Wild Honey’s All-Star Tribute to the Beatles for a Good Cause

Craig Rosen
Yahoo Music

Following the onslaught of attention focused on the 50th anniversary of the Beatles' arrival in America last month, you'd think we'd have enough of the Fab Four for a while. But you'd be wrong.

The musical collective known as Wild Honey staged another Beatles tribute Saturday at the Wilshire-Ebell Theater in Los Angeles. This wasn't tied into the 50th anniversary of the Beatles' first U.S. visit, but rather focused on performances of the albums "Revolver" and "Abbey Road" with an all-star cast of musicians donating their time, and it was for a good cause. The proceeds of the event went to benefit the Autism Think Tank and Children's Music Fund.

And it should be noted that Wild Honey isn't just jumping on the Beatles' 50th band wagon. They staged a similar show last year in North Hollywood that was so popular they decided to expand and take the next one over the hill to a larger venue to accommodate the crowd.

As we were reminded in last month's TV special "The Night That Changed America: A Grammy Salute to the Beatles," covering the Beatles -- as John Lennon once sang -- "ain't easy," especially live. Add to the fact that after 1966, the Beatles stopped touring, so their songs were studio creations, not designed to be performed live.

Given those facts, the featured vocalists and especially the Wild Honey Orchestra and supporting musicians -- under the direction of Rob Laufer -- performed admirably Saturday night. As we've seen in the past, it takes incredible talent and a whole lot of chutzpah to tread the sacred ground of the greatest catalog of songs in the history of popular music and come out the other side unscathed.

With "Breakfast With the Beatles" host Chris Carter serving as the night's master of ceremonies, the show got off to a promising start with the Bangles and the Three O' Clock -- reprising last year's Paisley Underground reunion show -- joining forces on a muscular reading of "Taxman," propelled by the Michael Quercio-Danny Benair rhythm section with Louis Gutierrez perfectly recreating the song's closing guitar solo.

Chris Stamey of the dB's, a quartet of backing vocalists and string section, did an impressive job on "Eleanor Rigby." Men at Work's Colin Hay stumbled a bit on "I'm Only Sleeping," but any misstep was saved by an awe-inspiring recreation of the song's backwards guitar solos. Tommy Keene handled George Harrison's vocal on "Love You To," but the real star was Probyn Gregory's recreation of the song's memorable sitar riffs.

"Yellow Submarine" was also notable. While the song's simple vocal didn't give one-time Richard Thompson collaborator Christine Collister much of a challenge, the orchestra impressively recreated the song's backup chants and sound effects.

Other "Revolver" highlights included Semisonic frontman Dan Wilson's "Good Day Sunshine," Louise Goffin and Mike Viola teaming up on "And Your Bird Can Sing," and the Three O' Clock's closing the psychedelic freak-out of "Tomorrow Never Knows" with a crescendo of feedback.

Prior to intermission, the crowd was treated to the bonus tracks "Rain" and "Paperback Writer," with the Muffs, assisted by the Bangles, delivering a rocking take of the former and Andrew Sandoval adequately performing the later.

The show picked up notably on "Abbey Road," with former Wings singer/guitarist Denny Laine and guitarist Laurence Juber joining forces, not on a McCartney tune, but on Harrison's "Something." Big Star drummer Jody Stephens did a notable turn on the throwaway "Maxwell's Sliver Hammer," which you couldn't help but think the late Alex Chilton -- who recorded the Beatles' "I'm So Tired" -- would have approved of.

One of night's best moments was Viola -- who once fronted the Candy Butchers and sang lead on the title track for the film "That Thing You Do" -- soulfully taking on McCartney's "Oh! Darling" with stunning results. Lennon impersonator Tim Piper, assisted by his collaborator top hat-wearing keyboardist Cosmo Topper, did a striking take of "I Want You (She's So Heavy)."

The Bangles sweet harmonies, and male backing vocalists, gave "Because" the proper ethereal feel, while F.O.C.K.R.'s frontman Morty Coyle added some charisma to the proceedings with his take of "You Never Give Me Your Money." Dramarama frontman John Easdale, subbing for an ailing Matthew Sweet, started slow on "Sun King" but picked up the pieces considerably on "Mean Mr. Mustard" and the "Polythene Pam." And backup singer David Goodstein commendably stepped into the spotlight on "She Came In Through The Bathroom Window."

But the night's real tour de force was Collister's full-throated interpretation of the album's closing suite of "Golden Slumbers," "Carry That Weight" and "The End."

As a bonus, Laine performed his Moody Blues and Wings classic "Go Now," backed by all the night's performers.

As the Beatles famously sang, "And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make." On Saturday at the Wilshire-Ebell, there was a whole lotta love.

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