The Miracles
at Long's Park, Lancaster, PA
(27 June 1999)

With the hazy skies and high humidity which dominated the early part of the day, some people thought it would take a miracle to prevent rain from spoiling the musical festivities and fireworks at Long's Park later that evening. But it wasn't one miracle, but three Miracles, who reigned over the mostly rain-free atmosphere in the crowded park in Lancaster, Pa., come sunset.

The Miracles, the band which defined the Motown sound in the 1960s and '70s, headlined Funday Sunday, a day of music in the park.

The blistering afternoon heat was tempered by cool tunes, care of the Rochester, N.Y., acoustic duo Gregory Paul, and two hours of karaoke -- which, as karaoke will, ran hot and cold. Two hours of freewheeling song stylings ranged across the spectrum from old Blondie and Aretha Franklin to new rap and country. Some of the singers were tolerable, some were even pretty good and -- as always seems to be the case when just anyone is allowed to pick up a microphone -- some were absolutely horrible.

But despite the karaoke, the crowd continued to grow as the sun sank behind the treeline, a cooling breeze began to blow and Gregory Paul took the stage. For an hour, the speakers pumped out the duo's eclectic blend of folk-tinged rock.

The crowd was plenty warm -- peaking at about 12,500, according to local police estimates -- by the time The Miracles came out to sing and groove in their signature Motown style.

The band, created in 1956 as The Matadors, still includes original member Bobby Rogers, as well as "newcomers" Dave Finely, who joined the group in 1978, and Sidney Justin, who was added to the lineup five years ago following stints with The Shalamars and the St. Louis Rams.

Dressed uniformly in white shirts and slacks, the trio invoked musical memories of their long career, kicking off the hour-long performance with their No. 1 hit from 1970, "Tears of a Clown." Behind them, five musicians -- uniform in tuxedo shirts and black pants -- kept the music alive as the threesome in front danced and sang the old songs.

Across the field, long-time Miracles fans basked in nostalgia, cheering, swaying and singing along, while young children getting their first taste of the Motown sound danced like old hands beneath a pink, nearly full moon. The entire field seemed to be clapping along with the band's high-energy retrospective of hits from their lengthy career, including the likes of "The Tracks of My Tears," "Shop Around," "You've Really Got a Hold on Me" and "Goin' to a Go-Go."

After a brief break, the band returned for their best-known single, "I Second That Emotion." During the next song, "Ooh Baby Baby," a few raindrops fell on the crowd, but that and the accompanying breeze only served to cool off the steaming heat of the afternoon. By the time the band did their Temptations tribute, including "The Way You Do the Things You Do" and "My Girl," the threat of rain had passed.

The Miracles wrapped up the concert with their rockin' hit "Love Machine." A colorful fireworks display which would put many Fourth of July celebrations to shame topped off the night.

[ by Tom Knapp ]