The Wayback Show
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The continued popularity of classic pop and rock songs from the 1960s, 70s and 80s can’t be simply explained away as mere nostalgia.
It’s true that the generations who came of age during those decades, particularly Baby Boomers, still feel attached to the music and themes of their youth and enjoy reliving those times through the era’s soundtrack. But it’s also true that those people shared a love of that music with their children – even their grandchildren – and helped keep the music alive through a new and eager audience. The renewed popularity of vinyl has also allowed millennials to discover older music anew.
All of this means that the performers from years ago are still viable and active, something which would have no doubt seemed impossible in the 60s when turning 30 was akin to a crime. But with the Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr and Bruce Springsteen (to name but a few) still filling arenas after all these years, it’s clear that the music of those years won’t be lost or forgotten any time soon.
Already busy in bar bands down in Florida, a couple of enterprising musicians decided to address the unquenchable thirst for the music of the 60s-80s. Keyboardist Paul Gatti and drummer Mark Blinkhorn looked to take that music and package it into a highly polished and professionally produced show which could travel the county and keep their favorite music alive. Decades Rewind, which visits the Embassy Theatre this month, was born.
“The response to the show has been great,” says Gatti. “When it comes to the 60s, 70s and 80s, there’s just so much music and culture, and people will tell us that they’ve sometimes been in tears from all of the great memories. People tell us ‘You made me feel young again.'”
Propelling backward through time, Decades Rewind is more than just a clever name. Starting with the music of the 80s, the production winds back through the 70s and ends with the tumultuous 60s, when music and culture were inextricably intertwined. Through use of video screens, the show also features film footage of what was happening culturally during the time of the songs, with the finale, which focuses on the 60s counterculture and Woodstock, bringing it all together.
“It’s a crazy world, and people like to come spend a few hours and listen to the music,” says Gatti. “It’s like stepping into a time machine and then it becomes a party. We do medleys and songs from every genre. We do rock, disco, the music of the hippies. And then with the video screens we can relive some of what was happening in our history and culture. We have footage of all the presidents during those years. We really cover a lot of things.”
Of course, a production like that involves a lot of planning. When Gatti was first developing the concept behind Decades Rewind in 2015, there was a lot to consider, and much of it fell outside his expertise.
“I’d been in bands my whole life,” he says, “but it’s very different to take on jobs like producer and promoter and still focus on my job on keyboards. I’d never done anything like this before. The video footage alone was difficult because you can’t just go on YouTube and pull videos and project them. So we hired a law firm to handle all of the copyright issues, and I started to focus on content.
“It’s a blessing and a curse, really, because there’s just so much great material and so many options. I’d line up 60-65 songs, but could just as easily pick an entirely different 60-65 songs that were just as great. It’s a lot of work, but we’re constantly changing the show so that, if people see us more than once, it’s not just the same show every night.”
Although Gatti mostly hears happy responses to the show, he admits that there are some things that are less happy but still must be addressed.
“The Woodstock era is always popular, but we also have to deal with Vietnam which means they’re not always going to be happy memories. But we also have a lot of choreography and theatrical elements to the show which people really enjoy.”
In fact, Gatti says one of the most popular moments of the evening revolves around a period when dance was a key element to the music.
“I was one of those ‘disco sucks’ guys, like a lot of people, but I have to say that when we do songs from the disco era, everyone gets up on their feet. We have a disco ball, and everyone starts dancing. That’s really the thing that gets the biggest response. People either love it or hate it, but it always gets a big reaction.”
The group on stage features eight band members and six vocalists (three male and three female) to cover an eclectic set which features something for everyone.
“I was totally a 70s and 80s rocker and loved arena rock – Boston and groups like that. We do a lot of different songs from the 70s, from Billy Joel to Journey. And we do the entire ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ which not a lot of groups will try to cover. We go back to the 60s and pay tribute to the British Invasion with bands like the Stones and the Beatles. That always goes over well because everyone loves the Beatles. Then we do the hippies and Janis Joplin, Joe Cocker, the whole Woodstock era.”
Although originally from Pennsylvania, Gatti now calls Tampa, Florida home, and Decades Rewind plays a lot of shows closer to home but are now venturing out, visiting the northeast and other regions more. On the eve of their first anniversary performing as Decades Rewind, Gatti is enjoying the response and feeling the rewards of the hard work it took to pull all of the elements of the show together.
“There are the songs that I’ve been listening to and playing since I was 16,” he says. “When you play this music now, people just go cuckoo for it. I can’t see that happening with the music of the 90s or 2000s. There’s just something special about these decades that the music makes people happy. I can see it in parents and in the kids. They all really respond to this music.”