornish was given a round of applause as he was escorted to a chair to the left of Cavaliere’s organ. Moments later, Cavaliere prompted cheers of his own as he emerged in animated fashion.
What followed was a well-paced, nearly 90-minute concert highlighting Rascals hits and choice album cuts. “Groovin’ ” appeared early in the set, as did another band signature from 1967, “A Girl Like You.” In between, Cavaliere and Cornish told a funny story about the group performing at a place in the 1960s called the Choo Choo Club in Garfield — the hometown of Rascals singer Eddie Brigati and drummer Dino Danelli, and only about 25 miles east of the Mayo stage.
Cavaliere, Cornish and company kept things fresh throughout the night by sprinkling in bits of songs made famous by other artists, among them Wild Cherry’s “Play That Funky Music,” The Temptations’ “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone” and Lipps Inc.’s “Funkytown.” “Come on Up” and “What Is the Reason,” both from the Collections album (when they were still known as The Young Rascals), fit in well among “People Got to Be Free” and other more familiar material.
The backing band did an admirable job singing the Brigati-fronted hits “I Ain’t Gonna Eat Out My Heart Anymore” and “How Can I Be Sure.” And with the second guitarist taking care of the heavy lifting, Cornish was free to contribute to the overall production in subtle ways, smiling often, strumming intermittently and occasionally waving his arms above his head to pump up the crowd.
Cornish’s gesturing served as a reminder just how dynamic The Rascals were in their prime — especially Brigati (few rockers were as flashy with maracas and a tambourine) and Danelli (who had chops, feel and flair). Now, as elder statesmen, and even without those two Garfield-groomed guys complementing them, Cavaliere and Cornish still have plenty in the tank to put on a show worth checking out.
The remaining concerts on Cavaliere and Cornish's Time Peace Tour are Nov. 18 in Atlantic City, New Jersey; Nov. 19 in Rochester, New York; and Nov. 20 in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.