Technically speaking it was a tricked up cover band knocking out a few old Beatles numbers for a bunch of grey haireds on a nostalgia kick. But for those of us actually living the nostagia kick in Hamer Hall this evening, we were living the dream.
It was the Beatles’ White Album, played live in Melbourne’s home of classical music Hamer Hall, with a group of some seventeen musicians, including brass and strings, two drum kits (with two drummers), harmony vocalists and of course the essential mix of guitars, bass pianos and keyboards, and led by Aussie rock star/singer/guitarists: Chris Cheney (The Living End), Tim Rogers (You Am I),Phil Jamieson (Grinspoon) and Josh Pyke.
It’s a funny old album The White Album. If you’re familiar with it you’ll know that there’s some absolute freckle kicking rock numbers randomly interspersed amongst jaunty English music hall tunes, pretty ballads, gut wrenching blues and experimental gibberish. George Martin was reputed to have said “Are you really sure you want to put all of these songs on the Album lads? I’m sure if we selected the half of them that were the best, it would make a very fine album indeed”. (or words to that effect). He was told to sod off, and the White Album was released in all it’s patchwork quilted glory.
And its the whole patchwork quilt that you get in this concert, in track order. Although mercifully without the interminable Revolution #9. We kick of with the little ditty, Can you take me back, before Chris Cheney kicks out on Back in the USSR, and this sets the scene for a superb concert – with perhaps some small but eminently forgivable flaws.
I won’t review the entire set because Lukey has done a thoroughly good job of it already, but I will say that some of the highlights included Josh Pyke’s Blackbird and Mother Nature’s Son and Jamesons’s Yer Blues. Tim Rodgers was the complete rock god twisting and strutting on stage in his green velvet suit with a superb rendition of Everybody’s Got Something To Hide Except For Me And My Monkey, and powerfully delivering the chugging slow version of Revolution. But the stand out was Chris Cheney, whose soaring While My Guitar Gently Weeps (and it was his guitar doing the work), romping Birthday, and especially Helter Skelter. I can think of no better words to use in describing Cheney’s delivery of Helter Skelter, than a force of nature. Strapped to his big old Gretch hollow-body like he was a ships captain strapped to the bridge. He leaned into the gale and belted forth that huge driving number like I’ve never heard live before. If the Beatles weren’t already more popular for me than Christ, it’d be a come to Jesus moment.
Normally at the end of a show in the Arts centre, even for the biggest international acts, the audience will clap appreciatively, but will remain seated lest it disturb the decorum and appear too, well, American. But at the end of this gig, the plush enveloping seats could no longer hold their occupants back from a compelling need to make like an Oprah Winfrey studio audience. We were, however briefly, set free. (But we’re better again now you’ll be pleased to know).
The White Album Concert was a great gig. You should catch it if it’s coming your way, and I think it might be. If you know the White Album, and you want to hear those song played live – many of which will never be tackled by even the most eclectic of Beatles tribute acts, then all I can say is that you’d better not miss this opportunity.
Postscript: As we piled out at the end I discussed the show with the woman who had been seated next to me. She too was blown away, this smallish grey haired woman in her sixties. She’d been clapping and jigging like the rest. She said she’d been a young girl in Liverpool, and she was Beatles fan back then. I asked her if she’d been to The Cavern, and she said that she saw them there once, and you could hear them, but there was a lot of screaming. How’s that for a nice memory to have in your scrapbook?