LIVE: Capital Records Live @ Proctors, 3/23/18
Review by Don Wilcock
Boy, was I wrong…
When I first heard that Proctors was going to present six regional bands doing covers of selections from the Beatles’ White Album and Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band in the Schenectady complex’s black box GE Theatre, it seemed about as savory as cold canned spam over a bed of ramen noodles. After all, I was a Stones fan in 1966, and when I saw The Beatles live, I saw The Beatles. I never heard a note, the screaming tweenagers’ drowned ’em out. Plus, Beatles cover bands are a nickel a dozen, aimed at middle-aged music fans who were too young or not born yet when the band broke up. They want to pretend they’re back in 1966, period!
Okay, hate me. Shelly calls me an elitist rock critic. And I get it. I hate the way most film critics savage horror movies, not understanding why people go to see them, which is quite a different mindset than sitting through “The Post” or “Three Billboards…” Well, so is this show. Being the critic I am, I had preconceptions of what I was going to hear. I wanted to hear the juice of a good band finding their own muse and not turning “Helter Skelter” into cement.
But guess what, boys and girls? None of these bands sent the songs to the bottom of the East River. They each brought something of themselves to the party. Their energy was infectious. The nearly sold-out crowd of all ages was really into it, and they weren’t there merely to drink beer and hook up.
To hear Wild Adriatic, a hard rock band in the Led Zeppelin pocket, do “Why Don’t We Do It in the Road” and “Day in the Life” through their filter made me appreciate the Beatles’ artistry more than I did 50 years ago. To hear the Bryan Brundige Collective put a Ray Charles spin on “Lovely Rita” and “When I’m 64” pushed my prejudices against The Beatles’ pale whiteness out of my head. The Bryan Brundige Collective and Let’s Be Leonard, who pumped out “Helter Skelter” and “She’s Leaving Home,” both had a jazzy feel about them. They had horns. The Beatles never had horns, although they could have.
So, of the six acts in the Capital Records Live concert at Proctors, they were the most successful in making these songs their own.
Eastbound Jesus I’d heard live before and knew they could put an Adirondack smoked wood northern rock quality to “Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” and “Back in the USSR” and they did. Girl Blue, a solo act with dark overtones, struggled to capture “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” but “Blackbird,” a song she said she learned at age 13, was right in her comfort zone. Clear Mind’s “Within You Without You” was more without than within. What connection this hip-hop artist had to The Beatles was elusive at best, but he was so happy to be there, that he won everyone over with his rap anyway.
Capital Records Live is the brain child of Proctors Marketing Manager Jim Murphy who saw this concept of re-doing a classic rock band’s signature songs through their a new muse work in Syracuse where he wrote for The New Times, an alternative weekly. Murphy’s first foray here was a rousing success. It gives regional bands an avenue of expression where they don’t have to compete with the din of a typical bar, and it obviously inspired all six of these acts from multiple disciplines to put on their creative thinking caps and reconfigure songs we thought we knew in ways that forced us to look at these legacy chestnuts through different eyes and ears.
Special kudos go to Chuck Vosganian of Rochmon Record Club who kept things moving between set-ups with a running commentary about Beatles history that was well researched and interesting.
UPDATE: The show was such a success that Proctors has already scheduled two more Capital Records Live concerts. Mark your calendars for Sunday, October 14, 2018 and Sunday, May 12, 2019. Stay tuned for details…