Jeffrey Lee Puckett
Reviewed July 25, 1998
There were moments when the British Rock Symphony conjured some visceral excitement, and others when it was no more than the world's most overblown cover band, but it was worth hearing any time Roger Daltrey was on stage.
Daltrey, legendary singer of the Who and a rock icon, was the featured performer of the British Rock Symphony, a traveling encyclopedia of classic rock made famous by English bands. Songs by the Who, Beatles, Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd dominated last night's Louisville Gardens show.
Daltrey sang a little bit of everything, but he created the most excitement with the Who songs. Just hearing him sing Who classics was a rush, and the bonus was that he sounded so good -- especially considering the damage he's inflicted singing rock 'n' roll for 35 years.
»5:15,« from the Who's »Quadrophenia« album, benefited nicely from the orchestra, as did »Pinball Wizard« and »See Me, Feel Me,« both from »Tommy.« Daltrey also did right by the Rolling Stones' »Street Fighting Man,« although »Start Me Up« was hokey and the Beatles' »Let It Be« overcooked.
The idea of mixing rock with a symphony is by no means new -- Emerson, Lake and Palmer toured with an orchestra 20 years ago -- but the British Rock Symphony attempts to shed new light by blending full-blown arrangements with a traditional rock band.
The show's first half, without Daltrey to draw all of the attention, was where the concept revealed its strengths and weaknesses. Even when it didn't work, it was interesting to see which bands made the leap most successfully.
Led Zeppelin's »Kashmir« was the best that band had to offer. Although it was essentially a straight-up cover of the song, which is already heavily orchestrated, it was an undeniably strong version. The Stones, a band that relies on feel and groove more than strong melodies, didn't do so well, although »Ruby Tuesday« had its moments. The Pink Floyd songs were a surprise, however, revealing songs that had both inventive melodies and sturdy foundations.
But the band that seemed to have the most potential was given the least amount of airtime.
John Lennon's and Paul McCartney's Beatles songs opened themselves up beautifully to full arrangements, but we only heard them sparingly. Although »Norwegian Wood« and »Let it Be« were played in their entirety, they didn't have the same potential as »She's Leaving Home« or »Lucy In the Sky With Diamonds.« »She's Leaving Home« could have been exceptional, but it was folded into a medley and forgotten.
Without Daltrey, the whole thing would have been an OK idea stretched to deadly length. But Daltrey's rock-star presence, complete with trademark microphone twirling, gave nostalgia a touch of class.