To say my brother Ewan is a Beatles fan is like saying the Pope is a tad bit religious. 'Rubber Soul' was his favourite album when we were kids and when we went on long car journeys he used to play it on a loop. So, when he heard he was coming with me to help review The Cavern Beatles at Perth Concert Hall he was pretty damn excited. In fact I’d say he was on the brink of Cavern Beatlemania! Notepads in hand we took our seats looking forward to a real gear evening of top Mersey Beats.
The show was sequenced so that it ran chronologically through the 'Fab Fours' stellar back catalogue in two distinct sections. With the live performance years followed by the studio years during which the Beatles ceased to perform concerts and devoted their resources to their increasingly experimental albums. There were also a total of four different costumes to reflect the rapidly changing fashions (and facial hair!) of the 60’s. The mid-show quick changes were carefully managed so that a solo performance of 'Yesterday' by McCartney and another of 'Hide Your Love Away' by John allowed the band to get changed without a break in the music. This smooth transition was a lovely touch that added a real sense of theatre to the proceedings.
During the two hour plus show the musicianship The Cavern Beatles demonstrated was very impressive. The Beatles famously clocked up thousands of hours playing together in the Reaperbahn nightclubs of the Hamburg, so they really are a tough act to live up to. The boys, however, do a tremendous job.
Particular highlights in the first half included Paul’s Little Richard-esque “Woo’s” on 'She Loves You' and 'Twist and Shout' and John alternating between harmonica and vocals on 'Please Please Me' The best moments came during the song 'In My Life' I even closed my eyes for a while to get a sense of how close their sound was (thanks to Ewan and his love of Rubber Soul I must have heard the original literally hundreds of times) and I have to say they got as close as is humanly possible. Even more impressive was the harpsichord playing, particularly the Bach inspired solo which elicits a celebratory fist-pump from John when he realised he’d nailed it. Not bad considering that on the original recording it was played at half speed on the piano by classically trained producer and fifth Beatle George Martin!
The second half of the show resumes with the fab four in full Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band regalia and starts with the song of the same name. There's a real sense of progression with the song selection and you got a feeling of the evolution in The Beatles songwriting and their sound. 'Strawberry Fields' for example, has both Paul and John playing a host of different keyboard sounds and also triggering samples to get a sound that is pretty close to the recording. I also liked the attention to detail with the instruments that the different Beatles used. I’m a bit of a guitar and bass geek, and as far as I could tell they had the correct instrument for the correct stage of The Beatles career, right down to the Fender Bass VI that John and George played when McCartney was on keyboard duties. It’s sad but that’s the sort of thing that I get a real kick out of!
It was also nice that we got a decent amount of Harrison compositions with both 'Something' and 'While My Guitar Gently Weeps' making a showing. They even let Ringo sing a couple and Ewan says that 'Yellow Submarines', replete with awesome submarine sound effects, was one of his favourite songs of the evening.
When the first song of the encore was John Lennon’s post Beatles song 'Imagine', I got a little bit worried, fearing they may play 'Mull of Kintyre' or 'The Frog Chorus' next and I began scoping out my escape route. However, I needn’t have worried as we were soon back on safe ground with a great sing-along version of 'Hey Jude' Altogether now “Nah nah nah nah nah nah, nah nah nah, hey Jude”
The Cavern Beatle’s are:
John - Paul Tudhope
Paul - Chris O'Neill
George - Rick Alan
Ringo - Simon Ramsden
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