Sunday, July 28, 2013

CLASSIC ALBUMS LIVE: The Beatles' "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band " (Guest Post)

Photos courtesy of Jamie Christopher @
Ace "Guest Blogger" 
Michelle Wilson
returns with her
first post of the
summer — another
lively concert review.
And it appears that
this show truly was
a world-class event!

The Beatles' 
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely 
Hearts Club Band
King Center / Melbourne, FL (7.27.13)

Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, The Beatles’ iconic multi-platinum and award-winning eighth studio album, was released on June 1, 1967, one week before I was born. Considered by many to be one of the greatest rock albums of all time, it boggles the mind that a record could endure 46 years and still sound fresh and edgy, particularly when that record is being performed by Craig Martin’s Canadian-based Classic Albums Live. This über-talented troupe of musicians travels internationally and performs an array of best-selling albums, generally note for note, bringing to the stage some of the greatest music ever recorded. Past stellar performances that I eagerly have attended include Pink Floyd’s   Dark Side of the Moon (multiple times), Led Zeppelin's IIIIIIIV, and Houses of the Holy, The Rolling Stones’ Sticky Fingers, AC/DC’s Back in Black, U2’s The Joshua Tree, and the Beatles’ Rubber Soul/Revolver. Through their brilliant musical mastery as well as their playful onstage banter, CAL performers have recruited their own following apart from the monster bands to which they pay homage nightly, and deservedly so. I feel privileged to rank myself among that fan base and to appreciate the artistry and heartfelt emotion put forth during each performance. As I watched CAL perform Sgt. Pepper from my sixth row dead-center seat at the Maxwell C. King Center for the Performing Arts, I was thrilled to see how many kids were in attendance, and again I was reminded how blessed Melbourne is to have such a venue. The mere fact that young people are interested in this music, and in live music itself in this forum, speaks volumes for the positive influence of these shows. For anyone who has never attended a CAL show, you are missing out on a thoroughly enjoyable experience.

Sgt. Pepper is an intricately woven masterpiece requiring multiple instruments and vocals, and CAL pulled out all the stops for this one. Various performers sang lead, with the usual Beatles’ lineup including Rob Phillips and David Love on guitar, Mark Stewartson on bass, Marty Morin on drums and Nick Hildyard on keyboards. In addition, Michelle Jones and her Violectric ensemble (Yamilet Trujillo, Erica Honkonen, and Brandy Moulden) provided skillful strings and backing vocals, while Tom Dietz, Sam Zambito and Corey Paul comprised the tremendous horn section. Chad Berney added the necessary bongo/tambourine/maracas, and guest sitarist Jeremy Birdsall rounded out the ensemble. After all, what would a CAL Beatles show be without a sitar?

The show opened with “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” featuring Hildyard on lead vocals, followed by Phillips lead on “With a Little Help From My Friends.” The blending of voices on “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds” and “Getting Better” was noteworthy, but it was David Love on “Fixing a Hole” and “She’s Leaving Home” that was a true highlight. “She’s Leaving Home” is a complicated piece utilizing the strings and horn sections, and it was beautifully executed. Other highlights from the album included “Within You Without You” featuring Philips on vocals, Birdsall on sitar (to the amazement of many in the crowd) and lead violin courtesy of Michelle Jones, whose energy and smile resonated through the crowd along with her gifted talent for playing. Drummer Marty Morin’s playful “When I’m Sixty-Four” was a real crowd-pleaser, and the first half of the show wrapped up with the album closer and one of my top three Beatles favorites, “A Day in the Life,” featuring Stewartson and then Morin on lead vocals, with powerful strings and horns in the middle. The crowd was on its feet applauding wildly even before the well-known last extended note was over.

After a short intermission, the gang returned with some lighter, crunchier tunes, starting with “Birthday” and “Mr. Postman,” followed by the somewhat heavier “No Reply” and a truly chilling version of “Nowhere Man,” into “This Boy.” The crowd had a ball with “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da,” one of the most fun performances of the night, after which Birdsall and his sitar returned to the stage to accompany Stewartson on “Norwegian Wood” with vocal harmonies by Love. The crowd once again was up and clapping like crazy for Morin on “Oh! Darling,” which was followed by a show-ending triple-dose of the George Harrison-penned “Here Comes the Sun,” “Something,” and “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” vocals courtesy of Phillips and his breath-taking guitar work on “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.” No one remained seated  while the mad applause continued, and the band took a brief moment to exit and reappear with Hildyard on lead vocals for “Helter Skelter,” segueing into the final encore, “Twist and Shout,” both perfect choices to keep the crowd on its feet and wind down the show.

(With a little help from his friend Nick Hildyard)
In a final note, I would like to thank the staff at the King Center for their continued professionalism in presenting quality productions season after season. I especially want to give a shout-out to long-time front-of-house engineer, Richard Tater, for consistently providing top-notch sound quality. I realized halfway through the show that I was not, indeed, wearing my earplugs as I normally do. But I didn’t need them — well done, Richard!

-Michelle Wilson
(July 2013)

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