Raspberries Reunite!

By Bernie Hogya

"As for a Raspberries reunion, the general consensus now is that it will never happen."
Eric Carmen: Marathon Man, page 324.

As stacks of Eric Carmen: Marathon Man were rolling off the presses, the dream that Eric Carmen, Wally Bryson, Dave Smalley and Jim Bonfanti would ever find themselves in a room together again, let alone reunite to perform was as likely as the Titanic rising from its ocean depths.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present for you the Titanic arisen.

"If not now, then when?" was the quote that brought the mighty liner to the surface after decades in an icy grave. Raspberries guitarist Wally Bryson was overheard making that statement as he agreed to the plan via phone with Raspberries lead singer Eric Carmen on an evening in July 2004. Drummer Jim Bonfanti was already on board, and bassist Dave Smalley embarked shortly thereafter. The rest as they say, is history.

November 26, 2004 — House of Blues, Cleveland OH
December 31, 2004 — House of Blues, Cleveland OH
January 15, 2005 — House of Blues, Chicago IL
June 26, 2005 — Taste of Summer, Waukesha WI
July 2, 2005 — Coors Amphitheatre, Denver CO
July 15, 2005 — Scene Pavilion, Cleveland OH
July 23, 2005 — B.B. King's New York NY
July 24, 2005 — B.B. King's New York NY
September 17, 2005 — House of Blues, Atlantic City NJ
October 21, 2005 — House of Blues, West Hollywood CA

October 13, 2007 — Highline Ballroom, New York NY
October 14, 2007 — Highline Ballroom, New York NY
November 28, 2007 — The Grove, Anaheim CA
November 30, 2007 — House of Blues, West Hollywood CA
December 14, 2007 — Playhouse Square, Cleveland OH

April 3, 2009 — Rock & Roll HoF, Cleveland OH

The original bandmembers rehearsed in a rented space just outside of Cleveland, Ohio. They quickly re-learned all of their biggest hits and reacquainted themselves with their chops. For all four musicians, it was like time had stood still. They were back together again, only this time, for good.

Raspberries first considered a reunion four years ago, but Eric says the offer from promoters would not have allowed the band to put on a show with the production values it felt its fans deserved. "My caveat has always been that there's a mythology about the band, and I don't want to burst that bubble. If we couldn't put on a good concert, I didn't want to do it." But after playing House of Blues clubs with Ringo Starr in 2001, Eric loved the venues' vibe. So when the House of Blues approached him about a reunion show in Cleveland, "I thought if ever we were going to do it, this is the time."

It's kind of fun to look around after all these years and see these people, who were my fellow musicians and my friends, working together again. And it sounds like us," says Dave. "Our fans have just not given up," adds Wally. "I've said it wouldn't happen, but they've been so persistent and loyal. I think we all kind of got the same feeling: 'Let's go and do this before we're freaking 95.'

The intention initially was just to play one show," Eric explains. "As we started rehearsing, a number of very interesting things happened—not the least of which was, we sold this first show out in four minutes. It totally knocked the House of Blues for a loop." So, now they're back, and the consensus is that they sound better than they did back in the '70s.

Critics Rave On!

In our humble opinion, "Go All the Way" is one of the best power pop songs ever, which makes it all the more exciting that the Raspberries are reuniting for their first show in 31 years.
—Billboard | October 30, 2004

Over thirty-plus years, a certain myth has grown up around the band. And the last thing I ever wanted to do was put us on a stage somewhere, in less than the best circumstances, and pop the bubble, have the fans come in and say, 'Gee, they weren't that good,'" admits Carmen. "It's your responsibility to give them something to be excited about. But it went absolutely beautifully," says Carmen of the group's experimental reunion gig at Cleveland's House of Blues the day after Thanksgiving. "We sold the date out in about four minutes, and everybody who was there had a phenomenal time."
—RollingStone.com | October 30, 2004

The Raspberries are one of the more remarkable stories in the history of American pop music, a notion they reaffirmed in a brilliant two-hour show Saturday night at the House of Blues. Lead singer Eric Carmen is in fine shape, hitting all the dramatic notes throughout innocent ballads like 1973's "Ecstasy"—back when the word was amorous and not an amphetamine—and "Let's Pretend," a track influenced by "Pet Sounds"-era Beach Boys.
—Chicago Sun Times | January 17, 2005