What a lineup: Chris Farlowe, Herman’s Hermits, The Merseybeats, The Swinging Blue Jeans, The Fortunes, The Ivy League, New Amen Corner, and Alan Mosca from Freddie and the Dreamers. All on one bill. You can’t fault this show for its value for money!
Grand Opera House
Unfortunately, though, the advertising is a little bit naughty. The Merseybeats are actually only performing in ten of the 66 gigs of the tour, replacing either The Fortunes or Herman’s Hermits, and sadly this night wasn’t one of those ten – a reminder always to check the (very) small print on the posters.
Also, many original band members do not appear, which is understandable (age, illness, simply doing other things) and have been replaced by others who joined the bands much later – in some cases, only a few years ago.
That makes this show different from the last two 60s shows at the Grand Opera House (the Solid Gold Rock ‘n’ Roll Show, and Maximum Rhythm and Blues with the Manfreds), which featured the stars themselves.
Plenty of hits
However, the hits are all here, still sounding the way they used to, and the show is full of great voices and fantastic musicianship. It also lasts well over three hours, so you definitely get your money’s worth!
It’s a very entertaining evening, and the full house in York had a whale of a time. Alan Mosca makes a great compere, complete with terrible jokes that you just can’t help but laugh at, keeping the audience in party mood while the roadies change the set for each new band.
(Even the roadies are getting on a bit – Mosca refers to them as “Dad’s Army”, and claims to have recruited them from the Shady Pines Retirement Home for Knackered Roadies…)
The evening kicked off with the Ivy League, who I really enjoyed. They mix comedy with their songs – mainly groan-worthy jokes and stories, told with huge relish, by drummer Dave Buckley. Sadly, this is their last tour, unless, as Alan Mosca suggested, they decide to come back next year for a final farewell!
They were followed by the Swinging Blue Jeans, featuring legendary bass guitarist, Peter Oakman, still playing everyone else off the stage. Lead vocalist Alan Lovell was in amazing voice, and really knows his way round a guitar.
The Fortunes had apparently just returned from Australia, and were suffering jetlag – something you would never have guessed from the effortlessness of the close harmonies which have always been their trademark. A bravura performance of “You’re My World” really showed off the lead vocalist’s amazingly powerful voice.
Herman’s Hermits suffered a little from the lack of Peter Noone’s stage presence, but got a great reception regardless. They gave us 7 of their 23 hits, prompting me to wonder how it is that I can remember all the words to No Milk Today, having not heard it for longer than I care to think about, but not be able to remember why I’ve just gone into the kitchen….
After a short interval, New Amen Corner took the stage. Although none of the people on stage were in the original band, it has the blessing of founder member Alan Jones, through his friendship with Frogman Curtis, who provides the most wonderful sax and percussion. I wish I had his lung capacity!
They performed a couple of Amen Corner hits – Bend Me, Shape Me and If Paradise (Is Half As Nice) – as well as several impressive covers. Jules Benjamin on keyboards made a cracking job of Like A Rolling Stone, while vocalist Glen Leon was outstanding in A Whiter Shade of Pale.
The band stayed on to back the headline act, Chris Farlowe. I must admit I was really shocked when he came on stage. Time has not been kind to him, and he is clearly not in good health. But his voice is, if anything, even better than it was in the 60s, despite his apparently having had flu all week.
He clearly still loves his music, and loves performing. He still has a perfect blues voice, with a massive range, whether accompanied or not, and he deserved his standing ovation.
I’ve really enjoyed the three 60s shows I’ve reviewed recently. There is absolutely nothing like live music, throbbing in your chest, to get you moving, clapping your hands and singing along at the top of your voice. And it’s great exercise!
Don’t hold back if you get the chance to go to see live music. Don’t think, “Oh, well, I don’t know if I really fancy it…It’s been a long day…”
Get up, go, have a ball – and support all the musicians out there, flogging their way round the circuit, relying on us to turn up and give them someone to play to.