Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Sgt. Pepper at Roy Thomson Hall

Sgt. Pepper is such a common part of our lives. It's like ketchup. It keeps showing up. For the past 46 years we've had Pepper journeying alongside us as we trip through life. And lucky for us The Beatles put Diamonds in our sky.

There's been a ton of writing and critical praise already heaped upon the album that it's close to impossible for a piece of art to stand up to such lauding. But Pepper does in fact stand up. And I'll go as far to say that it's the most important piece of art ever created. So much so that it makes the Mona Lisa frown. And unlike monumental feats of architecture, you don't have to travel to the other side of the world to experience it. More people have listened to Sgt. Pepper than watched Citizen Kane. Combine and add up all the Bach, Brahms and Beethoven record sales and you'll find that they don't come close to selling as many albums as Pepper.

Sgt. Pepper is the first classical rock album. All the albums that Classic Albums Live performs are classical albums, but Pepper is the flagship. I can hear all the stuffy, traditional classical lovers snorting their grunts of disapproval. But who cares? A Day in their Life is different from mine. They can go fly a Kite. This is classical music, baby. It's enduring with Telecasters and Ludwigs sounding the battle cry.

When Classic Albums Live first salted ourselves with Pepper, I remember us being intimidated. Here was a bunch of shaggy musicians tackling the most important piece of music ever made. And being led by a guy from Scarborough. But we buggered on a found the heart of the album. The George Harrison track - 'Within Without You' - proved not only be the most challenging but the most rewarding. Whenever we play the song live you can hear an audible gasp from people in the audience. Growing up, this was the track that we used to get up off the couch and lift the needle on, but now it's the most compelling track and demands attention. Funny that.

The first time we performed this album, I remember there being a palpable buzz in the air. No one had ever performed the entire album prior to us, let alone boast the 'note for note' claim. The show was magical. A historical night. The next morning I remember Leaving Home for the corner market. I picked up the Toronto Star and there was our review. They called our show "Joyful" and "Thrilling".  To this day those are my two favourite adjectives.

It's an honour to be on stage at Roy Thomson Hall with this incredible piece of music. We know how to perform this album. We've been doing it for 10 years and living with it our entire lives. And we keep Getting Better. All the Time.

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