Sirk TV Concert Review: Alan Parsons Live Project & The Orchestra [Hard Rock Live – Hollywood, FL]

The interesting texture of 70s and early 80s symphonic rock was the early use of programming but, by extension, allowing that to mix with live instrumentation as a form of duet. Today programming is only used as a backing track to make more complicated compositions more manageable but it is not seen as the starting point of the creative process. That is why it is always interesting to see the bands that first used the computer and extremely early digital tools to create interesting possibilities. Alan Parsons Project and ELO were two of those bands who took advantage of this..

Whereas Jeff Lynne who helped pioneer the sound of ELO is not a participant of this incarnation (the last time he tried to resurrect a tour with himself was in 2001 the day before the Twin Towers attack), many of his collaborators including the original orchestrator, programmer and fiddle player are involved in their current tour as part of The Orchestra. While it doesn’t sound exactly like the multi-level harmonizing and layering, they do try and at many points succeed. The track where they hit their stride was called “All Over The World” which was originally recorded in 1980. The inclusion of the hits “Strange Magic”, “Can’t Get You Out Of My Head”, “Turn To Stone”, “Livin’ Thing” and “Telephone Line” had the slightly older crowd moving. The live version was used with heavy electric guitar reminiscent of 70s and 80s bands like Toto whose instrumentation and percussion-balanced energy served them well. The band members are getting up there in age but still retain that great sense of performance despite lacking the unmistakeable voice of Lynne. They closed out their encore with “Don’t Break Me Down” to great fanfare.

The Alan Parsons Project, by comparison, does have its namesake still involved. While Parsons is a bit older and can’t move around as much, he has built most of his band with younger (but not too young) experienced members so he is able to share the burden of certain songs. Parsons was also known for instrumentals like “Sirius” and others which he played here with a live component that makes the tracks definitely seem more alive and less isolated (which was part of their charm). While he does makes sure to sing “Don’t Answer Me” and “Eye In The Sky” as the opening and closing songs of the set, he helps spread around the possibilities. For example, “Time” uses such high octaves that he had AJ Olsen, his backing singer, sing the entire song and go full bore for how it should sound. Once you get past that it isn’t Parsons but Parsons is playing the song for him looking on, it sounds almost as good as the original. In that perception, a critic should have nothing to complain about. Parsons did announce that there would be a new box set from Sony that contains a lost album that was never released. They also premiered (on this mini-Florida tour before they head to South America) a track called “Fragile” which seemingly is more gentile than the rest of the songs but has the dexterous hooks that we have come to expect. Parsons says that album rock is gone so the thing today is to put out a single. That said, the best progression in the concert was when he integrated three of his songs into “The Turning Of A Friendly Card” as a suite using “Snake Eyes” and “Nothing Left To Lose” as bridges. The significance of this is that it was not done as a medley but as an extended song which makes more sense. The other significant impression came from the encore when AJ Olsen again filled in to push the high octaves on “Old & Wise” capturing the ethereal again before “Where Do We Go From Here” closed out the night.

Seeing these two bands on a double bill, which they don’t always do, was a nice complement that brought into focus the different angles of late 70s symphonic rock when the necessities of technology and the concept of an album were both pinnacled and fleeting.

Posted on February 17, 2014, in Other Reviews and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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