- Robin Zander sings "I Want You To Want Me" at the post-show jam.
The show belonged to Robin Zander, the Cheap Trick lead singer who resides in Safety Harbor. Dressed in a military-style jacket, his head topped with a oversized white police-type hat, he covered all the lead vocal parts: McCartney's rasp and croon, Lennon's sneer, even Ringo on "With a Little Help from My Friends." He didn't mimic the voices as much as re-create the spirit.
The ensemble took a few brief, between-song breaks, but that didn't slow their momentum.
There was probably considerable post-show discussion about which Pepper songs the band best rendered. Here are mine:
Song 4, "Getting Better." It's one of The Beatles most underheralded songs, and Cheap Trick swallowed it whole, with vibrant vocal harmonies and that familiar ringing rhythm guitar (by Rick Nielsen).
Song 6, "She's Leaving Home." Zander, backed only by strings, owned the song, hitting all of McCartney's high notes, remarkable for a 55-year-old. He not only executed the material, he dug deep and felt it. The audience responded with awe-struck applause.
Song 11, "Good Morning Good Morning." It's a Pepper song that doesn't get as much attention as some of the others, but it's a rock burner and Cheap Trick killed it. The horns added just the right extra bit of heft.
This is not to diminish the performances of the rest of the tunes, which were uniformly good. (Even though Donovan, guest vocalist on "Within You Without You," struggled to synch with the orchestra, overall the tune retained its exotic, mesmerizing air.)
Actually, one song came up a tad short:
The album-closing epic "A Day in the Life" was played at a too fast a tempo, rushed even; there wasn't enough textural contrast between Lennon's opening part and McCartney's middle section. And ... the ascending orchestral crescendo had to fight to be heard amid the rock band, losing much of its drama.
But hey, file all that under nitpicking.
Cheap Trick encored with part of the medley from Abbey Road ("You Never Give Me Your Money," "Golden Slumbers," "Carry That Weight" et al) with terrific aplomb.
But I thought the encore was a missed opportunity. There's talk of Cheap Trick taking the Pepper show on the road. A perfect conclusion would be the double shot of "Strawberry Fields" and "Penny Lane," both of which were recorded during the Pepper sessions and were major hits. Tack those two classics on the end of the show and the audience will leave even happier than it did last night.
After the concert, VIPs and folks willing to pony up a couple hundred bucks attended a jam/auction in Eckerd's Heye Great Room. Proceeds went to the Chi Chi Rodriguez Youth Foundation. Backed by a a group called the John Entwhistle Foundation Band, Zander and Nielsen popped onto the stage to perform "I Want You to Want Me" and "Surrender."
Emcee Tom Gribbon auctioned off the guitar Nielsen was playing. A guy standing next to me won with a bid of $4,000. I asked him how he felt but he just mumbled something and wandered off. He looked stunned.