Tribute to the Beatles White Album Tour Shines in Clearwater at Ruth Eckerd Hall
A Vicky Sullivan Review – The second show of the Fifty Years Ago Today tour brings a supergroup of musicians to celebrate the Beatles and what a group it is! Todd Rundgren, Micky Dolenz, Christopher Cross, Jason Scheff from Chicago and Badfinger’s Joey Molland, have come together to bring us a show of musical nostalgia.
Set 1 is a mix of John, Paul, George & Ringo’s 1968 eclectic double album to some of the biggest hits of the 70’s and 80’s! The setlist of songs for this show is the soundtrack to the lives of baby boomers everywhere and their children who were raised on this music! Beatles fans appeared in large numbers, t-shirts of every Beatles design and John & Yoko’s “War is Over” message was in attendance.
The opening rocker, “Back in the U.S.S.R.”, had everyone on the stage singing McCartney’s ode to Russia, which actually became an underground hit in the Soviet Union because the Beatles were banned! Next was Jason Scheff, who was in the band Chicago from 1985-2016! Jason has a Todd connection as his father bassist, Jerry Scheff, played with Todd and also worked with Elvis and The Doors. Jason’s voice is made for a song like “Dear Prudence”. “Everybody’s Got Something to Hide but Me and My Monkey” with Todd on lead vocals brought Micky to the stage to give him a “Monkee” look. This humorous pop culture moment was not lost on anyone! They covered “Birthday” with Micky asking for any birthdays in the audience and having a fun jam to it. Christopher Cross brought his chops to “Martha My Dear”, a total McCartney written and recorded tune with none of the other Beatles appearing on it.
The show spotlights each of the supergroup members with their individual career hits. Starting with Micky paying tribute to his Monkee days, the Neil Diamond written “I’m A Believer” was one of the Monkees most famous hits. It is a song he has dedicated in the past to his close friend and Monkee mate, the late Davy Jones. Micky takes us back to 1967 and the great songwriting team of Carole King and Gerry Goffin with “Pleasant Valley Sunday”, which was on the Monkee’s LP, “Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones, LTD”. All four Monkees actually played and recorded on the track. Micky has connections to the Beatles in the early days and hung out with John Lennon during his famous “lost weekend” time in L.A. and with Ringo since they were all part of the original Hollywood Vampires drinking celeb crowd.
Joey Molland of “Badfinger” has big Beatle connections! Badfinger was the first band signed by the Beatles’ Apple records in 1968! Joey gave us some “Baby Blue” and “No Matter What”, just two of Badfinger’s many power hits. I was hoping to hear “Day after Day” or “Come and Get it” but, there are so many hits and not enough time in a show like this! Hearing those songs took me back to my transistor AM radio! Jason Scheff took the audience on a trip to different musical eras of Chicago’s great song library. Peter Cetera 80’s hit “Hard to Say I’m Sorry” and one of the best jams of the show in my opinion is the Robert Lamm written “25 to 6 to 4”. It sounded fresh and the entire band gave it a stellar send up. Jason Scheff brings much talent to this show with his vocals and bass.
Todd Rundgren brings so many moments to this show! Producer Rundgren was given props by Joey Molland for producing Badfinger’s album “Straight Up”. Another Beatles connection as George Harrison turned it over to Todd to work on and both were given producer credit. Musician Rundgren, who plays more instruments than any of us can fathom, has recorded Beatles songs; check out his “Faithful” or “Deface the Music” LP’s. Todd gave us his pop hits, “I Saw the Light” and “Hello It’s Me” which are great fun, but where he really shines is on the Harrison penned “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”. Eric Clapton played on the original recording and Todd plays Clapton’s “Sunny” guitar during the show or maybe it’s a replica, no one really knows. It doesn’t really matter because it just kicks ass! Rundgren also provides some great comic relief moments in the show! Rundgren’s Beatle history is lengthy in both recording and playing. “A Walk Down Abbey Road” tour in 2001 had Rundgren, Alan Parsons, David Pack, Heart’s Ann Wilson and The Who’s John Entwistle saluting the Abbey Road album. Of course, Todd has also played with that drummer Beatle called Ringo in several of his All-Star Bands!
Christopher Cross doesn’t talk much but his voice is in fine shape for that gigantic hit of 1980, “Sailing”. Who didn’t own that Christopher Cross debut album? Everyone I know did. You could hear a pin drop while he played it and I never thought I would hear that song live! “Ride Like the Wind”, another hit for Cross, sounded great. The backing vocals were by Michael McDonald on the original recording. Cross does a beautiful job on acoustic guitar and vocals on Paul McCartney’s , “Blackbird”, a song written during the civil rights movement. The show had many standing ovations throughout the evening.
Set 2 of the show is entirely songs from the White Album. From “Rocky Raccoon” to “Helter Skelter”, they salute the Fab Four with their own styles yet not straying too far away from the originals. The musical director is Joey Curatolo, who was the musical director of RAIN, A Tribute to the Beatles. The versatile backing band members include Gil Assayas is on keyboards, who toured with Rundgren on his Utopia tour in 2018. For anyone who is a Beatles fan or a fan of any of these musicians and their music, this is a fun walk down memory lane, a not to miss show!
Photos by Vicky Sullivan – The Sarasota Post