Music Review: The Mersey Beatles: The Beatles ’68 – A Year Of Revolution, Epstein Theatre, Liverpool

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Image Source: Epstein Theatre

Written By: Chris Daley

Format: Music Show
Genre: Music
Date: June 15 2018
Location: Epstein Theatre, Liverpool

“The Mersey Beatles return home to the Epstein Theatre, fresh from their recent sell-out tours of the USA and Sweden. The Four Lads from Liverpool will celebrate the 50th anniversary of The White Album with a special ‘Beatles ‘68 – A Year Of Revolution’ set, plus a special set of hits.”

Having been brought up on The Beatles from a young age, the idea of an evening of live Beatles music had me genuinely excited. I saw Paul McCartney live at Anfield a number of years ago, and thought that was the closest I’d ever get to seeing The Beatles perform live.

Let me state for the record, just so there’s no confusion, I’m not a huge White Album fan. It was, to my mind, the most experimental album The Beatles made, and marked the beginning of the end of The Beatles as a band. Don’t get me wrong, there are some amazing songs on there. However, to keep high quality throughout any double album is difficult. And with thirty songs and a band arguing on the verge of breaking up, The White Album for me is distinctly “Hit and Miss”. At one point in the show, John (Mark Bloor) asked the audience “Whose favourite Beatles album is the White Album?” Immediately, Paul (Steven Howard) raised his hand and shouted out “Mine”. Sadly, he was the only one, and The Mersey Beatles were greeted with distinct apathy from the crowd which, to be honest, set the tone for the evening, but unfortunately it wasn’t my only issue with the night’s performance.

Here’s the problem. When seeing a tribute band, why are you there? To see as authentic a performance of your beloved band as possible. For me, that authenticity was shattered early on and was difficult to claw back throughout.

Initially, I was very positive. Costume-wise, they were very much dressed as The Beatles would have been in the late sixties. Glossing over the fact that Bloor as Lennon and Brian Ambrose as Ringo look nothing like their counterparts in real life, the hair and make-up of all four added well to create the illusion of seeing The Beatles live. However, once their “fifth Beatle” in the form of Tony Cook also entered the stage and sat at a keyboard at the back, not in any period costume and not introduced as anyone in particular, the authenticity began to crumble.

I have a few fundamental issues with some of the Mersey Beatles. Ironically with Ambrose as Ringo, I thought his voice was too authentic and his drumming was not at all. Ambrose takes the lead vocals on Don’t Pass Me By and gets Ringo’s lack of ability to sing in tune spot on. This being replicated perfectly in front of me had me laughing from the start. Yet I’m not sure this song was intended as a comedy number, and did more to reinforce the strange atmosphere of the show. Ambrose’s drumming, however. is fantastic, and just before the interval he gave a very impressive drum solo to finish off the rendition of Hey Jude. Again breaking that authenticity.

This was compounded by Bloor’s constant inability to get his guitar strap right throughout the entire show. Unless John Lennon repeatedly fiddled with his peddles and was never happy with how his guitar sat during a live performance, this was very much a distraction for me during the show, although paradoxically Bloor’s voice is probably the closest of any of the Mersey Beatles to their counterparts.

Craig McGown is clearly a talented guitar player and captures George’s lethargy on stage very well. In terms of his voice, there were quite a few missed and bum notes though. However, Steven Howard was the one constant positive for me. He was engaging with the crowd, leading the show well, and proved that he is a great live performer. I just wish he sounded more like Paul McCartney when he sang.

The best parts for me were when The Mersey Beatles relaxed for some of the better known hits. From all the videos I’ve seen, they very much captured the cheeky and playful banter both between themselves and with the crowd. That seemed authentic and real, and they were funny and engaging.

Overall, then, I have to say I was disappointed. It’s hard not to enjoy Beatles songs done well. Dear Prudence was a particular highlight for me, and along with Hey Jude, were the best bits of the show. But by and large, it fell flat. The White Album is an acquired taste at the best of times. Die-hard Beatles fans will still enjoy the show. But, to be honest, I was expecting more.

Overall Rating: 6.5/10 – Okay