The Lovin’ Spoonful packed Suffolk Theater in Riverhead Thursday night, as fans of the folk-rock legends came to sing along with some of the most compulsively singable pop songs of the ’60s.
Many in the audience seemed to have personal connections to the band, which has its origins on the East End. The band made sure no hit went missing, and the appreciative audience still remembered all of the words.
Most of these hits were written by the great John Sebastian, who no longer performs with the band—although on Thursday the band made it a point to acknowledge their indebtedness to Sebastian’s work. Sebastian’s mid-’60s gems like “Daydream” and “Do You Believe in Magic” epitomize a moment in pop history before folk-rock took a turn towards the serious. Sebastian’s Spoonful tunes are a bit of cheerful, electrified jugband filtered through a hook-happy, Brill Building sensibility. Operative word: fun.
The band has never really gone away—they’ve been “on the road” for 49 years—and they do a great job of bringing the right energy to music that might run the risk of seeming trivial. It’s fun music, but they take it seriously. All of the original vocal harmonies are there, including the elaborate doo-wop style echoing on “Didn’t Want To Have To Do It” and the falsetto on “Did You Ever Have To Make Up Your Mind.” Joe Butler, who was the drummer but now acts as a frontman, is a consummate showman—he must have spent years behind the kit aching for the limelight.
Much of the band’s stage patter was amusing references to its members’ advanced age. For example, before launching into “Younger Girl,” Sebastian’s 1966 ditty about jailbait, bandleader Jerry Yester pointed out that, for the guys in the band, all women are “younger girls.” After this show, though, I’d say the Lovin’ Spoonful, its music and its fans, have aged very well.