The Rock Orchestra, Wilmington’s newest tribute group, will start with The Beatles Sept. 16. Tributes to Springsteen and Peter Gabriel’s solo work will follow.
Formed by leading local musicians Joe Trainor and Matt Urban, a new tribute group known as The Rock Orchestra will take the stage this fall, flanked by a full horn section and string quartet.
Housed at The Queen on Market Street, the group will kick off their inaugural season on Saturday, Sept. 16, with a retrospective of The Beatles’ greatest hits. The performance will feature more than 14 artists on stage, covering the Fab Four’s unmatched discography from “Love Me Do” to “Let it Be.”
“It is essentially a tribute group like no other,” says co-founder Trainor.
For the last five years, Trainor and bandmate Matt Urban have made a name for themselves in the tribute world, performing in the group In The Light, which became known throughout the greater Wilmington area for its large-scale, high-energy performances of classic rock albums.
“It’s not gimmicky; they don’t wear over-the-top costumes or makeup like a lot of other tribute groups do. Instead, they focus on being true to the music,” says Christianna LaBuz, former talent buyer for World Cafe Live, now talent buyer for Live Nation and The Queen.
LaBuz says she booked the group frequently throughout their five-year stint because they almost always sold out shows. “If you closed your eyes at the show, you’d think it was the real deal on stage,” she says.
In addition to a successful run with In The Light, Trainor and Urban had a spinoff known as “Keep it Dark,” for which they focused on the back catalog of Genesis.
“We’re kind of geared toward recreating these recorded works live on stage—it’s something we get a kick out of and that we’ve built an audience for,” Trainor says.
After tackling albums from rock greats like The Who, Led Zeppelin and Queen, Trainor and Urban felt they were ready for more.
“At the end of the last show, Matt and I decided that we wanted to up our game a little bit and do something a little bigger,” Trainor explains. “Do more than one show a year and then open up to be able to play with other people as well.”
Putting In The Light on an indefinite hiatus after its final show in January, Trainor and Urban founded The Rock Orchestra and began piloting their new approach.
“We’ve set our focus more like the Delaware Symphony or a theater company where we pick a season’s worth of shows, cast them, book them, rehearse them, perform them,” Trainor says.
The Rock Orchestra will follow their Beatles retrospective in September by taking on Bruce Springsteen’s first three studio albums in a Saturday, Jan. 20, performance.
The season will conclude on May 12 next year with a run-through of Peter Gabriel’s solo work.
Trainor and Urban say this new approach creates some exciting challenges and allows them an opportunity to concentrate on their craft while working with a number of skilled musicians.
“In The Light was a fixed group of musicians. We had six core members in that band for all those primary shows,” Urban says. “What this new entity lets us do is open up the flexibility so that we can get more faithful to the material that we’re trying to reproduce onstage, rather than having a core group of musicians really having to stretch themselves every time.”
In addition to Trainor and Urban, The Rock Orchestra will feature a number of musicians they have played with throughout their careers.
Trainor, a full-time musician who has music-directed for City Theater Co. for the last five years, and Urban, the CEO of Wilmington advertising firm Mobius New Media, met in 2007. Urban says he was looking to assemble a group of musicians for periodic jam sessions when someone suggested he reach out to Joe Trainor. Trainor, a local music scene mainstay, had begun garnering attention for his original work with The Joe Trainor Trio.
The two connected, solidified a lineup and went on to cover Led Zeppelin’s legendary album Physical Graffiti in 2011.
Ten years later, Trainor and Urban continue to collaborate and push themselves for audiences faithful to the music The Rock Orchestra has set their sights on.
“That’s really the point,” Trainor says, “To enjoy playing music and to make connections with people through music.”