Saturday, May 12
Let me start by saying that if you haven't seen the Seattle>"/>
Saturday, May 12 The Moore
Seattle Rock Orchestra Performs The Beatles
Saturday, May 12
Let me start by saying that if you haven't seen the Seattle Rock Orchestra perform, you really should. It's a unique project that is always impressive and it's populated with some of the best musicians in Seattle. Their latest performance, which played Saturday night and Sunday afternoon at The Moore, was a pair of albums from The Beatles. The one downside to taking on The Beatles is that their catalog is (a) already heavily orchestrated thanks to the genius work of producer George Martin, and (b) there have been a lot of similar orchestral projects over the years. Whereas The Arcade Fire and Radiohead don't translate to a 50-piece orchestra as easily as the Fab Four, that's also part of the reason those SRO performances work so well. The orchestra brought out new dimensions in those bands -- and the same can't be said from hearing The Beatles done similarly.
The good news is, The Beatles are the greatest rock band ever, and nearly 50 years after the release of Rubber Soul and Revolver, the two albums the SRO tackled on Saturday night, the songs still hold up, proving they can be filtered through just about any genre or arrangement and still come out sounding fantastic.
One new approach for the SRO this time out was having groups of singers taking lead vocals. Scott Teske, bassist and founder of the project, has had groups of singers before, but with harmonies featuring so prominently on these songs, it made sense to offer a heavier mix of vocal groups here. Mychal Cohen and Melodie Knight of Campfire OK opened the show, and throughout the night other groups of singers took center stage (er, stage right), including Hannalee, Curtains for You, Kris Orlowski and Torry Anderson, and Noah Gunderson and Family.
Though Rubber Soul and Revolver are equally revered by Beatles nerds, Revolver was the stronger set of the two on Saturday night. Matt Bishop of Hey Marseilles' performance, and in particular, his versions of "Michelle" and "Girl," were a notable contribution to the Rubber Soul half, however. The second half felt more polished, and Noah Gunderson, who has performed at previous SRO shows, was joined by his brother and two sisters to kick off the second set. Though it took them a song to find their footing, their version of "Eleanor Rigby" was one of the highlights of the show. Matt and Mike Gervais from Curtains from You had the most energy of all the performers, though it's hard to not feel good when you're singing "Good Day Sunshine" and "And Your Bird Can Sing."
The night's best moments, however, came courtesy of the final two performers, and the two eldest statesmen on the bill, John Roderick of The Long Winters and Sean Nelson of Harvey Danger. The pair are friends and former bandmates, and though one writes for this paper (Roderick) and the other for The Stranger, there was no rivalry between the pair on stage, just a shared loved of the lads from Liverpool. The pair even joked about one of them being "a Paul" and the other "a John." Roderick started off his trio of songs sounding just like Paul (but with John glasses) on "For No One," before being joined by Nelson for a rousing version of "Doctor Robert" that ended with a hug. Nelson sang a pair by himself as well, Revolver's final two songs, including "Got to Get You Into My Life," which Nelson slayed, his years of performing and his comfort on stage coming through. He was also one of the few performers to offer his thoughts on the songs he performed, and he introduced "Life" by saying it was the first song that made him realize how hard becoming an adult might be.
After an encore, the orchestra played a few more songs, concluding with "Paperback Writer," which was anchored by Roderick and Nelson, and which included a chorus of the night's other singers. Though SRO's tribute to The Beatles wasn't their strongest show, it's easy to understand the urge to want to tackle the ultimate rock band. And Teske and co. have no intentions of stopping with these two albums. As the show began, Teske announced that the orchestra would present the band's next two albums next May, and two more the following year, until the band's late-period catalog had been performed in its entirety.
Despite the show's shortcomings, the event stood out because of the quality of the material and the musicians participating. For fans of the bands they interpret, the SRO is an event to behold, and hearing a 50-piece band playing two records' worth of songs you love is pretty hard to beat.