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Published: 2002/03/26
by Corinne Henahan

BeatleJam, Odeon, Cleveland, OH- 3/20

BeatleJam, the concept tour featuring the cream of Jam-band talent playing nothing but the songs of the Beatles, satisfied the eager if less-than-packed crowd at Cleveland’s Odeon Concert Club March 20th. Featuring members of Blue Floyd, Vince Welnick, and Jazz is Dead, the night was something of an all-star jam from the first song to the last.

Jazz is Dead opened the show with a short set, but T. Lavitz was the only original member to appear with the group. He was joined by Jerry Goodman, (formerly of the Mahavishnu Orchestra) on the fiddle, and Jeff Pevar (CPR) on guitar for a set which, possibly due to its abbreviated length, never lost energy.

Vince Welnick followed, supported not by his usual band but by different groupings of Jazz is Dead and Blue Floyd members, interspersed with long stretches of solo playing. The result was inconsistent and uninspired, not the best Vince performance I have seen. Indeed, if Vince had been the headliner, I may have left the show early. Thankfully, I stayed, and Blue Floyd was definitely worth the wait.

Opening with a rousing “Lady Madonna,” Blue Floyd made immediate contact with the notoriously rowdy Cleveland audience. With vocal duties shared between young bassist Berry Oakley and keyboardist Johnny Neel, Blue Floyd played through 14 challenging Beatles covers, jamming and reinventing each.

With Gov’t Mule’s Matt Abts on drums and Audley Freed on guitar, Blue Floyd showed the power and beauty of these compositions. Particularly intense were “Taxman,” “Hide Your Love,” and “Yer Blues,” which was introduced by Oakley following “Eleanor Rigby.”

“This is one of them big ugly ones,” he said.

Vince Welnick joined Blue Floyd for “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” a song also performed by Vince during his stint the Grateful Dead. The night ended with a true “all-star jam” when Pevar, Goodman and Lavitz came onstage for “Come Together” and a sing-a-long version of “Hey Jude.”

It was truly all about the music, with Oakley and Pevar exchanging amused glances as Welnick confused the verses of “Jude.” With jams so tight underneath, the lyrics were hardly missed.

The concept for BeatleJam can be traced to Oakley, according to Pevar and Lavitz. Oakley says the idea to form a tour around the music of the Beatles was “floating around” for several years, but really didn’t come together until last fall, when the events of September 11th and the passing of George Harrison brought the idea to his attention again. It is obvious it was a chance worth taking

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