KETTERING--One might not have been blamed for approaching A Walk Down Abbey Road: A Tribute to the Beatles with trepidation--or, at best, with fairly low expectations.
The problematic word being "tribute." One can pay tribute without really knowing what one is doing, or without having anything approaching the abilities of the tributees, and end up doing more harm than good. Eminem could pay tribute to Stevie Wonder, if he felt like it, but would you really want to hear him try?
So gathering several diminished musical lights of the 1970s and '80s--Alan Parsons, Todd Rundgren, the Who's John Entwhistle and Heart's Ann Wilson--to play the Fab Four's music isn't automatically a good idea. First question: Why? Second question: Who says they will have any better sense of how to interpret the Beatles than anyone else? Third: Won't it be a bummer to see four former stars reduced to glorified cover-band status?
Apparently, none of these things were of much concern to the Fraze Pavilion's near-sellout, Friday night crowd of greying, forty- and fiftysomethings, most of whom acted like hooting teen-agers again at the sound of Ticket to Ride and Day Tripper, regardless of who was playing them.
The show ended up being quite entertaining--even, dare we say it, artistically satisfying, but not without a few weird moments along the way. After kicking off at 8 p.m. sharp with a watery version of Magical Mystery Tour, the band played an up-and-down first set of its own hits.
Wilson's voice is still strong, and the Heart material--including Barracuda and Crazy on You--sounded good, though her stage banter veered between dopey and inane: "We sure have our share of crazy energy," she said, followed later by, "Thanks for digging our trip." Whatever.
Parsons' stuff was flat, and Entwhistle reminded us that few people ever bought a Who record for his songs. Rundgren emerged as the evening's star--both with his own tunes, including a surging Open My Eyes and the lovely Hello, It's Me--and also with his take on the Beatles. Which came in the second set. Tending toward late-period stuff, the band gelled perfectly and rose to the greatness of the songs. From Wilson's nice feminine take on Hey Jude to Rundgren's acoustic Hide Your Love Away to the full-band blowouts on Back in the U.S.S.R., While My Guitar Gently Weeps (more good Rundgren, again) and about a dozen other hits, the music was terrific. And the crowd ate it up. Or, in a few cases, smoked it.
All that was left to wonder about was how they worked out the royalties on this tour--a question, perhaps, for all the lawyers and accountants that we've grown up to become since the first time we heard Revolution, and thought it might actually mean something. Live and learn.