Barry Steele In The Roy Orbison Story ‘West End Special’
Format: Music Show
Genre: Rock, Pop & Country
Review Date: March 4 2020
Performance: March 4 2020
Location: Empire Theatre, Liverpool
Duration: 155 Minutes incl. Interval
Age Rating: 8+
Barry Steele In The Roy Orbison Story ‘West End Special’ has returned to Liverpool’s Empire Theatre to provide a run-through of the career of a true musical legend.
“I was asked how I’d like to be remembered, and I said I just want to be remembered.” So said Roy Orbison back in his heyday, a quote which was played over the PA as this show began, which saw Barry Steele and his musician friends come to the stage to guide us through Roy’s career, mostly chronologically. Claudette, Uptown and Love Hurts began the evening on a high, with Leah and Crying also being very recognisable hits for longtime Orbison fans. Barry noted that he was suffering from man flu, and at one point, his participation in this performance was questionable, but he was able to power through. He did introduce us to the highly-talented Boogie Williams on piano, who demonstrated awesome singing skills for Gimme Some Lovin’ and Whiter Shade Of Pale. Steele returned to the stage in a shiny black jacket for Running Scared, followed by two more of his most famous songs: In Dreams and It’s Over. Blue Bayou, I Can’t Stop Lovin’ You and Penny Arcade (Steele asked the audience to clap along to this tune, and they obliged) led us to Unchained Melody, which closed the first half.
The second half began with Only The Lonely, a vintage tune, as well as A Love So Beautiful. Barry then wondered aloud what to do next, and a member of the crowd replied “sing a song!” Barry chose to next sing what was one of his favourite Orbison hits, California Blue, followed by Blue Hotel (which came after a tremendous drum solo) and Wicked Girl, both hits by Chris Isaak, a very close friend of the Orbison family. You Got It was a hit that Roy only sang live on one occasion prior to his untimely death. Boogie Williams took the mic again to sing Something, and the show then focused upon The Travelling Wilburys with tunes like It’s All Right, Not Alone Anymore, Handle With Care and Rattled. Boogie also helped to sing Runaway and Roll Over Beethoven, which particularly stood out from anything else during the evening. Till The Heart Caves In and I Drove All Night closed the main show, with the encore being – what else? – Pretty Woman.
All of the famous Orbison hits were here, along with a few bonus tracks from performers familiar to the target audience. Throughout the show, the big screen provided factoids on Roy’s life and times, as well as other intriguing notes about specific songs or eras of Roy’s career. The lighting added to the show by offering specific colours depending on the mood of a song, and the lighting also linked up with the screen effects, which ranged from unique effects to photographs and videos of Orbison himself relating to tunes that he performed live or on record (the LPs of several songs were shown as well).
Barry Steele stepped into the big shoes of The Big O in style; as he admitted, his man flu was a contributing factor, and no doubt on another night, Barry would have been even more impressive, but he still managed to put on a great performance throughout the night. His backing band were also more than capable, with the aforementioned Boogie Williams particularly impressing me with his vocals. Although the screen did an excellent job of talking us through the story of Orbison, I felt that a little more commentary from Steele on Roy’s background would have helped, and though there was audience interaction, more frequent discussions with the crowd might have helped too. But these are minor points, and it goes without saying that the crowd were fully invested and fully appreciative of what they saw. Fittingly, as the cast took their final bow, the song Bring Me Sunshine played, and that was appropriate because the attendees left with smiles on their faces.
Barry Steele In The Roy Orbison Story ‘West End Special’ is a feel-good trek through the life and discography of Roy Orbison, and is a show well worth watching for anyone who followed the great man’s career.
Target Audience: Age 40+
Content: No Content Likely To Offend
Overall Rating: 9/10 – Outstanding
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