By Fern Brodkin
For Digital First Media
Remember Jones, the funk/soul band led by vocalist Anthony D’Amato, will bring their “back to ‘Back to Black’” show to Ardmore Music Hall on July 23. The show will recreate Amy Winehouse’s Grammy Award–winning album “Back to Black” (Island, 2006).
This show at Ardmore will be the fifth and final show of a mini-tour and will be the fifth anniversary of Winehouse’s untimely death. The show will also be Remember Jones’ Philadelphia area debut.
Remember Jones has recently done shows to commemorate other artists including Joe Cocker’s “Mad Dogs & Englishmen” (A&M, 1990), R. Kelly’s rap opera “Trapped in the Closet” and a recreation of the Jeff Buckley album “Grace” (Sony Legacy, 1994).
But don’t call Remember Jones a “tribute band.”
“I’ve kind of been trying to escape (the word) “tribute,” because when you come to the show, you notice that it really is something different than a tribute,” said D’Amato. “It’s more of a revival or a sort of celebration of the original performance, or the original record. We are kind of recreating the emotion of what that sounded and felt like the first time you heard it or saw the show.”
“Back to Back to Black” is the first themed show that Remember Jones ever presented.
“I had been toying around with the idea of just doing one of the songs (from the album),” said D’Amato. “We were going to do the song ‘Back to Black’ in one of our sets, and I just threw out the idea, ‘Man, how crazy would it be to recreate this album?’ Especially because of Amy Winehouse not being around to sing (the songs), you don’t hear this music around a lot. We were definitely the right band that could hit all of the nuances and make that feel right.”
The band decided to take a risk and book the show at Asbury Lanes in Asbury Park, N.J., that D’Amato describes as “this faded, post-punk bowling alley” where bands perform on a stage in the middle of the lanes. The show sold out. A subsequent performance at House of Independents, also in Asbury Park, also sold out.
“Since we debuted this about a year-and-a-half ago, or so, (it has) been (our) most successful (show), or at least the one that’s got — in my opinion — the coolest concept. And that’s a man singing this album in the same keys, with the same lyrics (as the original). It’s kind of a fresh take, a brand new way to hear them.”
D’Amato said initially he wasn’t sure what kind of response he would get to this production.
“I was really completely unaware of what kind of audience we would draw, forgetting that Amy Winehouse sort of became mainstream at some point because of ‘Rehab,’ the song.”
And then of course she became popularized in the media due to her personal struggle with addiction.
“I forgot that she became really well-known in that way, because I had fallen in love with the record before it became a big hit,” explained D’Amato.
Before Remember Jones gained a reputation for performing this show, the initial audiences came more out of curiosity than anything. Some people thought that it was a traditional tribute band with a woman singing.
“Then, coming to the show, people were so surprised that it was something completely different — but something that they had still heard before,” said D’Amato.
“You don’t often get a chance to hear this on stage live, with a big band, and full lush arrangements. We think about the album ‘Back to Black,’ and in one or two of the songs, there are 15 musicians at playing (together). It’s really cool that you don’t get to hear that a lot.”
Remember Jones also performs original music. And the band is celebrating the release of their debut CD “Ladies and Gentlemen, Remember Jones!” It is an album of mostly originals and 2 covers that the band typically performs in their live set.
The album was recorded live at the Strand Theater in Lakewood, N.J., with a 25-piece band. The crowd-funded effort raised nearly $19,000 from nearly 300 supporters.
“The album is based on songs that we had done live or within our sets. Most of them feel like sort of a soul revue. I like to — in the vein of people like Joe Cocker, Tina Turner, and other famous vocalists — take someone else’s song… and do a completely different version of it. We’ve done that with The Smashing Pumpkins and a whole list of other artists and bands. We’ve taken one genre and just completely spun it into another. That’s been a part of our live shows.”
In addition to the “back to Back to Black” show at Ardmore Music Hall, Remember Jones will be performing their regular repertoire on Aug. 7 at Musikfest in Bethlehem. It will be an opportunity to see a different side of the band.