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At the Lied: Four Seasons become The Modern Gentlemen and keep ’60s songs alive

At the Lied: Four Seasons become The Modern Gentlemen and keep ’60s songs alive

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November 27, 2018

With the smooth harmonic style of classic vocal groups like The Four Freshmen and The Hi-Lo’s, this captivating quartet brings their own signature sound to classic hits of pop, rock and doo-wop. Brought together by Frankie Valli, whom they’ve toured with for over a decade, the soughtafter showmen also have accompanied The Beach Boys, Tony Bennett and other legends.

https://www.kravis.org/events/moderngentlemen/

The Modern Gentlemen weren’t always gentlemen. They were, for a decade, called the Four Seasons, joining their four-part harmonies with the legendary Frankie Valli.

The Modern Gentlemen -- brothers Brian and Brandon Brigham, Landon Beard and Todd Fournier -- were all experienced singers before they came together as the longest-running bunch of Four Seasons of Valli’s now 59-year career.

“He hired us to work with him. We toured with him for a decade. He found a sound with us that he’d never found with any of his other guys and wanted to take us into the studio,” Fournier said. 

That trip into the studio yielded a handful of songs, including some Frank Sinatra numbers done with The Four Freshmen-style harmony.

Modern Gentlement

The Modern Gentlemen will play the Lied Center for Performing Arts this weekend.

“We ended up with some cool things that never went anywhere,” Fournier said. “They were recorded, but they were never mixed or released.”

That recording session, however, planted the seeds that led the quartet to transform from the Four Seasons to The Modern Gentlemen.

“As Frankie was getting older, we had the opportunity to do some gigs on our own,” Fournier said. 

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“It got to the point where we sat down with Frankie and he told us, 'You guys have got to do what you’ve got to do. You’ve got to find your own niche. You’ve got to go out on your own, like we did with the Four Seasons.”

That was in 2018.

In the last three years, The Modern Gentlemen, who will play the Lied Center for Performing Arts this weekend, put together a show that gives the four-part harmony treatment to songs by, among others, the Beatles, Beach Boys, Motown, Sinatra, and Valli and the Four Seasons.

They’ve released an album of those covers, a Christmas album, appeared on television, including on the PBS special “Doo Wop Generations,” been headliners in Las Vegas, had an Atlantic City residency and, until last March, toured the world.

“We were all ramped up and ready to go in March last year,” Fournier said while cooking lunch in his California home Tuesday. “We had completed 22 shows between the middle of January and early March. Then everything got canceled. I think we’ve had six shows since then.”

They had one show each in September and October, a couple in January and, last weekend, played two in Florida including one at SeaWorld. Friday night, The Modern Gentlemen will do a show in Greenville, Texas, then fly to Omaha to play Lincoln over the weekend.

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Those are the first of about a dozen shows the group has booked through the summer.

“We’re hoping more people are going to take the chance and do some more shows, like you guys in Nebraska,” Fournier said.

Fournier, who had COVID last year but with no symptoms, is fully supportive of doing shows under health and safety guidelines that include audience members wearing masks and socially distanced seating.

The latter resulted in an unusual method of separating the audience from the quartet for the SeaWorld show.

“They had a splash guard in the first row, kind of like you were going to see Shamu,” Fournier said.

The mask requirement has had some impact on the shows as well.

“One of the things I’ve been missing, you can’t hear the audience as well,” Fournier said. “We thrive on that energy coming from the crowd.”

It also hinders audience interaction.

“There’s this Beatles number in the show where I would jump down into the crowd and dance with some lucky ladies and sometimes we do ‘Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You' and bring a lady on stage and sing to her. That’s always a great crowd-pleaser. We’re warned against doing that.”

That said, The Modern Gentlemen will be presenting a show that’s very similar to the one in 2019 — with a notable exception.

The quartet has completed but not released its third album. “You don’t want to release an album and not have anyone to sing it to,” Fournier said.

That record, likely to come out in the summer, has one original song and 10 covers of the favorite songs of the group members growing up. That means taking the group’s repertoire from the ’60s and early ’70s into the ’80s.

To that end, Fournier said, a Billy Joel song inspired by Valli that’s on the new album has made it into the set that The Modern Gentlemen will perform Saturday and Sunday.

But the rest of the show will be classic doo wop, ’60s and ’70s pop and Motown.

“That’s kind of our niche, keeping the old hits alive,” Fournier said. “I’d like to say, without being too arrogant, it’s a great show. There’s something special going through those songs and the group that really connects, with us and the audience.”

Reach the writer at 402-473-7244 or kwolgamott@journalstar.com. On Twitter @KentWolgamott  

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Entertainment reporter/columnist

L. Kent Wolgamott, the recipient of the 2018 Mayor’s Arts Award, has written about arts and entertainment for Lincoln newspapers since 1985, reviewing thousands of movies and concerts and hundreds of art exhibitions.

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