Despite his name, Eddie Money has never played his music for the money, as he proudly announced at the annual Food Festival atop the Empire State Plaza Wednesday night.
As the old cliché goes, he does it “for you.” “You” being the fans. And one number, the slightly schmaltzy “One More Soldier Coming Home,” was the requisite tribute to the troops. But no matter who or what Money was playing for this night, he certainly did a damn good job of it before this large, rabidly excited crowd.
Money hasn’t had a hit since the late ’80s, but no matter — that’s exactly the time frame he brought the audience back to. Kicking off with “No Control,” Money packed in the hits during his hour-and-a-half set, barely slowing down at all between the synth-heavy, yet hard-rocking, songs that made him one of the ’80s biggest pop stars.
It helps that Money has a great band — guitarist Tommy Girvin in particular. Having been playing with Money for over two decades, Girvin knows these tunes inside and out, and offered up just enough grit on early numbers such as “Baby Hold On” and the anthemic chant-along “Wanna Be a Rock ’N’ Roll Star.” His shining moment came on “Walk on Water,” where his stuttering riffs gave way to a towering solo that shredded the song’s gooey pop backbone to pieces.
Of course, Money was no slouch either. He’s a showman, through and through, and hammed it up nicely on rockers like “You’ve Really Got a Hold on Me” and “Take a Little Bit.” He even had a chance to shine on saxophone on “Trinidad” and the surprisingly effective “I Wanna Go Back.” And his ubiquitous hits “Take Me Home Tonight” and “Two Tickets to Paradise” burned brightly at the back end of the set, sounding huge delivered by his snarling backing band.
Money was the last musical act of the day, and the only national one, as local artists performed during the afternoon and early evening. Rockabilly bangers Slick Fitty and singer-songwriter Chris Dukes entertained the early crowds until 2 p.m. Bluesy, soulful rocker Chris Busone and his quartet reignited the music at 5 p.m., playing an enjoyable set of originals and covers — including a rocked out version of Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition.” His powerful singing and creative guitar work kept the audience engaged for nearly an hour.
Albany scene staples Ten Year Vamp took the stage next, powering the evening along with huge pop-rock songs anchored in place by bassist Tim Keenan and especially drummer Greg Nash. His playing, especially during a solo on a funky version of Madonna’s “Like a Prayer,” was hands down the best part of the band’s performance.
Although they played a few covers, the group mostly stuck to its extensive back catalog of original songs, with vocalist Debbie Gabrione hiccupping out the vocals over loud, crunchy guitars. The high energy performance provided a good prelude to Money’s power pop.