Although not as commercially unsung as some of their power-pop contemporaries, Cleveland’s Raspberries have been largely consigned to the footnotes of rock history by most folks. Their cult following, however, remains obsessive enough that a good many of those in attendance for the band’s first Gotham stint in three decades traveled hundreds of miles for the experience.
The quartet — all original members in tow — didn’t disappoint, eschewing the temptation to coast on nostalgia’s fumes. Where some musicians approach reunions gingerly, taking perfunctory stabs at re-creating vinyl memories verbatim, the Eric Carmen-led Raspberries approached this perf as if auditioning for the biggest record deal of their lives.
Over the course of a two-hour set, the band — augmented by a keyboardist and a guitarist — touched on all their biggest hits (highlighted by a surprisingly lusty “Go All the Way” and a feathery “Let’s Pretend”).
It was on songs that skirted the charts — like the semi-autobiographical “Overnight Sensation” — that they really ratcheted up the animation, as if to send an “I told you so” to the keepers of the history books.
While Carmen held down center-stage for most of the set, even going back to his pre-Berries’ days to exhume the Choir chestnut “It’s Cold Outside,” his bandmates took their fair share of lead vocals as well. Neither guitarist Wally Bryson (who stepped up for “Hard to Get Over a Heartbreak”) nor bassist Dave Smalley (who did the same on “Nobody Knows”) approached Carmen’s range, but both delivered the goods affably.
At two dozen or so songs, perf was padded more than necessary. A mini-set of covers — including “Slow Down” and “Roll Over Beethoven” — designed to prove the band could mimic the Beatles’ time as a cover band was particularly superfluous. But once the fat was cut away, there was more than enough meat for a satisfying sonic feast.