Alan Parsons Live Project In London

Alan Parsons brings his polished sound to London for the first time in nearly a decade.

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An unexpectedly rocky choice of support tonight, Purson offer a puree of psych, prog, folk and hard rock, plus a nod to the blues on Wanted Man, to which frontwoman Rosalie Cunningham’s rich voice is especially suited.

With their hair and flares, it’s very 1975 onstage. The shifting dynamics and instrumental meandering make them sound more neo-prog than nu prog: they revisit the original scene rather than offer the shock of the new, although that said, Twos And Ones finds the middle ground between Steeleye Span and Slayer.

The headliners arrive at 9.15pm, amid purple search lights, for their first London gig in a decade. The Alan Parsons Live Project are vocalist PJ Olsson , Manny Foccarazzo on keyboards, bassist Guy Erez, Alastair Greene and Dan Tracey on guitar, drummer Danny Thompson and Todd Cooper on sax, percussion and vocals. And, on a raised podium, the man of the hour (nearly two hours, actually, including encores), on acoustic guitar, keyboards and vocals, it’s Alan Parsons, who, big and bearded, in his spangly jacket, resembles an English Vangelis, or a white Barry White. Ladies and gentleman, the walrus of progressive techno-pop. Yacht prog, anyone?

Alan Parsons Live Project are a supremely, sometimes blandly proficient performance unit. I Robot is slick, spacey jazz funk, like Steely Dan played by computers. In its glistening perfection, it’s demonstration music for state-of-the-art stereos. Damned If I Do, from 1979’s Eve, is Asia-style airbrushed AOR, although Olsson, in his plaid shirt and Cooper in his cowboy hat, appear to have wandered in from a country band. The Raven recalls 10cc after Godley and Creme left; heavy on the sonic immaculacy, light on idiosyncrasy. “Please join in with this one, you should all know it,” vamps Parsons, prefacing the Phil Spector homage Don’t Answer Me, complete with fruity 80s sax solo.

Time has echoes of the mellower parts of Dark Side Of The Moon; fair enough considering Parsons engineered the bugger. I Wouldn’t Want To Be Like You elicits gasps of pleasure, with its rhythmic shuffle reminiscent of Doobie Brothers’ Listen To The Music; all tasty bass and impeccable guitar solo. Meanwhile, Days Are Numbers (The Traveller) is very Mike And The Mechanics, and dedicated by Parsons to Chris Rainbow, the APP vocalist who died of cancer earlier this year.

Things take a turn for the prog on The Turn Of A Friendly Card, a 1980 suite that, Parsons explains to the youngsters here, “used to belong to that unfashionable beast known as a concept album”. Unfashionable? Has he not been reading this very mag? Parsons pays tribute to another fallen APP member, vocalist and co-founder Eric Woolfson, on Limelight, while the lighting technician, who apparently has a degree in literalism, bathes the stage in that very shade.

Time has echoes of Dark Side Of > The Moon – fair enough considering Parsons engineered the bugger.

If the gig has been a little polished and polite, the encores of (The System Of) Dr. Tarr And Professor Fether and Games People Play, the latter with its definitive take on US freeway rock, raise the temperature and heart rate somewhat. All that remains is for Parsons to descend from his elevated platform and join the riff-raff for a bow, honouring a rampant, no-nonsense hour and 45 minutes.

Paul Lester

Paul Lester is the editor of Record Collector. He began freelancing for Melody Maker in the late 80s, and was later made Features Editor. He was a member of the team that launched Uncut Magazine, where he became Deputy Editor. In 2006 he went freelance again and has written for The Guardian, The Times, the Sunday Times, the Telegraph, Classic Rock, Q and the Jewish Chronicle. He has also written books on Oasis, Blur, Pulp, Bjork, The Verve, Gang Of Four, Wire, Lady Gaga, Robbie Williams, the Spice Girls, and Pink.