My Review for the July 7, Big Flats Show

Review by Steve DePaola, Rochester, NY (Switch to

The stage was set for a rainy outdoor July 7, show in Big Flats, NY. Not quite sure what to expect, my wife Julie and I drove 100 miles, comforted that Alan, John, Ann and Todd would not disappoint and would live up to their long standing reputations. There was no "hype" to live up to since I heard or saw no advertising for this show. The pre-show house music (Styx, a local favorite) was getting tiring (I think they played the CD twice) and I started to question the purpose of a Beatles tribute. I came mostly for David Pack and Alan Parsons and didn't expect too much else. I hadn't kept recent track of Entwhistle, Rundgren or Wilson, who's careers seem to have faded since wimpy pop took over FM radio in the late '80's.

The 1500 or so fans were treated to the opener "Magical Mystery Tour" and it was done well with a surprisingly impressive group vocal effort led by David Pack. From there they went on to play their respective top hits; The Who's "My Generation" and "The Real Me" cooked, but Entwhistle's screeching on "My Wife" ruined that one for me (thankfully, this was the only time he sang). And "my wife" couldn't understand a word of it. Pack got into shortened versions of Ambrosia's "Biggest Part Of Me" and "How Much I Feel" with much delight from the audience. That is one gifted voice, not to mention his guitar work. He must have been a late and great arrival to the tour, else he should have also received headliner status. Pack sang the Alan Parsons Project hits "Sirius/Eye In The Sky" and "Don't Answer Me" (done with justice but a shorter version would have been better - great ending though). The crowd favorite Project song was "Games People Play", filled with energy and complete with multiple harmonies. We were deli ghted to hear Heart's early classic "Dreamboat Annie", with beautiful acoustic guitars, flutes and Ann's talented voice which was surprisingly full and clear, in contrast to her Robert Plant-like range and power on "Barracuda" and "Crazy On You". At times she was reminiscent of Janis Joplin. I expected Rundgren's "Hello It's Me", but I completely forgot he did "Bang The Drum", which was the real gem of the show. Even the kids in attendance were rockin' down on that one. There was Todd, bangin' away on his little snare drum. What a great performance - no doubt the rest of the band was digging that one too, and they seemed to be enjoying all of each other's songs as well.

After a break the band returned for the Beatles set. Here we were treated to "Back In The USSR", "Lady Madonna", "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds", some nice flute work by Parsons and Wilson on "Fool On The Hill", "Revolution", "Here Comes The Sun", "I'm Down", "Day Tripper", "Ticket To Ride", "Rain", the seldom heard "Me And My Monkey", Parsons' rare and impeccable solo performance of "Blackbird", Rundgren's solo performance of "You've Got To Hide Your Love Away", Wilson's vocals on "Maybe I'm Amazed", "While My Guitar Gently Weeps", "Hold Your Hand" and "Hey Jude" (this is where we got to sing). For the encore, we got "Birthday" and "Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight".

It was a thrill to see each of these legends appreciating and supporting each other's music. Their egos were in check. A while into the show I felt this was a once in a lifetime event, a very special occasion - we were witnessing some magic, some synergy here. The "house band" of Godfrey (I think that's his name) Townsend (guitars and vocals), Steve Loungo (drums) and John Beck (keyboards) were outstanding, especially Townsend's lead vocals, and they deserve credit for the success of this tour. From wood blocks to tambourines, shakers, flutes, backing vocals and harmonies, there was barely an idle moment for any of these pros. I don't believe that any band has done the Beatles this much justice (except for Sir Paul) since the Beatles themselves. This could snowball into an annual summer circuit tour with different players along the way (Clapton comes to mind?), but I'd go see it again just the way it is. The remaining Beatles would be honored and delighted to see this show; I wouldn't be surprised if one of them pays a surprise visit, if they haven't already.

Day 2: Not getting my fill at Big Flats, I took to the road headed for the next tour stop in Hamilton, Ontario. After my wife declined (smart man for asking, huh?) I called a Canadian fellow Parsons/Ambrosia fan and, not knowing about this tour, he jumped on the opportunity and met me there. There were plenty of seats available. Apparently, these shows were poorly advertised at least in my area, so a lot of fans probably missed out. The July 8 performance was just as good if not better, but the house PA was a bit too loud and distorted, to the point where some of the dynamics were squashed and the vocalists were often straining to be heard. The loud bass and drums were the culprits here which drowned some of the vocals and rhythm guitars. Who fans might disagree, but had they turned it down a notch or two, it would have been more enjoyable for everyone, especially the young ones attending with their parents. The instrument mix was otherwise balanced though, especially for an 8-piece band. No surprise there w ith Parsons around. Great crowd here too but not quite as enthusiastic as the rain soaked Big Flats folks. No matter, the spirit of this event was not diminished by the PA sound. It was magic again. My personal favorites of the shows were "Dreamboat Annie", "The Real Me" (with Entwhistle's unmistakable, legendary 5 finger bass playing) and of course, "Bang The Drum".

A spirited performance by talented musicians who really love the Beatles just as we do. They are still touring for a couple more weeks. If at all possible, get there - you won't regret it!

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