Review: The Black Jacket Symphony Plays The Beatles White Album, Alys Stephens Performing Arts Center

This review was published in the September, 2013 Issue of The Leaf, formerly The Tannehill Trader.

IMG_1826Having seen the Black Jacket Symphony do a blistering performance of The Jimi Hendrix Experience’s Are You Experienced several years ago, I knew they were an incredible band but I have to admit, my expectations for covering The White Album, were skeptical at best. Long considered the Beatles crowning achievement by many critics, The White Album, covers vast musical ground with an equally wide array of instrumentation ranging from sparse acoustic guitar to horns and strings, all masterminded in the studio by their famous producer, George Martin. The Black Jacket Symphony delivered all 29 songs without a break in the original album sequence, flawlessly covering every dynamic and nuance with perfection. After a brief introduction of the 18 top-shelf musicians to the hysterical crowd, the band played five of the Beatle’s best songs: “Lady Madonna,” “All Together Now,” “Get Back,” “Revolution,” and “Let it Be.” After leaving the stage for a breather, they came back out for an encore of “Hey Jude,” with full audience participation on the familiar Na, Na, Na, Na, Na, Naaaa refrain.

The Black Jacket Symphony pulls off covering classic studio albums with a rotating cast of A-list musicians hand-picked for each performance with a focus on accurate reproduction of the studio sound, which in some regards is probably a more accurate live album performance than some of the original artists ever made. This type of complex performance is difficult to pull off in a live setting, but the band’s revolving cast includes hard working crews of sound, light, and stage hands employed to move things along without a hitch. This was on full display as each song required different instrumentation ranging from one acoustic guitar on “Blackbird” to the entire ensemble including six horns, two violins, and cello on the final song, “Good Night.” A huge kettledrum was rolled out for drummer and core member, Mark Lanter, to play as he sang lead vocals on “Mother Nature’s Son.”

IMG_1830Music industry veterans Lanter and J. Willoughby ground this class act surrounded by extraordinary talent and playing the music they grew up on with perfection and grace. They have taken The Black Jacket Symphony from a local Birmingham favorite playing small venues to a regional touring act selling out concert halls. Upcoming shows include stops in Mobile, Huntsville, Chattanooga, Columbus Ga, Lexington Ky, and Montgomery covering the likes of Led Zeppelin and the Stones, but you should probably mark your calendar for their October 25th performance at The Birmingham Museum of Art when they take on Elton John’s masterpiece, Madman Across the Water.

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