If there is such a thing as silent fame, then the Alan Parsons Project, or as it is now called, the Alan Parsons Live Project, may be the very definition of the term. On Thursday, June 6, 2013, the Alan Parsons Live Project brought their Greatest Hits Tour 2013 to the Talking Stick Resort Showroom in Scottsdale, Arizona. Yet if you were to ask most people, including some of those in the sold out audience, to name an Alan Parsons Project greatest hit, you would most likely be met with a blank stare and silence.
Play those songs is exactly what the Alan Parsons Live Project did and did so for an enthralling ninety five minute set. As the prerecorded loop for the beginning of the instrumental “I Robot” began and green lights shone into the audience, band members, Danny Thompson on drums, Alastair Greene on guitar, Tom Brooks on keyboards and sometime Yes musician, Billy Sherwood on bass, took the stage and joined in. They were quickly accompanied by ring master Alan Parsons who took his place rear center stage, visible to all, aboard a raised platform.
To prove that the Alan Parsons Live Project is more than just an instrumental group, singer P.J. Olsson bounded onto the stage for “Damned If I Do.” His on stage energy was far more intense than that of the seated audience as he interacted with each band member while delivering strong vocals.
As is typical on any Alan Parsons Project album, the lead vocalist changed for each song. Parsons took the vocal reins on “Don’t Answer Me.” Saxophonist, Todd Cooper, handled “Breakdown, which morphed into “The Raven,” with Olsson back on vocals. With “Time,” one of the most beautiful songs ever written, Olsson’s amazing vocal work made up for any lack of orchestration the album version of the song may contain.
Good vocals weren’t the only highpoint of the evening. Greene delivered some scorching guitar solos all night, as well as adding his own lead vocals on “I Wouldn’t Want To Be Like You.” During that song, Sherwood demonstrated his artistic talent on bass with a solo which on any other night would have made him, hands down, the best bass player in the room. But this night, Sherwood’s friend and collaborator, bassist Chris Squire from Yes, just happened to be in the audience.
Because, as Parsons pointed out, “people asked for it,” the band then played the five songs that comprise “The Turn of a Friendly Card,” or better known to Alan Parsons Project fans as side two of the 1980 album, “The Turn of a Friendly Card.” Although the audience remained seated, visible head bobbing could be seen during “Snake Eyes.” But after the stirring guitar work by Greene and Cooper’s sax work that ended “The Turn of a Friendly Card (Part Two),” the audience was collectively up on its feet.
Now fully engaged in the night’s offerings, the crowd clapped along, without prodding, to “Pyschobabble,” with another vocal highlight by Cooper. Olsson then matched Cooper’s vocal performance with his own for “Don’t Let It Show.”
With Greene’s guitar work and a featured keyboard solo by Brooks, the crowd again came to its feet for “Prime Time” and stayed there for the instrumental known as the player introduction song by Phoenix Suns fans (and also Chicago Bulls fans), “Sirius,” which then led into the main set’s finale, “Eye in the Sky.” What was once a laid back crowd had transformed into a singing, clapping hoard. They demanded more.
More than one person shouted out “all right!” when the band came back out, opening their encore with the hard rocking, “(The System of) Dr. Tarr and Professor Fether.” Things slowed a bit with “Old and Wise,” but the crowd became frenzied with “Games People Play,” to end the night.
Although Parsons graciously thanked the audience, it was the audience that should be thanking him. First, this was a rare Arizona appearance for the Alan Parsons Live Project. Thank you Alan, for bringing the show to Scottsdale. We’ve waited a long time. Second, thanks for writing, along with your late partner, Eric Woolfson, such a variety of music that has endured over thirty five years. So many of your songs remain timeless. Third, thanks for always putting together top notch musicians, first in the studio and now live, to create your musical vision. Then again, I suppose an audio engineer for “Abbey Road,” and “Dark Side of the Moon,” has a pretty good ear for music.
Those lucky enough to snag a ticket for the Alan Parsons Live Project two night run in Scottsdale, left the show humming tunes that they still may not know the names of, but to which they can sing the lyrics. When relaying to their friends the concert experience they had, after explaining who exactly the Alan Parsons Live Project is and playing one of their songs, they no doubt will hear in response, “oh man, I wish I would have known that’s who that was. I would have gone to see them.” Silent fame.
Set list: I Robot | Damned If I Do | Don’t Answer Me | Breakdown/The Raven | Time | I Wouldn’t Want To Be Like You | The Turn of a Friendly Card (Part One) | Snake Eyes | The Ace of Swords | Nothing Left To Lose | The Turn Of A Friendly Card (Part Two) | Psychobabble | Don’t Let It Show | Prime Time | Sirius | Eye In The Sky | Encore: (The System of) Dr. Tarr and Professor Fether | Old and Wise | Games People Play
Article by: Ted Hansen, Mesa Classic Rock Music Examiner