URO Blows the Roof Off the Regent (Five Stars)

The Ultrasonic Rock Orchestra at the Regent Theatre, 7 Medford Street, Arlington, MA December 22nd. Shows added for Saturday December 29th and New Years Eve. www.regenttheatre.com/

One of the crummy things about getting older is that you tend to get a little jaded and fall into the “been there, done that” mindset. But one of the good things about getting older (assuming that you actually grow up) is that you find out that being wrong can be a good – even great – thing, especially when you go into an event with lowered expectations and end up getting blown away. Such was the case at the Regent Theater in Arlington on Saturday night when I went to see the Ultrasonic Rock Orchestra, a classic rock tribute band that features 10 (you read that right) singers – plus guitars, keyboards, bass and drums. And URO reminded me why The Who, David Bowie, The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, and Queen (with a little Hendrix thrown in) have earned their lofty status as CLASSIC rock bands. And instead of playing note-for-note versions of hits from these iconic artists, the URO dug deep into the band’s catalogs and infused the old chestnuts with new life.

URO’s Rock and Roll Extravaganza is kind of the anti-thesis of WZLX, the Boston “classic hits” radio station that keeps playing the same four or five hits by major rock acts until you don’t care if you ever hear them again. URO started off with a pretty good treatment of “Baba O’Reilly” by the Who, and I thought to myself, “This isn’t so bad.” And then they just went off, ripping into faithful but imaginative versions of Led Zeppelin’s “Misty Mountain Top”, Queen’s “Killer Queen” and the Beatles “Paperback Writer” – which made me remember that the boys from Liverpool were originally a ROCK band before George Martin, LSD and the Maharishi catapulted them into a completely different brand of genius. Every one of these tunes was infused with a new energy provided by the stellar vocal arrangements and delivery of the group.

One of the elements that makes this band so much fun to watch (above their prodigious talent and the rock babe factor) is the way they shuffle in a new singer or singers for each number. There are five female singers (some with stripper-sequel names) and three male singers. And most of the singers play instruments as well, led by co-founder of the group Dr. Defiance (who looks a little like Dr. Evil from the “Austin Powers” series) who plays guitar, sings and is the ringmaster of this three ring rock circus. The leads are sung interchangeably by the male singers, including guitarist Deagan, and three of the women – Elektra, Roxy and the marvelous Alice Marvel. Marvel’s enthusiasm for the material was infectious as she seductively gyrated her way through the two sets with a smile as wide as a rich kid’s on Christmas. The rest of the band was equally joyous in their delivery – and you can tell they really enjoy what they’re doing.

The band was really impressive ripping through hi-powered rock blasters like the Beatles’ “Helter Skelter,” Queen’s “Tie Your Mother Down” and “Who Are You” by the Who (plus a blistering version of Hendrix’ “Cross Town Traffic”), but they were even more awe-inspiring with the more intricate and complex numbers like the Beatles “”Dear Prudence” and Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight/ The End and their brilliant rendition of “Bohemian Rhapsody.” URO also tripped up (and delighted) the audience with an obscure seven-and-a-half minute medley of “A Quick One While He’s Away” by The Who.

According to Dr. Defiance, what I saw on Saturday night included only half of the material from the previous week’s show, and the performance will change again on the 29th and on the New Year’s Eve Extravaganza. This show is a rock n’ roll lover’s wet dream, and if you never got to see any of the original bands at the height of their powers, this is a great substitute.

For more, see www.regenttheatre.com/.