Classic Brit rock alive and well with URO

Oct 24, 2011

Classic Brit rock alive and well with URO

-Tim Miller, Cape Cod Times

ARLINGTON — When I saw the Ultrasonic Rock Orchestra perform with Siobhan Magnus at Cape Cod Melody Tent in June, the show blew me away.

In my review I wrote: “I’ve never seen URO, but I hope this won’t be the last time, because I want to gather anyone I know who really loves rock and track the band down and see it again and again.” I finally got the chance last Saturday night. That’s when URO opened the six-week Rock ‘n’ Roll Circus at the intimate Regent Theatre, located around the corner from Mass Ave in Arlington. I was unabashedly excited as I brought three rock-music aficionados (son, daughter, daughter’s boyfriend), all in their 20s, along to expose them to the URO experience.

Definitely worth the trip. URO is, essentially, a cover band of classic British rock (the Who, Led Zep, Bowie, Queen, etc.), but its 13 members — five women and eight men, 10 of whom provide vocals — perform with such explosive energy and fire and musical talent that every tune, no matter how many times you’ve heard it before, sounds fresh and alive.

I love these guys.

They deliver a theatrical performance, and watching them is as much fun as hearing them. Dressed in eclectic glam/punk/futuristic attire of black, white and red (the lone exception: drummer Chunky A, wearing a blue, red and white Union Jack pullover), the band is in constant motion, whether exchanging places to accommodate those who are singing leads (they pretty much trade off from song to song; I can’t imagine how they keep track of it all) or dancing and writhing along to the music.

And they’re all so cool, whether it’s Chunky (real name: Alan Ware, uncle of Magnus), a big smile of sheer rock ‘n’ roll joy on his face, raising his drumsticks high before pounding them on the skins; Bela Stalker (Emily Belastock), aloof and sexy in her Pat Benatar-at-her-edgiest way as she belts out a song in the lead or fills in the gaps as a backup; or Dr. Defiance (Sal Clemente), our fearless leader for this evening, his head shaven and wearing a white military jacket that looks like it came off the “Sgt. Pepper’s” album cover, strumming his acoustic guitar, taking his turn on vocals or imploring his band and the audience to rock, rock, rock till we drop.

But this band would be great even if audience members were blindfolded. URO changes things around for each show, and this time it opened with a Beatles set that included “I Am the Walrus,” “Dear Prudence” (best Beatles song ever?), a sublime rendition of “She’s Leaving Home” and “A Day in the Life.”

One of the things I love about this band is that it doesn’t always play the obvious, or easy, covers. It’s as if the members get together and try to pick out the most difficult, challenging or least known. They performed George Harrison’s Eastern-flavored “Within You Without You” from “Pepper’s,” for instance. Who would take that on ... besides, oh, Ravi Shankar? But they not only did, they nailed it.

They finished the set with the entire second side of “Abbey Road,” and they nailed that, too. For a Beatles fan, it was hard not to get choked up.

After a funny stage re-creation of a ‘40s-style radio mystery performance — the Regent is really going all out with these shows — URO cut loose in a second set of tunes from Bowie, Queen, ELO and others. There were great performances of the Who’s “Pinball Wizard” and Led Zeppelin’s “Misty Mountain Hop,” but to designate any “highlight” somehow seems wrong. Seriously, every song was a winner.

As Dr. D. pointed out at one point during the show, the audience members ranged in age from early teens to well into their 60s (and, I suspect, beyond). This, he noted, says a lot about the appeal of rock. He’s right, of course. But it also says a lot about URO.

Make the trip to Arlington. Trust me on this. Make the trip.