New Theatre, Wed March 19th 2008
The Bootleg Beatles took us through six phases of the Beatles and this, if nothing else, showed their star quality. What the Beatles did in about six years, the Bootleg Beatles did in two and a half hours. The evening started with some still black and white footage of contemporary events and people (did we really wear those clothes?!) and then on they came, dressed in sombre black with some early songs (I wanna hold your hand, All my loving, Do you want to know a secret). The next scene was a mock concert in the States, backdrop of black and white photos of girls screaming and songs like I feel fine, Can’t buy me love, Help, Day Tripper. Then we moved to Sergeant Pepper with outfits and moustaches to match, and classics like Strawberry Fields and Penny Lane. After the interval we moved on to flower power, swinging London and songs like Your Mother Should Know, Yellow Submarine and All You Need is Love. Then on to the later songs, Across the Universe, Lady Madonna, While my Guitar gently weeps and Hey Jude. For an encore Imagine, Here comes the Sun and Get Back.
The clothes were right, the movements were right (Ringo shaking his mop of hair and grinning inanely, Paul smirking like a schoolboy, with that distinctive head-nodding movement of his), the voices were good, John being characteristically nasal. I thought Hugo Degenhardt was the least convincing as Ringo, but probably because he is a better singer! The four-piece orchestra were superb and the instruments included a fire extinguisher. We were encouraged right through to scream, dance, clap hands: hey, guys, it’s 40 years since I screamed like that and the dress circle of the New Theatre is not the best place to get up and dance!
The website says that the Bootleg Beatles were the first tribute band and that they started in 1980. I never had the privilege of seeing the Beatles live, sadly, so the Bootleg Beatles are the closest I will now get to hearing these classics live. If you want to catch them in April you will need to go to Holland, then it’s South America before they come back to Oxford in August. Go see!