Two famous brands should mesh perfectly Nov. 26 when power-pop pioneers the Raspberries launch Cleveland's House of Blues, the city's first major new downtown music club in at least 15 years. The Raspberries were one of Cleveland's most popular bands, notching hits in "Go All the Way," "Overnight Sensation," "Let's Pretend" and "I Wanna Be With You" before breaking up in 1975.
With Eric Carmen as key voice and Wally Bryson on lead guitar, the Raspberries formed in 1970 from the ashes of legendary area bands the Choir and Cyrus Erie, filling a void created by the breakup of the Beatles and the creative decay of the Beach Boys. At their best, the Raspberries transcended those influences, creating soaring tunes whose imagery seamlessly melded career ambition and sexual drive.
Now the original lineup - Carmen, Bryson, drummer Jim Bonfanti and bassist Dave Smalley, who last performed together in 1973 - are adults and rock 'n' roll itself is old, if not mature. Carmen, Bryson and Bonfanti live in greater Cleveland, Smalley in Phoenix.
The professional setting of Cleveland's House of Blues, one of eight such venues in the country, apparently helped the band paper over musical differences that scotched former reunion attempts, discover fresh technology and reaffirm the classic tunes they plan to perform even better now.
"I pushed for a Raspberries reunion," says Anthony Nicolaidis, talent buyer for the Cleveland House of Blues. "We started thinking about our grand opening bands last June. The list included the most popular national acts with northeast Ohio roots, including Marilyn Manson, Nine Inch Nails, and the Pretenders. The list also included the Raspberries. To be honest, some folks at House of blues were, like, Raspberries? However, my gut said this was the band to open the House of Blues. In my mind, nothing would be more dramatic than a reunion of the Raspberries. I thought, if I could make this show happen, it would be something Clevelanders will remember for a long time."
The hunch paid off. The premium seats sold out in four minutes, the rest of the 1,200 in an hour. "Every day, we get phone calls and e-mails from all over the world about tickets," Nicolaidis says. "Several music professionals are flying to Cleveland for the show. It is getting more national press than I ever imagined. In my 10-plus years in the music business, I have never experienced anything like this."