Guitars, girl groups and Elvis part of ‘50 Years of Rock ‘n’ Roll’

Credit: Contributed

Credit: Contributed

Neil Berg says Springfield show fuses rock concert, Broadway show.

From the raw swagger of Elvis Presley to the fresh energy of the Beatles and the British invasion to the singer-songwriters of the 1970s and beyond, the rock and roll era has been filled with innovation, variation and hip-shaking tunes you can dance to.

“Neil Berg’s 50 Years of Rock ‘n’ Roll” will capture the live excitement of those artists and many others by combining the hybrid of a rock concert with a Broadway show when it jams into the Clark State Performing Arts Center at 8 p.m. Saturday.

The show is presented by the Springfield Arts Council, and tickets are still available.

Show creator and host Berg grew up on rock and roll and has the unique experience of being a Broadway composer who has written musicals as well as toured with rock acts. After creating a successful “Neil Berg’s 100 Years of Broadway” show, he turned to his other entertainment love.

“The history of rock and roll is something I’m so passionate about and this is an authentic show that will both tell the story of rock and roll and put on a kick-ass rock and roll concert,” he said. “It’s exceeded my wildest expectations, and audiences have been going crazy.”

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While most will peg the beginning of the genre to Elvis in the mid-1950s, Berg will travel farther back to the 1930s to explore the real roots when artists like Robert Johnson and Sister Rosetta Tharpe laid the groundwork.

While it was white artists like Elvis who helped get rock and roll noticed, Berg’s show credits the many Black artists like Big Mama Thornton, who inspired Presley, and Ike Turner, long before he and Tina became an act, with his hit “Rocket 88,” that some consider the first rock and roll tune.

“What I love about Elvis is he loved it; the moves and gyrations were part of who he was,” said Berg.

He also includes the Buckeye State as a major player in rock history with Cleveland deejay Alan Freed for his early concerts that helped kickstart the genre. The 50s close with the day the music died, when Buddy Holly’s plane crashed in 1959.

Motown, girl groups and the Beatles leading the British Invasion marked the 1960s, paving the way for the Summer of Love/Monterey Pop era and the great guitar riffs that came out of these times, along with real life inspirations including what was going on in the country and Vietnam War and eventually Woodstock.

The 1970s saw the rise of singer-songwriters, country rock, soft rock, live albums and piano rock. Later in the decade came KISS, Queen, Foreigner, Styx and Boston, and some surprises will round out the first 50 years.

The key for Berg was having stage experience in knowing how to tell a story on Broadway to having authentic rock and roll credentials, for which he recruited pop and rock performers who have toured with rock legends including Roger Daltrey and performed in musicals such as “Rock of Ages,” “Broadway Rocks” and more.

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Berg’s hope is that grandparents and parents will bring their kids and grandkids, who may not know some of the tunes from radio, but maybe from a commercial, movie or elsewhere. Audiences can expect to be on their feet singing along.

“We’re not mimicking, we’re celebrating it all,” he said. “This is a part of Americana, and we’re taking a journey together to relive it all and have a joyous, happy, nostalgic night.”


What: “Neil Berg’s 50 Years of Rock ‘n’ Roll”

Where: Clark State Performing Arts Center, 300 South Fountain Ave., Springfield

When: 8 p.m. Saturday, March 25

Admission: $29.50-$44.50 (plus fees)

More info:

NOTE: This presenter of this show has been corrected from a previous version of the story.

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