Sunday, 27 January 2019

REVIEW: The Classic Rock Show - Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool.

It was a cold, wet wintery night and rain was hitting the window panes like pellets from an air rifle; definitely a night for staying warm and cosy at home with a glass of wine and a good film in front of the TV. But I’m so glad I didn’t choose that option as with the rest of those who’d braved the unforgiving weather conditions we made our way into Liverpool Philharmonic Hall to watch the show.

As I settled into my seat I was reminded of school Prize Giving ceremonies I had attended in the same venue whilst attending Liverpool Girls College not so far away. Little did I realise back then that I would be sitting watching a rock concert perform on the very stage I received a prize from my very stern headmistress who definitely would not have approved of tonight’s performance.

Looking around the foyer it revealed that classic rock music has an audience of most fans over the age of forty, but there were exceptions with couples I spotted in their twenties and thirties.

I could feel the eager anticipation from the audience as the show was about to start. A large screen at the back of the stage came alive showing clips from artistes such as The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, David Bowie, Eric Clapton, AC/DC and Queen and as the performers arrived on stage I categorised them as three guitarists, two lead singers, three backing singers and a drummer but as the show progressed I was delighted to see how multi-talented they all were as the three backing singers took the lead on many of the vocals and played a host of different instruments during the show.

Celebrating some of the world’s greatest guitarists, they played tribute to many of the all-time guitar legends celebrating their renowned performances as videos of the artistes were synchronised with their singing and playing on the screen. But this was more than the tribute show I had expected as they performed with note-for-note precision, bringing the original iconic and age-defining recordings back to life on stage, with a screen and light show to compliment it. The performers were brilliant singers and instrumentalists and as I watched the synchronised videos playing it was difficult not to believe that the original artistes weren't singing and playing.

The opening Led Zeppelin song, 'Whole Lotta Love' set the scene for a night of nostalgic classic rock and the audience lapped it up as Jess Harwood, (whom I had thought of as one of the backing singers and also a member of the tribute act Rumours Of Fleetwood Mac) followed with 'Stop Dragging My Heart Around' whilst Stevie Nicks and Tom Petty were depicted singing it live on the screen.

Next came 'Reelin' in the Years' by Steely Dan from their Can’t Buy A Thrill album which got everyone clapping with enjoyment. Howie Gee, one of the lead guitarists then played 'Highway Stars' from Deep Purple’s Machine Head album. Playing his Fender Strat guitar it was hard to differentiate between the original by Ritchie Blackmore.

Lead singer, Chris Ousey who was introduced as a newer member of the band sang the Supertramp 'Logical Song' which included a beautiful saxophone solo. Part of an interview with Eric Clapton was portrayed on the screen as 'Sunshine Of Your Love' exploded on stage with Wayne Banks playing a bass guitar without fret as Jack Bruce had done on the original recording.

Next came 'Jungleland' from the Bruce Springsteen album Born To Run, which featured a slow saxophone section which was greatly appreciated by the audience as was the following Jimi Hendrix legendary 'All Along The Watchtower' track which was pre-empted by a snippet of an interview with Jimi on screen by The Vault. Tumultuous applause followed the performance.

The audience was by now warmed-up and eager anticipation had turned to admiration as Jess Harwood took front stage again to deliver the Patti Smith number 'Because The Night' from the album of the same name.

No-one in the audience could fail to recognise the voice of Ringo Starr as he belted out in a strong scouse accent “I’ve got blisters on me fingers” which accompanied a cartoon of The Beatles' White Album on screen as the thumping beat of 'Helter Skelter' started with Chris Ousey taking the lead.

We all enjoyed watching David Bowie on screen getting ready for a performance of Ziggy Stardust whilst all members of the CRS band reproduced a track from his Ziggy Stardust 1972 album. The final track before the break was Mark Knopfler’s 'Money For Nothing' synchronised with him performing on screen. We all waited with baited breath for the second half.

And it certainly didn’t disappoint. Chris Ousey opened with The Eagles' 'Hotel California' with Howie Gee accompanying him on a double neck replica guitar as used by Don Felder in the original recording. It was a brilliant rendition and as white strobe lighting appeared on stage Jess Harwood once again took lead vocals with 'Alone' by Heart. She was rewarded with rapturous applause and the lead guitarist received a standing ovation. Jess then went on to sing 'Landslide' accompanied by the lyrics of the song on the screen. It was a beautifully haunting melody sang as a tribute to Fleetwood Mac.

'Bat Out Of Hell' by Meatloaf followed with lead singer Johnny West mimicking a motorbike rider and looking incredibly like Meatloaf (only slimmer). The rendition brought a standing ovation from the audience who by this time were ready for a boogie. Everyone stayed on their feet, clapping and swaying to 'Let’s Dance' as a video of Bowie was shown of him performing the track with local Aborigines in Oz.

The AC/DC track 'Highway To Hell' brought the house down with everyone clapping and elated cheering at the end. This was the precursor to 'Jump' by Van Halen with everyone dancing along to the well-loved track. Bass Guitarist Wayne Banks declared that “Liverpool was the best show of the tour” which was greeted with cheers as 'Lynyrd Skynyrd' chords echoed throughout the auditorium whilst the audience stood throughout the long guitar section before rewarding the band with more ecstatic clapping and another standing ovation. The band left the stage to the sounds of “More,” enthusiastic clapping, whistles and cheering.

A disappointed audience thought this was the end but they wanted more and as the lights were dimmed once more they were rewarded with Joe Cocker’s 'With A Little Help From My Friends' with everyone clapping along in tune followed by The Who’s 'Won’t Get Fooled Again.' If the house hadn’t been brought down before, it was now. Wayne Banks threw off his t-shirt and everyone was on their feet joining in and bopping to the music of yesteryear.

It was a brilliant night and with the promise of a 'meet and greet' by the band in the foyer, the audience drifted out into the rain once again, happy and elated. If you weren’t a classic rock fan at the start of the show, you certainly couldn’t fail to be by the time you left.

Reviewer - Anne Pritchard
on - 26/1/19

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