POCO Legends Pay Tribute to Pete Fornatale at the SOPAC
A SoundPress.net Feature Article by Rich and Laura Lynch
Richie Furay and Paul Cotton are both well respected musicians in their own right but they are also associated with the band POCO. Richie was an original member of the country rock group and Paul was a pivotal player in the band for many years. The two came together on June 16, 2013 at the SOPAC (South Orange Performing Arts Center) to pay tribute to DJ Pete Fornatale.
Richie Furay and Paul Cotton - POCO legends together again.
This one of event showcased three special people. First, Richie Furay who is a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member. Furay was a founding father of both the Buffalo Springfield and POCO. In those two groups, Richie helped craft a new sound that combined elements of country and rock. Furay left POCO to pursue a career in Christian music and preaching but he has periodically performed with his former bandmates.
Paul Cotton is a guitarist, singer and songwriter best known for his work in POCO and the Illinois Speed Press. Paul is also well loved for "Heart of The Night", "Bad Weather", "Indian Summer", "Barbados" and others hit songs. For decades, Paul was a key figure in POCO handling lead guitar and often lead vocals. His departure in 2010 was a disappointment to many POCOnuts but he is living the good life in Florida and is busy playing with the Paul Cotton Band.
Pete Fornatale was an author and disc jockey who was on the New York City airwaves for decades. Pete was considered a pioneer of rock music. In 1964, he was the first deejay to host a rock show as an alternative to AM Top 40. It was Pete who first spun records from The Grateful Dead, The Buffalo Springfield, POCO and many other "new" bands.
Fornatale - who passed away suddenly in 2012 - was one of Furay's biggest supporters playing Richie's music frequently on the radio for many years. Pete also wrote the liner notes for several of Furay's albums. So when sponsors Nancy and David Stone of Nancy and David Fine Jewels reached out to Richie and Paul to honor Pete with a concert the two agreed and a legendary "POCO" show was in the making.
We arrived early at the SOPAC and talked with some POCOnuts who had traveled for hours to be at this special pairing. The theater has multiple levels showcasing artwork and on this particular occasion hosted a meet and greet meal before the concert and another signing event afterwards.
The concert started with a short montage of music and photos of Pete Fornatale with accolades from Graham Nash and The Beach Boys. Through the use of this technology Pete was able to introduce Paul Cotton.
"Thank you New Jersey, God bless Pete," said Paul. Cotton armed with an electric guitar started his solo set with "Barbados". Mentioning POCO's Blue and Gray album, Paul dedicated the next song to the men and women in uniform. "Please Wait for Me" was poignant. Cotton mentioned that he had gotten married in 2008 and performed the sweet "Do What You Do" for the Mrs.
Scott Sellen and Richie Furay - writing partners and musical kindred spirits.
"I've got butterflies as big as elephants," Paul observed saying that he usually does not play solo and he thought that this might have been a first for him. The audience applauded the opening notes of the visual "Indian Summer". Next, he invited Richie Furay to join him on stage. The two hugged as fans were on their feet for the moment. Two guitars and voices added more layers to the classic "Bad Weather" which ended Paul's set on a good note.
"Happy Father's Day, great to see Paul," stated Richie taking the spotlight. Furay also gave a shout out to Nancy & David Stone for organizing this event that honored Pete Fornatale. Richie was fronting a fine five piece band. They played a career spanning set that included Buffalo Springfield and the gem "Fallin' in Love" from the Souther Hillman Furay project (1973-1975).
"I don't think POCO performed this one," declared Furay, "Crazy Eyes" gave multi-instrumentalist Scott Sellen an opportunity to shine as he switched from banjo, guitar and keys throughout the song. The piece moved through an array of rocking progressions that received a well earned standing ovation. Richie's daughter Jesse handled lead vocals on a tune that had been composed by bassist Aaron Sellen. The song had a snappy tempo and Jesse like her father is an expressive vocalist.
"This is a new song about looking back and forty-six years with my kind woman," shared Ritchie before debuting the title track from his forthcoming album. "Hand in Hand" was a sentimental look at life with references to water. The animated "Go and Say Good Bye" was a nice nod to Furay's Springfield days. The spirited "Wake Up My Soul" was one of two Christian songs that the RFB performed. In between Furay confirmed that it was okay to do a little worship, reminding us that they do what they do by the grace of God. The crowd happily clapped along to Ritchie's rocking revival music.
Paul Cotton let loose with some of that lead guitar that he's known for.
"Thank you David and Nancy for inviting Paul," enthused Furay as Cotton with his electric joined the group for a magical "Heart of the Night" with Cotton on lead vocals. Three guitars propelled "Never Walk Away" and they ended the set on a high energy, crowd pleasing "Good Feelin' to Know". Paul returned with the RFB for the encore that included an extended version of "Kind Woman".
The concert at the SOPAC was the perfect tribute for DJ Pete Fornatale as well as a legendary pairing for POCOnuts. The positive energy in the venue and the crisp sound at the SOPAC made the show a success and proved that there is indeed still just a little magic the country music that these two former POCO members were singing during the nearly three-hour performance.
Fans also had an opportunity to pay tribute to Fornatale by supporting his most prominent charity - WHY Hunger. There was a silent auction for a Cotton-Furay autographed guitar and a raffle offering Fornatale's books and a picture of Pete holding the original "Buffalo Springfield" sign with all proceeds earmarked to fund WHY Hunger
The RFB with Paul Cotton concert was just one of many fine events at this intimate venue. Since 2006, the SOPAC has been a premier theater and arts education center. Please check sopacnow.org for their full list of activities.
The Richie Furay Band: Richie Furay - guitars, lead vocals / Jesse Furay Lynch - percussion, vocals / Alan Lemke - drums / Aaron Sellen - bass / Scott Sellen - banjo, guitars, keys, vocals
The SOPAC in South Orange is a quality intimate venue in the heart of New Jersey.
Related Links: For more information on the RICHIE FURAY BAND and the other organizations mentioned please visit the following links - Richie Furay | Paul Cotton | POCO | Pete Fornatale | WHY Hunger | Nancy and David | SOPAC
(Originally Published on June 18, 2013)
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