AWDAR @ Westbury

Review by Josh Chasin (Switch to

I last attended a show at the Westbury Music Fair back in High School-- it was the Four Seasons and Jay and the Americans, circa 1975. So now I can say I've been there twice in my life. There will not be a third time. 

I don't know who invented the concept of "theater in the round"-- but brother, you can have it. Despite the fact that I sat on the aisle in the VERY FIRST ROW, I missed a remarkable amount of this show, because the damn flippin' stage was facing the OTHER WAY during, oh, let's see-- Open My Eyes, Hello Its Me, Bang the Drum, Back in the USSR, Rain, Revolution-- basically every single Todd moment. To say it sucked would be... accurate. On the other hand, every time David Pack stepped forward, there he was-- front and center, nine feet away. And believe me when I tell you, if I never hear another Ambrosia song again, it'll be too soon.

OK then, that said...

I won't go on and review the show song by song, because (a) by now we all know the setlist; (b) Much of what would say would just be a reiteration of previous posts; and (c) a good deal of the time I couldn't see who was doing what. But some impressions... First off, for all the raving about Godfrey Townsend and David Pack, there was no question to me who the guitar hero of the night was-- that being the once-scraawny kid from Upper Darby. No knock on the other guys, but I guess I tend to respond more to, "That guy just played from his soul for 20 seconds" than I do to, "Boy, did that guitarist do a fine job of learning the lick off the album note-for-note." When Todd played, he sounded like... Todd. And as I have loved his guitar work for nigh on 25 years now, that did the trick for me. Whereas I thought the other two guys were aces at replicating album riffs, which left me somewhat cool. I mean, if you were to ask me what David Pack's guitar style is like, I'd have to say, sometimes he sounds like Nancy Wilson, sometimes he sounds like Georger Harrison, sometimes he sounds like the guy in the Alan Parsons Project...

Alan Parsons struck me as overmatched, at least in terms of stage presence. He didn't even sing his own songs, and mostly strummed an acoustic guitar-- wholly unnecessary given that usually there were three other guitars and a keyboard going (not to mention Entwistle's densely-packed "lead bass" playing.) We're talking sonic bombast. But he played a nice flute on a couple tunes, and his shy rendition of Blackbird was endearing. And he struck me as a nice guy, someone it would be fun to down a pint or two at the pub with. One song that I don't think I've seen mentioned as a highlight was "Eye int he Sky", the only Parsons song I know. Hearing the band pump out that tune, sounding vaguely Pink Floydiian, while Todd dug into the chorus harmony, was a little piece of prog-rock heaven. I couldn't help thinking of my old roommate Fred, who's 2 favorite artists were Todd and Parsons; this would have been a dream for him.

Todd, by the way, is one of the 5 or 10 best background vocalists in all of rock, no question. On many songs not his own-- Eye in the Sky, some Ambrosia piece of 80's FM dreck-- he put the tune over the top when he stepped to the mike. Don't underestimate the power of TR's backing vox as an influence on the Utopia sound. He was his usual goofy self during the goofy moments-- acting the fool during Fool On the Hill, straining against the boredom to keep a straight face while onstage to add backing vocals to Pack's sappier stuff. But during the good stuff he was right there-- vocal shredding on My Generation (which of course I didn't see, save for the back of his head), and the Beatles tunes. He was clearly the sttar of the second set, no question, just shredding it on While My Guitar Gently Weeps, Rain (what a great song), Back in the USSR (ditto), Day Tripper, and Revolution. (If only he'd been facing us for ONE of these... sigh...) During Day Tripper I kept expecting him to step up to the mike and shout/sing, "Take it home/ You can wrap it up and/ Take it home..." I think he shoulda.

Ann Wilson was great, what a voice, and no call to demean her. Dreamboat Annie was a definite highlight, great singing by Ann, great back-up singing (right next to her) by you-know-who, delicate strumming and picking all around, and that great flute coda. List homegirl Lia said during this song, "Todd and Ann-- I don't know who to look at!" Well, at least we got to see them from the front. Todd and Ann had a nice rapport going, both musically and in terms of camaraderie; she is a fan, after all, and he remains a gentleman (to a point...)

I also thought that The Real Me was a highlight. Just Entwistle and his band. Real thunderous and rocking, and Godfrey did (as has been reported) a great Daltrey. Remind me to recommend him highly when the casting call goes out for Who-mania.

The final point that struck me was just how good those Beatles songs were-- and are. We tend to think that after Sgt. Pepper-- really, after Revolver-- they got all "studio", and recorded stuff that they couldn't pull off on stage. Balderdash! Sure, stuff like She's Leaving Home or Benefit of Mr. Kite would probably not work live. But Back in the USSR, While My Guitar Gently Weeps, Rain, Revolution, Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight/The End-- all great, pure rock'n'roll songs that this band wore like flashy but comfortable old shoes. Old blue suede shoes. And I'm Down, I Wanna Hold Your Hand, Ticket to Ride, Day Tripper, Rain-- these are among the best songs ever written. By anyone, period. This material is too good, too timeless, too essential to sit on the shelf. Thank goodness for projects like this, and for bands like Teenage Fanclub, World Party, and even (shudder) Oasis, who are ballsy or dumb or naive enough to go back and do a great Beaatles song every once in a blue moon. And the same could be said for the skinny kid from Upper Darby.

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