I know what you’re thinking – what in the world is Symphonic Rock Evolution?!
It’s not a thesis paper written at the School of Rock. It’s not an app for guitar-playing geologists. It’s not a rock opera about the creation vs. evolution debate and the origins of humanity.
What Symphonic Rock Evolution is, cue the sparkly disco ball and flashing lights, is a 23-piece symphonic rock ensemble that put on one heckuva rock show on the first Saturday night of fall at Kelowna Community Theatre. Leading this monstrosity of music, and I use that term in a very positive light, is composer, arranger, and lead vocalist Ken Hartfield. This long-in-the-tooth Regina, Saskatchewan native with his white locks and baritone voice was the busiest band boy in the building.
At curtain up, he greeted the audience and eventually introduced all 18 songs played as the concert progressed. He was the lead vocal on multiple tunes, delivered a couple sax solos, shared a few stories, and served drinks at intermission (just kidding!). All in a night’s work for Hartfield, who has the creative chops to envision orchestral arrangements for classic rock anthems and blend them seamlessly with symphonic production elements that maintain the complete integrity of the song.
Case in point – Riders on the Storm by The Doors. The first tune after intermission, the sound guys mixed in rain and thunder while the band captured all the power and transcendence of the brooding beat. Wonder what Jim Morrison would think one of his memorable melodies being embellished with brass and strings? It totally worked and resonated with an almost-sold-out house.
Another humdinger was Another Brick in The Wall by Pink Floyd. This was the final song on the pre-encore playlist; let’s assume Hartfield was saving his best for last. This timeless rock creed used every instrument and voice on stage for an extra-loud, drum-banging finale. The familiar chorus of “All in All it’s Just Another Brick in the Wall” made me both chuckle and cringe when thinking about a certain American band leader who wants to build a certain wall all the way across a certain border. No way, Jose.
Symphonic Rock Evolution was formerly known as Bandidos Cerveza. Hartfield changed the name years ago because “everyone thought we were a mariachi band.” On this night, the stage lineup included six lead vocalists, traps and percussion, drums, bass guitar, piano, electric guitars, and a brass and string section. Three of the other vocalists were Teena Gowdy, Julie Dorsey, and Monica Tracey.
Big Finish – the evening’s symphony on steroids playlist also included: Simply the Best, Baker Street, Papa Was a Rolling Stone, What’s Going On, In the Air Tonight, Get Back, The Light (a homegrown song written by Hartfield in 1969), Stairway to Heaven, Your Love Keeps Lifting Me Higher, Oye Como Va, Me & Mrs. Jones, a Guess Who Medley, and The Letter.