The first portion of "A Walk Down Abbey Road: A Tribute to the Beatles" Tuesday night at Wolf Trap was an FM oldies blowout, with hits from Alan Parsons, Todd Rundgren, the Who (represented by bassist John Entwistle) and Heart (vocalist Ann Wilson), performed with varying degrees of enthusiasm by the artists and four additional musicians.
The nostalgic patrons could have left at intermission without feeling cheated after hearing such chestnuts as "Hello, It's Me," "Barracuda," "Eye in the Sky" and "My Generation."
The second half of the show found the eclectic "supergroup" -- including David Pack of Ambrosia -- romping through the Beatles catalogue with abandon, doing "Back in the U.S.S.R.," "I Want to Hold Your Hand," "Day Tripper," "Here Comes the Sun" and "Ticket to Ride," among about a dozen others, turning the Beatles' studio pop craft into '80s-style arena rockers, complete with a vocally muddy sound mix and guitar-driven bombast.
There were moments of tastefulness -- Wilson's flute during "Fool on the Hill," Rundgren's solo acoustic "Hide Your Love Away" and Parsons's delicate "Blackbird" -- but in the end the ensemble was simply an impressively talented cover band that was better off doing its own music. We can only imagine what the Beatles would have sounded like doing these songs live; the show may have been a heartfelt tribute, but it's too bad the originals weren't around to defend themselves.