American Queen Mississippi Cruise
Between Vicksburg & Helena
Wednesday 11th June 2014
The Magic Touch
Save The Last dance for Me
City of New Orleans
Smoke Gets In Your Eyes
The Great Pretender
God Bless the USA
This is the version of The Platters reviewed
The Platters are listed as “The Platters” in quotes. This line up, we were told, were personally selected by Herb Reed before his demise, the only “authorized Platters” and Duane Miller has been a Platter for 21 years which takes us back to 1993, but not to 1956 when none of these current Platters were born. Duane doesn’t appear on the website lists of members, but these Platters have a website under construction, with TM after the name, and fan sites link them as Herb Reed’s Platters. There have been more than one hundred and twenty members of The Platters, and only Herb Reed is on every classic recording, though not as the tenor lead. In the early 2000s, four different sets of The Platters were touring simultaneously. So what about these guys? Are they inheritors with an albeit homeopathic connection to the originals, or a tribute band? We concluded “too good, too close to be a tribute band.” They also look very much like the 1956 four guys and a girl line up, though in shiny blue tuxes rather than shiny green. And there’s one fewer guy now. I didn’t catch full names, and they are not on their site, but Frankie was the lead tenor.
They were backed by the boat’s resident Steamboat Syncopators, a professional, but somewhat uninvolved band that reads everything, inevitably, though they were excellent tonight as The Platters brought their own MD, Michael Larsson, on piano and keyboards who conducted them to good effect. The charts were good. The first five songs are all classic Platters hits, with Frankie singing lead on every one with the others backing. He told a story I hadn’t heard. Back in 1956, radio stations marked promo discs white for all day play, and purple for after 6 pm only. Purple was basically black music. Alan Freed loved Only You and decided to play it early afternoon, and broke the rules. They were inundated with requests to play it again. He did. It was a massive hit, and The Platters were on their way, and the rule was abandoned.
They switched vocalists for The Drifters’ Save Te Last Dance For Me, well taken, then it was just Frankie solo plus piano from his MD for Ebb Tide. A further vocalist switch took us into an audience participation wave your hands routine for Sweet Caroline. That’s what tribute bands tend to do, a medley of hits then other stuff they like. So The City of New Orleans. A favourite Arlo Guthrie song, perhaps best-known in its Willie Nelson version. What was this hippie folkie / smoky country classic doing in the repertoire of The Platters? They took it as the full audience participation one side sings this bit / the other side sings that bit audience singalong. It worked a dream.To me it is somewhat obscure though well-loved.
Back to three classics in a row with Frankie singing: Harbor Lights, Smoke Gets In Your Eyes and The Great Pretender, sung definitively for me by Richard Manuel on The Band’s Moondog Matinee album. This was also fabulous, my favourite song of the night. It’s a cruise ship So one of the quartet told us about Frankie’s first responder experience at 9/11. I had not known of the 80 subsequent deaths from smoke inhalation. Now I do, Veterans and firefighters were invited to stand and accept applause. This is good and right, and as a foreigner I was pleased to be invited to join in the applause. They finished with a heartfelt God Bless The USA. Three lots of people told us they were moved deeply by four African Americans singing this. As I say, a foreigner can only observe. We were convinced it was all sincere. As was the group moving to the lobby to meet and greet, and chatting in a friendly way to us while they were a waiting to disembark in the morning. Yes, they successfully re-created The Platters. Are they “The Platters”? Two minutes in, I had suspended disbelief and sat back to enjoy this quartet of first rate singers.