Close to You tribute band remembers the music, lives of Karen, Richard Carpenter
Lead singer Lisa Rock and her six backup band members recreated the billboard hits of The Carpenters during their Saturday night show at the H. Ric Luhrs Performing Arts Center.
A single spotlight illuminated the piano in the left corner of the stage as Drew Jansen filled the air with the sound of fingers dancing on piano keys, and shortly after, another beam shot from behind the audience, transpiring over Rock as her voice merged with acoustic percussion. The two beams, which appeared to symbolize siblings Karen and Richard Carpenter, rippled across the stage as the opening song “Yesterday Once More” morphed into harmony.
Karen and Richard often performed as a duo while they toured in the ’70s, but were known to incorporate backup singers while recording some of their albums to achieve a more voluminous sound. The Close to You Carpenter tribute band expanded in number from the original two with the hope of preserving the album-rooted sound that many fans knew best.
“We want you to sing along. Please do. I promise we can’t hear you,” Rock said, jokingly encouraging both the tone deaf and musically talented individuals in the crowd to be active participants in the show.
Jumping back in to the set list, Rock and her band treated fans with the song “We’ve Only Just Begun” from the 1970 album that the tribute band is named after — “Close to You.” Picking up the tempo from The Carpenter’s traditional ballad sound, Close to You performed the band’s remake of Herman Hermit’s “There’s a Kind of Hush,” later following it with the band’s first hit song, “He’s Got a Ticket to Ride” by the Beatles.
Returning to originals, the band heightened the memorial of The Carpenters by alerting the audience that March 2 — the day before the concert — would have been Karen’s 68th birthday if she were still alive.
“I want her to be remembered for what she should be remembered for — her golden voice,” Rock said.
With Karen in mind, Rock performed “Only Yesterday” with a fiery voice that was powered by the sentiment of a life lost too soon. Lightening the mood, but remaining keyed into the sentimental aurora, Close to You channeled nostalgia with The Carpenter’s cover of “Sing.” American-Portuguese composer created “Sing” in the ’70s for an episode of “Sesame Street,” but by covering the song, The Carpenters made it a No. 3 billboard hit on the top 100 chart.
“This is the audience participation part of the show,” Rock said, hinting back to what she said earlier. However, the crowd did not need to be swayed. When Jansen played the song’s gentle intro, the fans jubilantly chimed in with the words.
Following the “Sing” sing-along, Close to You performed the well-known songs, “Hurting Each Other,” “I Won’t Last a Day Without You,” “Top of the World,” and what Rock referred to as Karen’s favorite song — “I Need to be in Love.”
The tribute band attempted to close the show with the “Close to You” album’s title track, but the audience’s static standing ovation cued an encore performance.
“A Song for You,” was the encore and final song of the night, which Rock dedicated to David Cassidy. Cassidy, alongside Shirley Jones, presented The Carpenters with their first Grammy in 1970, Rock said, and the rest is history.