‘Remember Jones’ to Bring Unforgettable Show to Bird and Betty’s Aug. 31

By J.D. WATSON | Aug 26, 2019
Photo by: Bob Schultz

Beach Haven — Anthony D’Amato is a very busy man these days. The front man of the uniquely quirky soul band Remember Jones, he has been on a national tour all summer. What had been planned as a well-deserved couple of days off before the tour was scheduled to end at Bird and Betty’s in Beach Haven this Saturday night had been filled instead with shows in Woodbridge, Long Branch, Woodstock, N.Y., Killington, Vt., and Atlantic City. In between, there were rehearsals for special concert presentations commemorating the 50th anniversary of the release of The Who’s Tommy, scheduled for the Axelrod Performing Center in Deal, N.J.

In addition, the tour has been extended past Labor Day, with dates scheduled through late September, although those are limited to the tri-state area. Those dates are a far cry from earlier gigs on the tour as the band played more far-afield venues in Nashville, San Antonio and San Francisco. But such is the life of D’Amato, busy spreading the message that Remember Jones is a truly memorable band.

Remember Jones is, at its heart, a soul band comprised of a horn section, organ and keyboard players and backup singers complete with choreography. But unlike many shore bands that describe themselves as “high-energy,” Remember Jones takes that cliché to another level. D’Amato, who is clearly well versed in rock ’n’ roll history, combines the showmanship of James Brown with the swagger of Mick Jagger and the theatricality of Freddie Mercury plus a healthy dose of his own fashion sense. He emerges, or more accurately erupts, as a formidable entertainer.

At a recent gig at Pier Village in Long Branch, the backup singers were delivered to the show in a golf cart, ran up on stage as the band vamped, announced, “Ladies and gentleman, Remember Jones!” As a Long Branch police cruiser pulled up, a uniformed officer emerged, opened the rear door, removed an apparently recalcitrant, dazed-looking D’Amato, who – after being sprung from the local lockup, no doubt for some appropriately rock ’n’ roll approved transgression – mounted the stage, gathered himself and launched into “Let ’Em Look,” the band’s usual set opener. It is good old-fashioned show business schtick that would make James Brown envious.

D’Amato, who had performed with New Jersey native and Styx and Beatlemania member Glen Burtnik for years, began the Remember Jones project a couple of years ago. With Burtnik, he had sung classic rock songs in Burtnik’s “Summer of Love” show; often a highlight of the show would be D’Amato’s vocal performance on Joe Cocker’s cover of “With a Little Help from My Friends.”

D’Amato said he has long appreciated Cocker’s sound, not just his vocals, but also the sound of his backing band, the Grease Band. “I’ve always been inspired by large sounds,” D’Amato said recently. “Maybe it’s my theater background and love of classic soul and funk bands. As a singer, I love harmonies and astounding female vocals. Having a large band reminiscent of a Joe Cocker’s ‘Mad Dogs and Englishmen’ experience or Ike and Tina (Turner) is always what I was drawn to.

As a result, part of Remember Jones’ early success has been due, in large part, to his ability to form a band that can make that large sound but is also adept enough to handle performing iconic albums in their entirety, including not only Cocker’s Mad Dogs and Englishmen, but also Amy Winehouse’s Back to Black.

When asked where the inspiration to perform entire albums came from, D’Amato responded, “I really love albums that are arranged as sound experiences, and some of my favorites have always given me visual inspiration. I could see them being performed live, large and lush, with concepts and staging. I love giving audiences a chance to experience these albums again as if it’s the first time you’re hearing them.”

Like many artist before him, D’Amato has found liberation while hiding behind the mask of a stage name. From Bob Dylan to Freddie Mercury to Lada Gaga, some musicians enjoy the freedom they find using a stage name, the fake persona freeing their true selves. The dichotomy was recognized during the Renaissance, if not before, and is not lost on D’Amato. “The stage persona really allows me to explore heights and take all of the weird, crazy antics I’ve always done on stage and let them explode. It allows me to be branded and gives me the opportunity to be an artist and surprise at every turn.”

Even so, “Remember Jones” is a unique name to assume as a stage persona. D’Amato explained the origins of his stage name. “There’s another singer/songwriter named Anthony D’Amato from New Jersey. We met each other about 10 years ago, and over time it started to become a bit of an issue for identifying our shows and booking. I decided to make a theatrical stage persona, sort of a Lady Gaga or Freddie Mercury, for myself. ‘Remember’ was one of the first words I could spell as a child, and I kept saying to myself in brainstorming a name that I wanted something people would remember. Soon after I thought it would be a great and unique first name, and Jones just came to mind right after. It’s more defined like “jonesing,” but it’s a throwback to some of my favorite musical names – Quincy Jones, Tom Jones, Sharon Jones, Along Came Jones.”

Maybe that quote illustrates Jones’ musical sensibilities best, combining the jazz/pop producer, the Welsh ’60s sex idol, the funk and soul revivalist, and the Leiber-Stoller hit for the Coasters.

D’Amato’s personal journey to find his persona was not a quick one. He was, at one point, considerably larger. With his close-cropped hair and handsome, stubble-covered face, it’s easy to not realize the person he had been. “Creating this persona was one of the last puzzle pieces of my lifestyle change. Being 375 pounds, I always thought that was my thing – funny fat guy with a big voice. I took away ‘fat’ simply to be healthier – I never expected the doors that would open otherwise. It’s allowed me to transform myself at every turn and adapt to many situations. Sometimes I miss that old guy, but in the 10 years since losing weight on my own and keeping it off, my life has changed in many ways.”

Not the least of which have been the band and this recent tour. D’Amato described some of the tour highlights. “It’s been an incredible summer. Twenty-five states and over 40 shows. Exploring Idaho, Wyoming and New Orleans were some of my favorites,” he said. Being an actor in addition to singer, D’Amato was also surprised by one fan in Victor, Idaho. “I never thought I’d bring a big-ass band from New Jersey to Idaho and play for over 2,000 incredible people. And while doing it, never thought I’d look over to the side of the stage and see one of my favorite actresses of all time – let’s be real, one of the best of all time. Emmy Award winning, Tony Award winning, Academy Award nominated Laurie Metcalf. She was in awe, and so was I! I ran off the stage and quickly got a chance to tell her how she has inspired me! I was so happy to have met her and made a new fan!” D’Amato said in describing the encounter, all pretense of cool soul front man long forgotten.

Of course, no summer on the Jersey Shore would be complete without a Boss encounter. Remember Jones was on a bill in July at the Stone Pony Summer Stage, opening for Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes and Garry Tallent (bass player for the E Street Band) and the Delevantes. Jones’ Facebook page has a picture of Bruce Springsteen, arms full with Remember Jones merch, captioned, “Looks like we made a fan. Cool shirt and CD, Bruce!” It’s not every day that a musical icon leaves one of your gigs loaded down with your T-shirt and album, like just another fan.

Remember Jones plays Bird and Betty’s in Beach Haven on Saturday night, Aug. 31. Tickets are $25 in advance, $30 the day of the event. Doors open at 9 p.m., curtain at 10:30. Call 609-492-3000 or visit birdandbettys.com or rememberjones.com for tickets and more information.

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