MODESTO — Get ready for a little bit of history at the Gallo Center for the Arts.
Immediately after Tony Orlando takes his final bow at the Gallo on March 29, he will announce his retirement from show business.
No, not really.
But that's exactly how Orlando says he approaches every performance.
"I look at it every night as if it's the last time I'll ever perform," Orlando said last week in a phone interview from his home in Branson, Mo. "I also look at it as if it's the last time anyone in that audience will see a show So if this is my last show, I'm going to make sure I kick butt, and if this is their last show, I'm going to make sure they know they've had their butt kicked."
Orlando is 68, which he proudly says is two years younger than Paul McCartney.
He's also proud to be able to maintain his trademark enthusiasm and energy for 130 dates a year, giving fans not only the familiar songs he recorded with Dawn between 1970-78, but taking the show in pretty much any direction he feels fits the mood of the room.
"We do the hits and make sure to do the five No. 1 hits that I hope the people remember, but the show is eclectic and goes across the board," Orlando said. "I have a set opening and closing, but the rest of the show happens because of what the audience dictates.
"I can go somewhere with the audience like 'Whole Lotta Love,' if I feel they want Led Zeppelin. It freaks the band out a little bit, but we can do that, and I make sure to let the audience know that 'Whole Lotta Love' is six years older than 'Yellow Ribbon.' "
Orlando can be spontaneous in the show, he said, because his six-piece band has remained nearly intact for 19 years. His brother David shares keyboard and vocal duties with Toni Wine, and the rhythm section is a former garage band from Springfield, Mo.
"This was a garage band for years and they worked one club in Springfield," Orlando said. "I walked in one night after having worked with a lot of great musicians in my lifetime and realized this band was stupid-good.
"I asked them if they wanted to go on the road with me, to Portugal and London, and they said 'Yeah!' We've never split, and I'm a member of the Lefty Brothers Band. That's how I feel every time I hit the stage. I'm just the singer."
"I've always wanted to be in the band, and this band allows me to play with them."
Wine is a music legend in her own right. A childhood piano prodigy who began studying at Juilliard at 5, she co-wrote the now-standard "A Groovy Kind of Love," at 18, and two years later was a member of cartoon band The Archies.
By this time, Orlando who hit the charts at 16 after being discovered in a New York City Doo-Wop group by Don Kirschner had given up performing for music management. At 23, he was a vice president at Columbia Records under Clive Davis, responsible for the development of acts such as Blood, Sweat and Tears, James Taylor, Laura Nyro and Barry Manilow.
Wine penned a song that wasn't going anywhere, and coaxed Orlando back into the studio (along with Linda November) to record "Candida," under the band name "Dawn."
The name was chosen to keep Orlando's participation in the project a secret, as he didn't want his reborn singing career to conflict with his burgeoning career in band management. But when the band (still with Wine and November) hit the top of the charts again in 1971 with "Knock Three Times," (which knocked GeorgeHarrison's "My Sweet Lord" off the pedestal) Orlando left his office job.
It wasn't until the record label insisted on a tour to support record sales that Telma Hopkins and Joyce Vincent Wilson became Orlando's supporting vocalists, a partnership that was solidified when they sang on "Tie a Yellow Ribbon 'Round the Ole Oak Tree" in 1973.
The next summer, Tony Orlando and Dawn hit television with a variety show that took over the audience and the production style from the discontinued Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour.
The show ran through December 1976, and Tony Orlando and Dawn parted ways in 1978.
From that point on, Orlando has been a solo artist, headlining in Las Vegas and traveling the world.
In 1993, he opened the Tony Orlando Yellow Ribbon Music Theater in Branson, and despite leaving the project in 1998, he remains a Branson resident.
Yes, Orlando has a solid footing in popular music history and a breadth of experience he brings to every show. And he has no plans to slow down anytime soon, despite his credo of performing every night as if it's his final act.
"That's the way I approach every show," Orlando said. "I'm so grateful to the audience, because they've given me a life that you could never dream of.
"And I know to work 130 dates a year and do what I do isn't based on the strength of my last hit record, but on the strength of my last show."
Brian VanderBeek can be reached at (209) 578-2150 or follow him on Twitter, @modestobeek.WHAT: Tony Orlando in concert
WHEN: 8 p.m. March 29
WHERE: Mary Stuart Rogers Theater, Gallo Center for the Arts, 1000 I St., Modesto
CALL: (209) 338-2100