"Oldies" shows are often desultory affairs featuring groups with only one original member (if that) supported by indifferent backing bands. Which is why the periodic "New York Doo Wopp" shows at the Universal Amphitheatre are usually a joy for anyone who enjoys vintage rock 'n' roll. The backing band, the Monte Carlos, pumps new lifeblood into the old classics, and past shows have presented little-known but outstanding vocalists like Vito & the Salutations.
Wednesday's Christmas edition of "New York Doo Wopp" at the Amphitheatre was a tad weak compared to earlier editions. Especially disconcerting was the inclusion of the Diamonds. The quartet's bleached versions of "Why Do Fools Fall in Love" and "Silhouettes" were an annoying reminder of how white groups in the '50s capitalized on black artists by sanitizing their hits for white teenagers.
Curiously, the Diamonds didn't perform their 1957 dance hit "The Stroll," one of their darker, moodier and more interesting originals. The crowd loved their slick, Vegas-like show, but remained a bit cool for the highlight of the evening, headliners Hank Ballard & The Midnighters, who were soulful, sexy and salacious as they romped through early risque R & B routines like "Work With Me Annie" and the original "The Twist." Backed by a crackerjack vocal trio and his own hot-shot band, Ballard kept his tradition alive and kicking--or twisting.