SCHENECTADY -- “Thanks for inviting me to the party,” said John Cafferty, looking out over a sea of lawn chairs parked on the well-tended grass of the Mohawk Harbor Amphitheater, located along the river next to the Rivers Casino & Resort in Schenectady.
Unfortunately, the party – a free show in the casino’s Saturday summer Harbor Jam concert series – was cut short a handful of songs later, after an ominous-looking black cloud rolled in, bringing pelts of rain and menacing flashes of lightning.
Until that happened, first suspending and then cancelling the show, Cafferty and his six-piece Beaver Brown Band played just under an hour in 90-degree heat to several hundred people seated on the tiered lawn or watching from shiny new condo balconies overlooking the amphitheater.
John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band was founded as a Rhode Island-based bar band in the 1970s, playing beach resort towns along the Northeast coast. Persistent comparisons to Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band plagued the band from the start, and it still exudes a blue-collar bar-band vibe over 40 years later.
One of the band’s best songs – and most Springsteen-like tune – fortunately came early in the set, before the inclement weather. A few songs in, they played the exuberant “On the Dark Side,” which was a hit for John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band when the tune appeared in the movie “Eddie & the Cruisers” in 1983.
Cafferty wrote the soundtrack to “Eddie & the Cruisers,” a film based on a novel about a fictional 1960s Jersey Shore rock band. The success of the soundtrack, which sold over three million copies, led to future soundtrack opportunities for Cafferty.
“One of the things that makes us unique is just about every song we’re going to play tonight was in a motion picture,” the gravelly voiced and still-youthful-looking Cafferty said from the Mohawk Harbor Amphitheater stage.
From the “Eddie & the Cruisers” soundtrack, the band played “Boardwalk Angel,” featuring a lively solo from tenor saxophone player Michael “Tunes” Antunes, one of the Beaver Brown Band’s original members, and the only one to actually play a role in the movie.
Slightly marred by a crackling sound onstage, “Open Road” hailed from the second “Eddie & the Cruisers” soundtrack, released in 1989, while “Hearts on Fire” from the epic training scene in “Rocky IV” fell a bit flat on the crowd, despite the rousing nature of the song.
A few spirited fans down front started dancing to “Voice of America’s Sons,” which Cafferty dedicated to the veterans in the crowd.
“We’re gonna play for a while if that’s OK with you guys,” Cafferty said before “Just a Matter of Time.” Unfortunately, he and his band only managed one more tune, “Running Through the Fire,” before threats of rain and lightning had concert goers packing up and hustling to their cars.