Many, many years ago – around 25-ish of them – I was taken to see The Bootleg Beatles at Newcastle City Hall by my then girlfriend. It was incredible. I still remember little bits of it. Since then the band have continued to tour on more or less the same dates and packed out the venues they play at. Now, I’m not sure if it’s the same guys in the band as it was all those years ago (unlikely), but (spoiler) they’re still every bit as good.
I wasn’t feeling exactly great this evening – I picked up a belter of a cold over the last day or so – but armed with a handful of painkillers, a box of man size (sod your political correctness) Kleenex, an IV loaded with Lemsip Max Strength and bundled up against the… surprisingly mild Glasgow evening, I made my way to the lovely Glasgow Concert Hall. The fact it was a seated venue for once being a bonus as I was all weak and pathetic because, you know, man and head cold.
However, I wasn’t to spend all evening in my seat. Gosh darn those hip youngsters (who became hip eldsters in stages as the evening wore on), they were too entertaining and energetic, insisting that the crowd get up and dance. And dance they did. And clap. And smack drumsticks together in the case on one Sgt Pepper jacket-wearing lady a couple of rows in front of me. In fact, everywhere people were on their feet for many of the more up-tempo numbers. None of this bullying and cajoling – people just got up. Well, this is The Beatles after all.
From the off it was apparent that a huge number of the audience were up for it. From the first “How are you tonight?”, the response was incredible. The sound in the venue was super as well, allowing the band to play while the audience could still be heard clapping and singing along. This wasn’t a gig, it was a party.
The setlist was varied but, on the whole, chronological with the band changing costumes every few tracks to reflect the originals’ differing trends. I do recall (20+ years ago) there being a Sgt Pepper’s segment that wasn’t done tonight… and I like that. It shows that the Bootleg Beatles aren’t doing the same show each tour, but mixing things up. After all, there’s a staggering back catalogue of material – both visually as well as in terms of songs – so why not?
Now some (including a couple of people within our own hallowed Moshville Towers) may pour scorn on “tribute acts”, but I provide this defence: The Beatles have a huge collection of staggeringly good music. Songs which deserve to be played live, and by artists who treat these compositions with respect. The Bootleg Beatles do exactly that. As well as just playing the songs, they’ve nailed John, Paul, George and Ringo in terms of appearance, attitude, accent and ability. The humorous touches all work, the simple stage and light show don’t detract from the songs. Simply put, they’ve nailed it. Looking around the hall I saw more than a few young people – maybe down to 8-9 years old – singing, clapping and swaying along to these wonderful songs. And that’s something we need to keep alive.
In addition to the core band, credit has to be given to their orchestra – strings, blowy things and piano – without whom some of the songs wouldn’t have been half as magical. “Eleanor Rigby” has simply never sounded so good as it did tonight. As for the main set closer “Hey Jude”… wow. Never mind neck hairs, every follicle on my body (the ones I have left) were tingling as the whole auditorium raised their voices and waved their arms to one of the best singalong songs in history. Pure magic.
I’m already looking forward to next year and to 2020 when they tour with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra to celebrate the 50th birthdays of Abbey Road and Let It Be. I’m assuming they’ll be even better than tonight’s performance which was… can I just say it was “Fab”?