Concert Review: Corey Feldman at Bossa Nova Ballroom

“I drank my first beer, kissed my first girl at the drive-in, and smoked my first joint, all in Oregon.”

Corey Feldman (Courtesy of Corey Feldman)

Corey Feldman basically grew up in Oregon, the ageless child star told adoring crowds at Bossa Nova Ballroom on Friday, Nov. 11. Between shoots for The Goonies and Stand By Me, “I drank my first beer, kissed my first girl at the drive-in, and smoked my first joint, all in Oregon,” began the first of several monologues peppered throughout the evening’s performance as Young Hollywood’s resident survivor worked the room.

Wearing scarlet button-up and tuxedo pants, this was perhaps the tamest of the dozen or so ensembles he’d donned during a twoish-hour show that disguised the star as a dragster hood ornament, a disco-themed Batman villain, a cabaret emcee for a satanist frat house, a house pimp at Chess King casino, and, especially, the little devil urging 1989 prom kings to do their worst. (Since his lady love still wears her tinseled halo from previous Corey’s Angels tour, that last may even have been intentional.)

Earlier, we asked both the club booker and opening duo Camp Crush whether the performance seemed self-aware, and neither seemed inclined to answer. Lord knows, after extended introductory video already nudging self-parody ended with Fred Armisen’s welcome to town, we looked in vain for any semblance of tongue in cheek.

In truth, irony felt absolutely beside the point once confronted with the ingratiating, deranged, never less than fully committed cavalcade of Corey in full blossom. Despite what sounded like years of faithful study, he simply won’t ever have the pipes, but there was presence enough that mattered not at all. Corey Feldman commands a room, and his crack band of Sunset Strip lifers (including, perfectly, Robert Mitchum’s grandson as bassist) could do the rest.

There’s an unapologetic eagerness to please that reflects a career steeped in show business. At the start, he promised audiences “a very big show tonight” in Ed Sullivan’s cadence, but it didn’t seem to be intended as an impression. In any event, all we find shameless about preening before the spotlight or interacting with ginormous videos of his younger self isn’t too far removed from the rock-’n’-roll swagger, and his fans this night cheered (near) equally each selection from platinum singalong staples to forgotten remainders attached to project sent straight to video since conception.

At the start, Feldman had explained the first set would feature roughly chronological selections taken from the better-known soundtracks of a still daunting filmography interspersed with originals taken from his four albums. In practice, this meant the expected tunes covered (“Stand By Me,” “Goonies R Good Enough”) were somewhat overshadowed by the curious omissions (“People Are Strange” and “Get Out of My Dreams, Get Into My Car” both healthy scratches).

Regardless, the fated showstopper was always destined to be “Rock On,” the ode to teenage rebellion penned by a British musical theater actor, covered by an American soap opera heartthrob, and made definitively his own by a 50-something lifelong celeb that night.

The anthem clearly holds a personal resonance for Feldman, who appeared in Michael Damian’s Dream a Little Dream-hawking video, and evoked a fist-pumping reaction from the Feldman superfans just this side of comfortable. Notably, the crowd thickened following a typically gorgeous early evening set from local duo Camp Crush to a preponderance of unsmiling, heavily bearded, defiantly-dressed-down lost men.

They’d scream unwavering approval for every song and, even more disturbing, appeared to already know by heart tracks from newish release Love Left 2: Arm Me With Love. At midpoint, we were told onlookers could choose whether Feldman should return to danceable beats or continue rocking their socks off, but the outcome was never really in doubt.

This was, patently, the wrong choice. Evidently, the years spent by Michael Jackson’s side led to more than troubling photographs because Feldman became an honest-to-god dynamo whenever the song allowed: twisting, twirling, dazzling the hardest hearts with electric moves reminiscent of the gloved one’s early years plus a dollop of Janet’s Rhythm Nation-era militaristic stomps and a few bonkers flourishes all Corey’s own.

Opting out of the sequined soft-shoe routines for workmanlike screamo felt like politicized lunacy (2022 Oregon gets the Goonie it deserves), but our star looked no less enthused. An hour later, well after supposed start time, the crowds spent and sockless, he launched into autograph mode with a glad-handing vigor that by this point just felt heroic.

For all we feel we know about our stars, that couldn’t be less true. Flip through Feldman’s Wikipedia entry some time. The man has had a life, several lives, at once terrifyingly public yet beset by pains we mere mortals literally cannot imagine.

If indeed he felt abandoned on 9/11 when Michael Jackson flew Marlon Brando and Liza Minnelli away from New York, who’s to say the most tasteful artistic response wouldn’t be a slow-mo escape from laser tractor beams amid a swirling nu-metal maelstrom? Importantly, however ridiculous, he’s never let the clothes, or the commentary, wear him, and he should be celebrated for so vividly enjoying every moment of this latest act.

There are no little dreams, as they say, and the sequels never end.

Willamette Week’s reporting has concrete impacts that change laws, force action from civic leaders, and drive compromised politicians from public office. Support WW's journalism today.