By Michelle Chance
There was no “hush” heard over the crowd during Herman’s Hermits Starring Peter Noone’s performance inside the lounge at Ak-Chin Casino Friday night.
In fact, fans who packed the venue sang and swayed along with the group, who rose to fame during the British Invasion era of the 1960s.
The band opened with the 1964 hit “I’m Into Something Good” and followed through with other popular songs from their set list.
Noone, who is nearing 70, took the stage with exuberance, energy and an unyielding sense of humor. The show played like an improvised Broadway performance, with the front man calling out his hits on the fly.
It’s no surprise then that he constructs his show in much the same way as he built his career.
“I think Herman’s Hermits were the first punk band – and people laugh when I say that – only because we did not have a plan. We never made a plan,” Noone said.
A pop music rebel icon in his mind, Noone’s free spirit reflects in his spontaneous set list no matter if he’s playing in Maricopa or in the Far East.
Noone said the group regularly covers “Love Potion No. 9” during every show because of an interesting situation that arose on tour in China.
Herman’s Hermits was advertised to play the hit, which was not originally recorded by the group.
“We said ‘We don’t know Love Potion No.9. That’s not us.’ And they said ‘Yes, it is you.’”
So the band was forced to learn the song and perform it to the crowd that night.
“I will say jokingly that that was the only song that they liked that we did and it wasn’t even us,” he said.
It’s been in the rotation ever since.
But to the local crowd Friday night, Noone and his Hermits played plenty of his well-known hits, too, including “A Kind of Hush” and “I’m Henry VIII, I Am.”
“I mean when I say ‘There’s a Kind of Hush All Over the World’ I’m more touched by the audience’s performance. You know I go ‘There’s a Kind of Hush’ and they’ll go ‘All Over the World’ and they’re straight into the song. They’re in it,” he said.
In the ‘60s, Herman’s Hermits invaded America’s music billboards with many top hits.
Before their success in the U.S. though, Noone’s band played in small venues in England where it all began.
Inside Liverpool’s famous Cavern Club, Noone says he played under much different conditions than he performs in today.
“To other old-fart rockers like me, I go ‘You know, the end here is a lot better than the beginning,’” he said.
The Cavern Club functioned in a small space underground. Loud music, people dancing, smoking and sweating contributed to condensation that formed on the ceiling which hung just slightly above Noone’s head.
“You can see there’s a lot of squinting going on – because you would be like in your third song and the nicotine condensation would land on your hair and you knew as you perspired that nicotine drop of nasty stuff and sweat would eventually find its way to your eye and then you would be blinded for the rest of the show and have this magical, smiling look on your face,” Noone recalled.
But Noone’s not-so-glamorous origin story is one he and other rock ‘n’ rollers still cherish.
“We even enjoyed that,” he said, adding, “When you talk to people who played the Cavern they go ‘Oh yeah, it was great, wasn’t it?’ ‘Well what about the nicotine droplets?’ ‘Yeah, but you know the Cavern was great.’”
Those were different times. And Noone said it’s an era in his life that was possible because of a certain kind of attitude that’s different from today.
“It was just a strange period to be in, and the word that best describes the ‘60s – especially the early ‘60s – was a massive amount of enthusiasm,” Noone said.
Enthusiasm lived on inside the lounge, and Noone said he plans to keep eliciting that same response from crowds for at least the next 10 years.