Monday, 28 January 2019

REVIEW: The Classic Rock Show - The Lowry Theatre, Salford

“The Classic Rock Show” is described as bringing the original recordings back to life on stage, with a huge sound and light show. When you add to this that they are attempting to do this with the songs from bands such as AC/DC, Led Zeppelin, Dire Straits, The Eagles and many more then this is a very bold show.

On arriving at the larger Lyric Theatre at The Lowry in Salford, the thing that immediately stood out was that this was very clearly a big budget show. The stage was laid out as you would expect for a big rock band show – lead guitars, bass guitars, drums, keyboard and many microphones. No expense had been spared on the equipment with world class amplifiers and sound equipment all on show, as well as huge spotlights. There was also a huge screen at the back of the stage showing images of the music they were about to play.

The lights went down and the band took to the stage, albeit with something of a lacklustre entrance. No big build up soundtrack with a crescendo on arrival – the band walked on with guitars in hand and immediately start playing. Having said that, they were playing “Whole Lotta Love” by Led Zeppelin and playing it note perfect – it was very clear immediately that we were seeing some excellent musicians and singers here.

The first half of the show continued as we heard songs from Steely Dan, Deep Purple, Supertramp and Patti Smith. The big screen was generally showing images of the album cover from which the song was taken but occasionally this showed a clip or some video footage instead – it would've been great to see more of the video footage for each song but that would be a harsh criticism.

The highlight of the first half for me was a rendition of “All Along The Watchtower” by Jimi Hendrix – probably the greatest rock guitarist of all time. It is here that we got see the talents of lead guitarist Howie G and these talents are enormous. His guitar playing is right up there with anything I have seen on stage before and his vocal as Jimi Hendrix was superb – his voice is suited to only some of the songs being played tonight but the thing this show does so well is use the right people on the right tracks.

The first half of the show ended with a Bruce Springsteen song “Jungleland” which included a superb saxophone solo from Alex Dee. The audience provided some warm applause with a few shouts of approval but I left for the interval thinking that I wasn’t sure if this was a theatre show or a rock gig – the talent of the musicians and singers as well as the stage set up told me this was an out and out rock gig but there was something missing, the atmosphere wasn’t quite right and had I written my review at that point it would have been one of slight disappointment.

The second half of the show kicked off in style – Dire Straits classic “Money For Nothing” and not only was this played again to perfection, the big screen showed the music video from back in 1985 which involved animation mixed with band footage and was ground-breaking at the time. The other point I noticed here was the fact that the video was almost perfectly lip-synced with the band on stage – this was impressive.

“The Classic Rock Show” then dialled things up with “Hotel California” from The Eagles with Howie G playing a double neck Gibson guitar, seemingly identical to the one played by Don Felder in the original. By this point the audience were on their feet and this continued as we heard songs from David Bowie, AC/DC, Van Halen, Gary Moore and the iconic Meat Loaf song “Bat Out Of Hell” performed as the full 7 minute version by Jimmy West and newest member of the show Chris Ousey.

Lynyrd Skynyrd's track “Free Bird” was the final song before the encore and involved a shirtless bassist Wayne Banks as all of the guitarists became even more animated to keep the crowd on their feet and dancing.

The band returned for the encore to a huge ovation as the audience appreciated what they had seen, particularly in the second half. Joe Cocker’s “With A Little Help From My Friends” was next and the band finished with “Won’t Get Fooled Again” by The Who and were cheered and applauded by the whole theatre as they joined hands for a final bow at the end.

If you are a fan of classic rock music – which essentially is rock music from the 70s and 80s then this is most definitely the show for you. It is worth the price of a ticket purely to see how talented Howie G is but the second half of the show is something special. I am certainly glad I didn’t have to write my review in the interval as my perception was completely changed by the end – this is a rock gig without any doubt.

Reviewer – John Fish
on – 27/1/19

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