Written by SCOTT TADY, Entertainment Reporter, Beaver County Times
BEAVER — The Granati Brothers proved they’re mightier than a speeding train. And fortunately, Jimi Miller was in the front row, or there wouldn’t have been a snare drum when Donnie Iris hit the stage.
A concert long to be remembered brought ample joy July 16, as The Granati Brothers played Beaver Station Cultural Event Center with featured guest Donnie Iris.
A record-setting sellout of 325, plus a few dozen watching from porches across the street, witnessed a loose and engaging night of Beaver Valley rock royalty.
The Granatis did Granati things — David spinning his strapped guitar around his body like a diagonal hula hoop and skillfully shredding it behind his head; Hermie singing his heart out as his fingertips danced across his keys; Joey doing it all, including vocals, bass, wisecracks, and a comical “Italian salute” to the drone buzzing above the stage live-streaming the action.
The triple-team percussion of Rick, his son Jules, and cousin Tony Bonomo gave a propulsive beat to Granati originals from their A&M Records days, more recent originals like “The Show,” and well-chosen covers like Paul McCartney’s “Maybe I’m Amazed” and the Black Crowes’/Otis Redding’s “Hard to Handle.”
The band conjured fire during Santana’s “Black Magic Woman,” with David strolling down the stage steps toward the crowd as he wailed on guitar. Audience members were distracted by a speeding CSX train swooshing by, close enough to throw a tennis ball at. With their backs to the train, the Granatis kept on trucking like they didn’t notice. At intermission, several people confirmed my belief: The Granati Brothers’ forceful playing drowned out the sound of the train.
Bonomo’s drum bashing somehow broke his snare. Alert to the issue, spectator Jimi Miller, of classic rockers the Hat Trick Band, hustled to the parking lot and retrieved his snare to lend to Bonomo, allowing the show to continue with minimal delay.
Beaver Valley rock star Iris joined the Granatis for the first set’s final song, a fun romp through “The Rapper,” the 1970 chart-topper from his days with The Jaggerz.
Iris returned to the stage late in the Granatis’ second set for “Ah! Leah!” sounding as fresh as it did in 1980. Iris’ towering vocal screams at the song’s climax brought the crowd to its feet. He sounded great, too, on “Love Is Like a Rock” and a show-closing dip into the Rolling Stones’ “Brown Sugar.”
A special moment awaited Iris before he took the stage for Set II.
Beaver Mayor Tom Hamilton presented an official proclamation from Beaver Borough proclaiming Donnie Iris Day.
“What I do?” Iris said with a huge smile as he held the certificate aloft for cheering concertgoers.
Reflecting on that moment days later, Iris said “Yeah, that was really cool! And just truly an honor.”
Iris’ hometown of Ellwood City granted him a similar proclamation in the 1990s.
Being hailed in the county seat of Beaver was a nice tribute, said Iris, who hadn’t performed there before.
“I did actually perform in Bridgewater many years ago, with the Granatis’ backing me,” he said.
The Iris-Granati partnership has taken a new life in recent years, including sold-out shows at The Strand in Zelienople, and for big outdoor turnouts in Butler and Washington counties.
“Those Granatis shows are always fun because I’ve known them for so many years,” Iris said.
“We used to live within blocks of each other (in Patterson Township) back in the ‘70s. Many times I’d get with Hermie and just sit around a piano. Actually, we wrote a few songs together back then.”
“It’s always good to get up there on stage with those guys. It’s a totally different feel,” Iris said.
Though there’s nothing like being with your own band, Iris said on the eve of his longtime band, The Cruisers, opening for classic-rockers Styx on July 29th in Youngstown. A few of the band members flew in from California and North Carolina to be there.
“We haven’t seen each other in 20 months, so we’re anxious,” Iris said.
You can catch Iris & The Cruisers in McKees Rocks at The Roxian on Oct. 9.
Rick Granati would like to give a special acknowledgment to the Beaver Area Heritage Foundation for everything they did to make this magnificent evening possible. He would also like to specifically thank:
Donnie Iris & The Granati Brothers, Scott Tady, Leanne Rogowski, Leanne Smith, Dr. John Guzzetti, Harry Lupinacci, Mike Briggs, John Hudson, Mayor Tom Hamilton, Roberta Good, Dave O’Leary, Jeff Hamilton, Midge Sefton, Chuck Copeland, Ed & Jackie McLaughlin & Family, Stacy Ivol, Beth Spence, Mary Anne & Mark Peluso, Bob Rice, Dan & Val Martone, Dan Madgar, Chick O’Data, and all of those in attendance at the concert!
Photography by Mike Briggs