By Natalie Salvo
It was fifty years ago today that Sgt. Pepper taught the band to play. Not quite, but it has been that long since The Beatles did their first and only tour of Australia. The tribute band, The Beatle Boys would recreate their 1964 set as well as play another full set of classics, favourites and some obscure songs at the State Theatre. It proved to be one fun night and respectful tribute to the Fab Four.
The first act went for just 35 minutes but this was how long a headline act would typically perform for in 1964. The concert started with video containing black and white archive footage from the Australian tour when Beatlemania was in full force. From there, The Beatle Boys (John Kater as Paul, Christopher Lee Frazer as John, Rodney Auld as George and Michael Brady as Ringo) launched into the chugging pop of “I Saw Her Standing There”.
The guys even sang with the same inflections as the Liverpudlian group. “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” featured some great harmonising and this is something that would be repeated in “This Boy”. Frazer and Kater even cracked the same sorts of jokes between songs as John and Paul did and they really captured the essence and accents of The Beatles. “All My Loving” was sweet and Auld did a great job playing the guitar solo. The band also made good with some covers including the stomping blues of “Roll Over Beethoven”, the ballad, “Till There Was You” and the song the Liverpudlians typically closed their shows with, “Long Tall Sally”.
During the intermission the audience were treated to cuts from The Beatle Boys’ cd, “The Inner Light”. At the start of the second act, the “Elvis of New Zealand, Johnny Devlin” made an odd and unnecessary cameo (he appeared on stage but didn’t sing or play). The boys had changed costumes into some army-like suits to signal a departure away from the mop tops from before. The set that followed was longer but contained more of The Beatles’ bigger hits and this really won over the crowd as the audience got the chance to sing, dance and clap merrily at different points.
The rat-a-tat clapping in “Eight Days A Week” was a blast, as was the incendiary riff in “Day Tripper”. “Help!” was so pleading and vulnerable while “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds” boasted some trippy, kaleidoscope visuals but it lost a little sparkle through the vox amps. The boys used backing tapes for this one as well as the piano and brass parts in “Penny Lane”, as they stuck to the line-up of just four musicians using The Beatles’ traditional instruments (guitar, bass and drums).
The greatest love song of all time, the George Harrison-penned, “Something” was nothing short of magnificient. Auld’s solo rendition of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” also fared well. The same could not be said for the sloppy version of “Revolution”, which lacked the fuzzy guitars and punch of the original. But from there, the boys hit their stride and tightened their playing during favourites like “A Hard Day’s Night”, “Back In The U.S.S.R” and the encore, “Hey Jude”.
The Beatle Boys’ set at State Theatre was a strong one that covered at lot of ground from the Fab Four’s career. While comprehensive, it was by no means exhaustive with the most glaring omissions being “All You Need Is Love”, “Ticket To Ride”, “Magical Mystery Tour” and “Lady Madonna”, among others. The Beatle Boys had just two costume changes and only some videos and photos to accompany them and for the most part, let the songs shine and speak for themselves. This was a smart and humble move by a great covers band who showed us how much The Beatles music continues to live on in our hearts and minds. Yeah yeah yeah.
The Beatle Boys’ Sydney set list (all songs originally written and performed by The Beatles unless otherwise noted):
1. I Saw Her Standing There
2. I Wanna Hold Your Hand
3. You Can’t Do That
4. All My Loving
5. She Loves You
6. Till There Was You (original written by Meredith Willson)
7. Roll Over Beethoven (original written by Chuck Berry)
8. Can’t Buy Me Love
9. This Boy
10. Twist & Shout (original written by Phil Medley & Bert Russell)
11. Long Tall Sally (original performed by Little Richard)
12. Money (That’s What I Want) (original performed by Barrett Strong)
13. Love Me Do
14. From Me To You
15. Please Please Me
16. Eight Days A Week
17. I Should Have Known Better
18. Nowhere Man
19. The Word
20. I Feel Fine
21. Day Tripper
23. Penny Lane
24. Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds
25. Hello, Goodbye
26. Yellow Submarine
28. Get Back
29. Come Together
31. While My Guitar Gently Weeps
32. Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da
33. A Hard Day’s Night
34. Back In The U.S.S.R
35. Hey Jude