Beatlejam featuring Blue Floyd, Vince Welnick, and the Machine, Webster Theater, Hartford- 1/20
A fresh blanket of snow on a Sunday night in Hartford usually signals an early evening in the land of steady habits. Tonight was different. Blue Floyd and their Beatlejam played the venerable Webster Theater. For the few hundred souls who ventured forth they were treated to an array of Beatles' classics as performed by the Machine, Vince Welnick, and Blue Floyd in a variety of configurations.
The Machine began the show with a cover of the late George Harrison's, "While My Guitar Gently Weeps." The Machine, most noted as one of the premier Pink Floyd tribute bands during the decade of the nineties, provided faithful reproductions of assorted Beatles' classics like "Happiness i a Warm Gun," "Strawberry Fields," "Glass Onion," and "Blackbird." The highlight of the Machine's set occurred when keyboardist Vince Welnick joined them onstage. Together Welnick and the Machine covered such gems as "Baby Its You," "Tomorrow Never Knows," and "Across the Universe." After the Machine finished their set with a superb cover version of "I Am the Walrus," Welnick returned to the stage to perform solo.
Welnick, the former keyboardist for both the Tubes and the Grateful Dead, has spent much of his career playing in the shadow of dynamic and iconic band leaders. Here, alone on the Webster stage save for the scurrying of stagehands preparing for the evening's headliner, Welnick's arrangements of Beatles' classics like "A Day in the Life" and "Let It Be" showcased his abilities as both an instrumentalist and vocalist. Welnick's short set provided a bridge from the Machine's faithful reproductions of Beatles' songs to the interpretive stylings of Blue Floyd.
Blue Floyd began their set by repeating the already covered "A Day in the Life." Their version featured strong instrumental interplay between the band members: keyboardist/vocalist Johnny Neel, guitarist Slick Aguilar, drummer Matt Abts, and bassist/vocalist Berry Oakley Jr. Throughout Blue Floyd's set each band member took their turn soloing and extending each song into new musical territory. Without the dominant presence on guitar of either the late Allen Woody or Marc Ford, as was the case in earlier versions of the band, Johnny Neel has emerged as even more of a focal point within the band. Neel's lead vocals and organ work provided a funky blues interpretation to "Get Back." For "Cry, Baby, Cry" Aguilar stepped to the forefront and continued to lay down ripping guitar riffs for an innovative version of "Lady Madonna." Abts showed his prowess as one of rock's premier drummers as his solo led into a full band jam that finally morphed into a blues "Eleanor Rigby" featuring Johnny Neel's Joe Cocker-ish vocals. Berry Oakley Jr. took his turn center-stage with a strong bass solo leading into a very heavey blues version of "Come Together."
And come together was what the night's bill did as Vince Welnick joined Blue Floyd for great versions of "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds, " and "Helter Skelter" meshing his keyboard and vocals seamlessly with Blue Floyd's sound. Next the members of the Machine walked onstage and provided harmony vocals and an extra guitar for a massive group jam on "Hey Jude." Blue Floyd, Vince Welnick, and the Machine finished a long and thoroughly enjoyable evening of music with a rousing version of "All You Need Is Love" wrapping up a show that provided fans Beatles' music both as comfortable as a treasured old blanket yet as unique and individual as a snowflake.