Funny thing about intimacy – it’s all warm and fuzzy until someone snaps and says they need space.
Pop prince David Cassidy has good reason to be afraid of intimacy, having been the object of affection of millions of screaming teenyboppers across the globe since his starring role in the early 1970s hit sitcom “The Partridge Family.” But despite having sold out the world’s grandest arenas from Madison Square Garden to Wembley Stadium and taken to stages from Broadway to Vegas to prove his musical ability beyond the the small screen, Cassidy stepped into the full-house fervor of the 440-seat Bear’s Den at Seneca Niagara Casino on Friday night and immediately embraced the intimate setting.
“Tonight is a special night – you’ll understand this. I’ll explain it all,” the spry 63-year-old Cassidy said in greeting the giddy crowd of mostly middle-aged women.
Before fully explaining, Cassidy opened his 13-song, 80-minute set by leading his formidable four-piece band (Dave Robicheau, guitar/vocals; Craig J, keyboard/vocals; Frank Fabio, bass/vocals/musical director; Teri Coté, drums/vocals) in slanky-grooved re-workings of Partridge hits “C’mon Get Happy” and “I Can Feel Your Heartbeat.” His hard-sold singing and stage presence suggested he was sincerely happy to be in the moment.
Cassidy then painstakingly explained that over the past week or so, he’d fractured the middle finger on his left hand, suffered a black eye and eight-stitch cut above it and, also on his left hand, had a deep cut on his ring finger, which worsened his already-impaired guitar ability.
Having earned forgiveness from his fans, Cassidy soldiered on with aplomb, finding the strength in his sometimes-wavering tenor voice in the Partridge hit “Point Me in the Direction of Albuquerque” before a string of covers, each introduced with a story. An homage to Van Morrison included a believably “never rehearsed” run on “Gloria” before the band nailed “Wild Night” with wide smiles.
Cassidy’s many stories were told amid near-constant swooning from the close-up crowd, which he gushingly welcomed at first. He recalled walking out of a 1968 audition in Manhattan to the sound of a convertible blasting Deep Purple’s “Hush” before a blistering take on the tune, grimacing through a solid guitar solo as he did nearly every time he challenged his injured fingers. And hush he did, afterward, to two chatty Cathys in the front row, stopping his next story to snap, “You’re too close! Stop it! I can’t concentrate.”
Two Monkees tunes in “I’m a Believer” and “Daydream Believer” were delivered with tales of friendship made more believable by Cassidy’s convincing singing of the latter after a moving nod to the late Davy Jones.
After laughingly calling another front-row fan a “sick puppy” for asking for his used bandage and welcoming another call to kiss his wounds, Cassidy told of the honor he felt when Brill Building songwriter Gerry Goffin handed him the Partridge hit “I’ll Meet You Halfway,” an impassioned tale interrupted by a fan letting him know that her bra was onstage.
Cassidy was stopped in his tracks during a fun series of band solos in Traffic’s “Feelin’ Alright?” when he found at his feet a fan-delivered playbill from his professional debut in the Broadway musical “The Fig Leaves Are Falling.” He offered heartfelt thanks and left the stage with it clenched to his chest after tearing through three greatest hits in the ballad “Cherish,” the hard-hitting “I Woke Up in Love This Morning” and his closer, “I Think I Love You.”
The gift was a warm trump card over a hot hand of insanity in an evening of intimacy at the casino.