A Walk Down Abbey Road: A Tribute To The Beatles
Featuring Alan Parsons, Ann Wilson, John Entwistle, & Todd Rundgren
Wednesday, July 11, 2001
FleetBoston Pavilion, Boston, MA
Editorial Note: I go to a lot of concerts (easily 30-plus a year) and am not in the habit of writing concert reviews. But this show was unique and special enough that I had to write something.
Alan Parsons, Ann Wilson, John Entwistle, and Todd Rundgren performing a bunch of Beatles songs -- who would have thunk it? I've heard some reviewers liken this tour to a Beatle-less Ringo Starr's All-Starr Band. One might cringe, thinking of it that way, but it comes off much better than that.
Alan Parsons is most well known for the Alan Parsons Project, but he actually does have a Beatles link -- he was a recording engineer for the 'Abbey Road' and 'Let It Be' albums. Ann Wilson is half of the Ann/Nancy Wilson sister duo that formed the rock band Heart. John Entwistle, of course, is the bass player for The Who. And Todd, well, if you don't know Todd you should -- but he's probably best known for the 70s and 80s band Utopia.
Although the tour is being billed as starring those four, equally important on stage and deserving equal billing is David Pack. Who? David Pack. Where's he from? Remember the rock/pop band Ambrosia from the 70s? Yea, well, don't fret if you really can't recall. However, as bad as Ambrosia might have been (being 70s pop/rock, after all), Pack showed great vocal ability during this show -- and the whole thing might have flopped without his contributions.
The band was rounded out by three Entwistle sidekicks -- Godfrey (no relation to Pete) Townsend on guitar (and two vocals), Steve Luongo on drums, and John Beck on keys.
On stage left to right in a row were Entwistle, Townsend, Pack, Wilson, Rundgren, and Parsons. Luongo and Beck were in the back.
The show opened with a slightly ragged 'Magical Mystery Tour', but that was it for Beatles tunes for the first set. The remainder of the set was dedicated to the performers own tunes -- and everyone in the audience knew damn near every one of the songs. Of course, perhaps that just shows that the audience was, uhhh, shall we say mature?
The first set really didn't take off until the Wilson belted out the Heart hit, 'Crazy On You.' She showed that she still has lots of vocal power. The audience ate it up, giving back its first standing ovation of the night. This was immediately followed by Entwistle's 'My Wife', which also brought a standing ovation. Reviews from early in the tour (in June) report that everyone except Todd was using music stands. Well, the only music stand left is Entwistle's, and I laughed because the only time I noticed him using it all night was during 'My Wife.' Jeesh, you'd think he would know his own song!
Todd roamed stage right and stage left during his most well known hit, 'Hello, It's Me.' This was immediately followed by three Pack lead vocals in a row, starting with Alan Parson's 'Don't Answer Me.' They should have stopped there, because next up Pack sang two Ambrosia hits in a row, the smarmy 'Biggest Part Of Me', and the even smarmier 'How Much I Feel.' As talented as Pack is, the set hit a real low point right here. Of course, it appeared that the white-sweater preppy couple in front of us felt otherwise, so your smarm tolerance mileage may vary.
Todd brought the crowd out of smarm-dom with a rousing 'Bang The Drum All Day' (that's more my speed), and for the first time all night (and the only time in the first set) the crowd was up on its feet and dancing. The band's energy level stayed high for the remainder of the set, although the audience returned to its seats. Godfrey Townsend got a turn at the microphone, and he absolutely nailed the Roger Daltry vocals for 'The Real Me.' Wilson shined on 'Dreamboat Annie', Parson's 'Games People Play', and 'Barracuda.' The set closed out with Pack and Rundgren sharing lead vocals on The Who's 'My Generation.' Rundgren even threw in some Pete Townshend guitar windmills.
The second set was wall to wall Beatles tunes, starting with 'Back In The U.S.S.R.', 'Lady Madonna', and the blues-inspired 'I'm Down.' The latter was belted out by Wilson. There was a nice touch to 'Fool On The Hill', with both Wilson and Parsons on the flute part.
These weren't lick-for-lick copies, nor were they without rough edges here and there. Rundgren, for example, did a small lyric flub in the first verse of 'While My Guitar Gently Weeps.' But he recovered nicely (with a smile), and more than made up for it with a scorching guitar solo (the Eric Clapton part on the original). Alan Parsons then introduced the next song with a wish for George Harrison to have a speedy recovery (he's in the hospital with, I think, a brain tumor) and Godfrey Townsend got his second turn at the microphone -- this time nailing George's vocals for 'Here Comes The Sun.'
They tried to make 'Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds' fittingly trippy, but they used a little too much soundboard trip on Wilson's lead vocal. It came out sounding muddy instead of trippy. This was the only time all night the soundboard got in the way of enjoying the fun. Most of the night the sound was just fine, although a bit on the loud side. The sometimes all-too-literal video slide show on the other hand, was consistently annoying.
Up to this point in the second set I was a bit disappointed in the audience's energy level, or lack thereof. So I was quite surprised when a Rundgren acoustic solo rendition of 'You've Got To Hide Your Love Away' was rewarded with a standing ovation. Another standing ovation followed Wilson's beautiful rendition of the McCartney solo number 'Maybe I'm Amazed.' She gained a lot of respect from the audience for her consistent performance all night.
Parsons got his only lead vocal of the night on a solo acoustic rendering of McCartney's 'Blackbird.' He admitted that he never in a million years dreamed he would ever do a solo vocal, but he did a fine job -- despite another of the night's lyric flubs.
Wilson brought the band's energy level up with 'Me And My Monkey', and by the time Rundgren tore into 'Revolution' the audience was up on its feet as well. From this point on, nobody sat down again for the rest of the night as Rundgren and Pack took us through 'Day Tripper', 'Ticket To Ride', and 'I Want To Hold Your Hand.' It was smiles and harmony all around as Wilson led the audience in the set closing 'Hey Jude.'
The encore consisted of the whole band doing the vocals for 'Birthday', followed by Wilson leading us through the 'Golden Slumbers > Carry That Weight > The End' piece from the Abbey Road album. Well done, and a fitting way to end the night.
Bits and pieces #1. Rundgren on Boston: "This is a great city. I like the way you guys play chicken at every intersection. I'm freaking petrified to go out of my hotel room."
Bits and pieces #2. Wilson, somewhere in the middle of the second set: "All these songs are like body memory." She's right.
The complete set list follows (lead vocals in parens).