ALAN PARSONS: EYE 2 EYE: LIVE IN MADRID (2010)
1) I Robot; 2) Can't Take It With You; 3) Don't Answer Me; 4) Breakdown/The Raven; 5) Time; 6) Psychobabble; 7) I Wouldn't Want To Be Like You; 8) Damned If I Do; 9) More Lost Without You; 10) Don't Let It Show; 11) Prime Time; 12) Sirius/Eye In The Sky; 13) (The System Of) Dr. Tarr & Professor Feather; 14) Games People Play.
The Alan Parsons Project, in all of its existence, never went on the road. That's why it was a «Project», after all, not a «Band»: a thoroughly studio-based creation. Certainly, once they started out, it was no longer the Sgt. Pepper era, and they could have easily replicated most of their stuff onstage had they wanted to; but they didn't want to. The music was sort of supposed to come without the faces — and besides, neither Parsons nor Woolfson looked anything like rock stars.
I am not sure exactly what happened in the early 2000s to make Alan suddenly yearn for a shift in policy. Probably not money matters — not being a huge spender, he must have made enough to last him long enough — perhaps it just went along with the desire to try out all these new things that we heard on A Valid Path. However, if Path announced a radical departure from many of the former trademarks of the Project, the accompanying tour did nothing of the kind.
Instead, it simply promises — and delivers — manna from heaven for all the veteran fans of the Project. With his newly assembled band («The Alan Parsons Live Project» — with Woolfson's permission), in which he is the only representative of the old guard, Parsons constructed a program that touched upon most of the classic hits of the Project, pretty much disregarding his solo career (on Eye 2 Eye, the only new song is 'More Lost Without You'). Statistics speak for themselves: 2 songs from Tales, 4 from I Robot, 1 each from Pyramid and Eve, 2 each from Turn Of A Friendly Card, Eye In The Sky, and Ammonia Avenue, and then silence: just the right proportions for the Taste Guardian for the Alan Parsons Project.
Predictably, most of the songs are played fairly close to the studio versions; minor exceptions involve making a medley out of 'Breakdown' and 'The Raven' (it works) and extending 'Psychobable' with a prolonged «psychobabble» instrumental passage (I'm not sure it works). The big difference is with the vocalists, who are, for the most part, all competent; and it is interesting that all of the band members (six of 'em) sing, with the original parts distributed to them based on their own voice qualities. Grandest surprise is Parsons himself, who is responsible for some of Woolfson's original parts — and shows a nice singing voice, slightly weaker than Eric's, but capable of pulling out most of the harmonies and radiating the same intelligent tenderness.
The most frequent vocalist, however, is P. J. Olsson, who looks approximately like what most people would think Eric Woolfson should look like (young, blonde-haired, a bit Wagnerian, etc.) and sings with perfect competence and involvement (his 'Time' is absolutely wonderful and, just like on the original, takes one's breath away long enough to forget about the triviality of the lyrics). Actually, it would be ridiculous to suspect any overall quality problems: Parsons the Perfectionist would have never dared to put up any show like this without a hundred percent guarantee.
It's an interesting show, all right, to listen to as well as to watch (the accompanying DVD accordingly places Parsons, most of the time, in the background, nonchalantly strumming an acoustic guitar) — and there is even nothing wrong with using the album, provided you can find it, as a basic introduction into the Project. Live records from art-rockers usually define the meaning of «superfluous», but that's only when they come in droves; one live record from an art-rocker is always interesting and instructive, not to mention this particular record that fans had been waiting for for over thirty years. And what a setlist — a legacy to really be proud of. Thumbs up.