“Sometimes it’s a bit embarrassing,” former Searcher, Mike Pender told the Cardiff audience on Wednesday evening as the Sensational 60s Experience tour returned to St David’s Hall for the first time in two years, “ they put a photo of me up in the foyer from 50 years ago and then the audience point up to me on the stage and go “is that him?”.The audience laughed at Mike’s little joke before he continued, “It’s not what you look like! its what you sound like!”
Mike of course is spot on. To quote a Herman’s Hermits hit, Years May Come, Years May Go, but the sounds of the 1960s remain fresh, vibrant and energetic. So indeed, were the five acts that brought the hits of the 60s to life in this sensational show.
Opening was the current line-up of The Fortunes, Eddie Mooney, Michael Smitham, Bob Jackson and Glenn Taylor. The band, who up until a decade ago were still led by their founder member, the late Rod Allen, have maintained both the sound and style of the originals, remaining one of the premier vocal bands in the UK.
Launching with Here It Comes Again, the band quickly warmed the audience up with renditions of Freedom Come, Freedom Go, Storm In a Teacup and the number one hit You’ve Got Your Troubles. Keyboard player Bob Jackson (formerly of Badfinger) even had a small game of Name that Tune getting the audience to guess a 60s hit by playing only one note on the keyboard. The track was Cilla Black’s You’re My World and sang brilliantly by Eddie Mooney.
Herman’s Hermits featuring founder member Barry Whitwam on drums were up next. Joining Barry were Geoff Foot, Paul Cornwell and Tony Hancox.
Herman’s Hermits were million sellers on both sides of the Atlantic in the 1960s and had notched up many hits over a 7-year period. Vocal duties were shared between Geoff, Paul and Tony on late 60s hits Sunshine Girl, My Sentimental Friend and I Can Take or Leave Your Loving while Barry would come up to the front and share occasional anecdotes and lead the audience to join in on Hermits classics I’m Henry The Eighth I Am and Mrs Brown You’ve Got A Lovely Daughter.
The band still have the ability to generate a real feelgood atmosphere through their personalities and their music. Tony Hancox leading Can’t You Hear My Heartbeat was a real joy, as was Paul Cornwell’s guitar solo paying homage very much to original Hermits lead guitarist, the late Derek Leckenby.
The second half returned with a fabulous set from 60s revivalists New Amen Corner, Glen Leon, Jules Benjamin, Dave Howson and Jacko Howson. As well as performing smash hits by the original Amen Corner, namely Bend Me, Shape Me (If Paradise Is) Half As Nice, there were also outstanding versions of The Hollies I’m Alive and The Beatles’ Golden Slumbers (which made me love the song all over again!).
New Amen Corner remained on stage as house musicians to provide strong support for the next two acts. Former Manfred Mann vocalist, writer and producer Mike D’Abo joined the tour when Chris Farlowe became injured following a fall.
Mike’s set went down a storm as he belted out Manfred Mann classics Just Like A Woman, The Might Quinn and Ha Ha Said the Clown while also showcasing his own talents as a songwriter for other artists namely Chris Farlowe’s Handbags and Gladrags and the Foundations’ Build Me Up Buttercup.
As usual with Sensational 60s shows the audience were literally lapping up the music and the fun atmosphere by the time the final act, Mike Pender took to the stage. Mike didn’t disappoint, mixing anecdotes with humour and giving an energetic performance of Searchers classics Sweets For My Sweet, Don’t Throw Your Love Away, Sugar and Spice, Love Potion No.9 and Goodbye My Love.
Both Mike’s Pender and D’Abo teamed with the energetic playing of New Amen Corner were a magical mix and the concert drew to a climatic end as all the previous acts returned to the stage to join Mike on a rendition of Chris Farlowe’s hit Out of Time.
The Sensational 60s Experience remains the premier 60s package show on the touring circuit for three very good reasons, all the acts look good, they all sound good and they all give their audience a great time. As Hermans Hermits still sing that’s “Something Good!”
- Behind the scenes photographs by Alan Wearmouth