Cultureguru's Weblog

Of food, technology, movies, music, and travel—or whatever else strikes my fancy

Classic albums live

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A concert is not a live rendition of our album. It’s a theatrical event.

—Freddie Mercury

The most recent “Electric Thursdays” concert did not feature the usual Jeans’n’Classics band. Instead, it was the Classic Albums live crew, trademark “Note for note, cut for cut”. We were warned that there would not even be any talking to the audience ( I guess, because there wasn’t any on the album).

The subject of the “full album” treatment was The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper. And although the Centre in the Square website had the peculiar note that this concert did not feature the KWS (Kitchener Waterloo Symphony), that was not the case. They were there, although sitting farther back than usual. And also just sitting around more than usual, because of this idea of faithfully rendering the original album. Not all of which featured orchestra.

Now, though it is not my favorite Beatle album, I do like Sgt. Pepper. The musicians performing it were very good. The Symphony, when they did have occasion to play (“She’s Leaving Home”, “Mr. Kite”, and of course, “A Day in the Life”) sounded wonderful. The songs they played on were the highlight to me. The sound mixing seemed particularly good.

But the whole concept is kind of peculiar. The no interaction with the audience. The covering everything on the album, including the little sounds effects and spoken asides. Seemed more of an exercise than a performance, and left me a little cold, and Jean somewhat bored.

Fortunately, the second act, of “Beatles greatest hits” was somewhat more free-wheeling. They still stuck with the “as originally performed by the Beatles” idea, but by selecting a whole series of songs that were originally orchestrated, at least the Symphony had more to do. And this one did feature some of my favorites: I Am the Walrus, All You Need Is Love, Eleanor Rigby, Hey Jude.

The “encore”, which the only the band (not the symphony) came back for, turned into a rather extended set of various other Beatles classics like Ob-la-di Ob-la-da, While My Guitar Gently Weeps (with truly awesome re-creation of the original Clapton guitar solo), Twist’n’Shout, Norwegian Wood (with sitar, which was cool) and Helter Skelter! (And Jean amused me to no end with his shock that this cacophony of feedback was actually a Beatles song.) The band really seemed to be having fun at this part, and interacted a lot more with crowd, speaking occasionally, and getting us to clap and sing along at times.

Still, I have to say that overall, I prefer the Jeans’n’Classics approach. Even though they also sometimes do entire albums, sometimes even with the original artist, it’s never presented exactly as it was originally recorded. It’s always a re-creation, designed to take advantage of the concert hall and the variety of talented musicians available in the orchestra.

And isn’t that the point of live? To hear something different than what you can hear in your living room?

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