I wish I could join in a lovefest (as I generally do when TR is involved) about the show in San Diego on June 24th, but I'm afraid this missive is a bit more critical than I wanted to write. It is, after all, only rock and roll, but the polish and musicianship that I experienced at last year's Abbey Road tribute (on TR's birthday, in San Diego) just wasn't present in last night's show. The standard the musicians set for themselves in 2001 hasn't been met yet in 2002.
--the unheralded and largely unknown members of this band (Godfrey Townsend, John Beck, and the drummer whose name wasn't mentioned enough!). All three musicians anchored the songs solidly when the stars didn't.
--Mark Farner. Interesting rendition of "Taxman", crowd pleasin' "I'm Your Captain", complete with wah-wah pedal. A definite asset to the team.
--Chris Cross. "Sailing" and "Ride Like The Wind" well done, true to the vinyl arrangements, and with no skips or pops (musically, either). "For No One" nicely performed and vocalized. Good harmonies. The scouts did well adding him to the roster also.
--the lack of Pack (David), especially in the vocal department (though his guitar finesse was excellent also). This show suffers, certainly in comparison to last year, from a lack of audible, consistent multi-part harmonies that are integral to the arrangements of the Beatles' songs. Pack's contribution to that important element is obvious now, as was...
--Ann Wilson (by not being here). There is no comparable vocal versatility in this year's lineup; the background vocal support is noticeably hollow without her. The sparkle and breadth from a strong female performer that helped to balance the testosterone in last year's band is missing (especially during the Cream songs, which need some serious editing). Ringo took advantage of this same factor by including Sheila E. in the All-Stars lineup last year, and I'm sure it wasn't just because Carl Palmer wasn't available.
--Jack Bruce *reading* the lyrics to "Eleanor Rigby" while the back-up band groaned on in the back under the weight of the vocal performance delivered upfront. The audience members around me knew all the words....why didn't the performer?
--the "let's all sit on stools with acoustic guitars and generally massacre Beatles songs like the middle-aged hoi polloi do on the weekends in the garage" segment after the intermission. (Or as Todd remarked, "Here's another one we don't know.") Well, gee, I've had fun attending impromptu pakololo-laced musical sessions with the buddies, guffawing at the lack of musical rigor with a hoist of a cold Corona......but I've never paid 60 to 125 bucks to do so. (Unless it was a rare imported beer, of course.) I found the lack of professionalism (and preparation) in this segment to be painful, and bordered on insult. It didn't end soon enough for me.
--frequent sound problems, perhaps uncontrollable by the musicians themselves. PA failures, 60 cycle hum, mic outages galore. The most uneven sound reinforcement at this venue I've ever encountered.
Closing argument and summation:
If you saw this show last year, you know the drill. The individual performers largely do their own material (with a sprinkling of Beatles songs) in the first half, followed by the acoustic abomination and mercifully electrified reanimation of the Beatles' music in the second half. TR was energetic, carried himself well vocally, and being center stage on this outing at least, brought a welcome focal point to the proceedings for the Faithful fan. (And, his rendition of "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" on Clapton's old SG is still killer.)
Nonetheless, those looking for great performances and the pixie-dust factor of last year's lineup may find something lacking. If it's just a case of opening night jitters (save the two Hawaii shows), it will only get better. If not, it's gonna be a long summer for the Dung Beatles....and their fans.
Peace and health to all.