Tuesday night (October 1st) we got to see one of this year's most highly anticipated concerts as the White Album's 50th Anniversary Tour rolled into St. Charles, IL, for a sold out show at The Arcada Theatre.
Featuring five headliners, the show pays tribute to The Beatles' double album released in November of 1968. Todd Rundgren, Christopher Cross, Micky Dolenz, Jason Scheff (of Chicago) and Joey Molland (of Badfinger), backed by an incredibly talented four piece band, took turns recreating some of the most important music of the '60's in often picture perfect live renditions. (In hindsight, this really IS a mammoth undertaking ... and a constant reminder that ALL of this incredible music came from the same album release ... not a CAREER retrospective but rather a specialized look at 23 of the 30 tracks that made up The Beatles' first album released on their own Apple Records.) Definitely falling under the category of "And now for something completely different" for these five seasoned performers, I can almost picture the guys smiling uncontrollably from ear to ear, beaming with pride during the initial rehearsals, every time they hit on something that really got it right, watching the whole thing "come together."
Officially titled "The Beatles," (you all remember the numbered and embossed front cover, don't you?) the TRUE 50th Anniversary would have been last November ... and for as long as the album has been around, there have mixed feelings about whether a stronger single album might have been a better move ... but I'll tell you what ... there wasn't ANY filler at Tuesday Night's show ... EVERY song was presented in all its glory.
[Read OUR version of the perfect single disc ... as determined by Forgotten Hits Readers last year on the album's official 50th anniversary ... right here ...
And, as if this all of this wasn't already enough, the concert experience was accentuated even further as each of the solo artists performed a couple of hits from their respective solo careers. So while Micky had fun singing Beatles classics like "Why Don't We Do It In The Road" and "Rocky Raccoon," he ALSO sang two of The Monkees' biggest hits, "I'm A Believer" and "Pleasant Valley Sunday." (Dolenz also performed "Happiness Is A Warm Gun" and "I'm So Tired" during the long, 2 1/2 set.)
Todd Rundgren gave less than stellar performances of his two biggest hits, "I Saw The Light" and "Hello, It's Me" ... which was rather disappointing for us as we'd never seen him before ... but then COMPLETELY redeemed himself by wowing the crowd when he took the leads on "Sexy Sadie" (one of the night's highlights ... it was downright theatrical ... and entertaining as hell!), "The Continuing Story Of Bungalow Bill," (a bit of comic relief with Todd dressed in full jungle hunter gear, accompanied by a power squirt rifle as well as a spot-on vocal), "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" and an absolutely knock-out version of "Helter Skelter." (He also got things rolling early in the show with his version of "Everybody's Got Something To Hide Except Me And My Monkey" ... or, in this case, "Monkee," as Dolenz kept popping in and out during his performance of this tune!) And, I must say, compared to the other performers, I think he rivaled Cher in costume changes throughout the evening!
Jason Scheff started with a beautiful, bare-bones reading of "Hard To Say I'm Sorry" but then brought down the house with his performance of "25 Or 6 To 4," which earned special props for guitarist Wayne Avers, who played a lead guitar solo SO incredibly amazing that I'm certain caused both Terry Kath and Prince jump up from their graves and take notice. (We found out later that Wayne is Micky Dolenz's musical director and lead guitarist ... and man, this guy can play!)
Actually the whole back-up band was made up of top-notch musicians ... Musical Director Joey Curatolo on keyboards and guitar, as he also was for the popular "Rain: A Tribute To The Beatles" show, Drummer Darin Murphy, who played John Lennon in the Broadway Musical "Lennon" and Keyboardist Gil Assayas, who is Todd Rundgren's right-hand man when he's out touring.
Scheff did very credible versions of "Dear Prudence," "Glass Onion" and "Piggies" ... and an absolutely OUTSTANDING version of "Julia" (with a little help from Christopher Cross.) It is my professional opinion that Cross and Scheff should team up for another tour together, as they compliment each other's style perfectly ... and the blend of their voices is a sheer delight. (Plus look at the list of hit material they'd have to perform between them!)
Joey Molland seemed to be struggling a little bit with some of his vocals (including his two Badfinger hits "Baby Blue" and "No Matter What"), but he just seems to be such a likeable guy. (Joey has a new album coming out.) Molland wasn't the lead singer of that band and his Beatles contributions were spread out a bit more than the others. He also tackled George Harrison's "Savoy Truffle" ... but for me, his best performance of the night was on "Revolution 1" (although even there he got lost on the words.) Still there was something about seeing Joey and Micky singing side by side together that brought back memories of Davy Jones.
By far the best and most consistent performer of the night was Christopher Cross ... his voice was in top form throughout (although he could have added just a LITTLE more grit to "Ride Like The Wind.") "Sailing" was, for me the evening's highlight as he turned in a letter-perfect rendition. Surprisingly, the often "detached" Cross also provided some of the evening's most humorous lines ... and he truly seemed to be enjoying himself up there ... (which is not something we've not grown accustomed to seeing at many of his solo shows.) Perhaps part of the reason for this was the opportunity to present some musical selections outside the box of a typical Christopher Cross concert. In any event, it was a great opportunity to showcase his beautiful voice (and expert guitar playing) as Cross also turned in perfect performances of "Martha, My Dear," "Blackbird," "I Will," "Mother Nature's Son" and "Honey Pie."
The show kicked off with a great ensemble performance of "Back In The USSR" (just as the album does), which, like the album, segued into "Dear Prudence." Incredibly, those were the ONLY two songs performed in album sequence all night, which helped to mix things up a bit. A mid-set rocker, "Birthday" (led by Dolenz) got them all up and singing together again as did the finale, another group ensemble reading of "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da," which capped off a brilliant night of music to massive applause.
The tour was originally scheduled to come to a close at the end of this month, but more dates are now being added (including a return engagement at The Arcada Theatre on December 2nd.)
This is a fun one to see ... a GREAT night of musical variety by some of the top performers of our generation. Check it out if you get the chance!
[VERY special thanks to Ron Onesti, Luciano Bilotti, David Salidor, Billy James and Geoff Perren for their part in making this such a memorable experience. This was a show we NEEDED to see ... and these guys made sure it happened. All photographs provided by Arcada Theatre House Photographer Luciano Bilotti for use EXCLUSIVELY in Forgotten Hits.]