Review: The Bootleg Beatles, St David’s Hall, Cardiff

Andy Howells reviews The Bootleg Beatles as they bring their traditional UK Christmas Tour to St David’s Hall, Cardiff.

“We’ve got a hot ticket!” Tyson Kelly as John Lennon said as he surveyed Cardiff’s St David’s Hall audience from the stage on Wednesday evening, “We should be watching you”

A compliment indeed and worthy of the original fab four who sang to their listening audience “We’d love to take you home with us” on Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band in 1967. In 2022, their homage band, The Bootleg Beatles still maintain a special bond with fans of the Fab four creating a two and a half hour packed with hits and deep album cuts. All lovingly recreated with the occasional contemporary commentary to illustrate that The Beatles music is still as relevant today as it was when their first single, Love Me Do first hit the UK charts 60 years ago.

Kelly is joined by Steve White as Paul McCartney, Stephen Hill as George Harrison and Gordon Elsmore as Ringo Starr as they step on to the stage, following a series of on-screen visuals setting up the lead to the onslaught of Beatlemania in 1963.

Legendary disc jockey Alan Freeman’s voice announces Please, Please Me is Number one and The Bootleg Beatles commence a whistle stop tour of Beatlemania taking in the 60th anniversary of their album debut via Anna (Go to Him), I Saw Her Standing There, I Want to Be Your Man and A Taste of Honey. Theres also an original hit Lennon and McCartney gave away as George announces, “This next song is going to be a big hit for Billy J Kramer – he just doesn’t know it yet,” They then launch into Do You Want To Know A Secret?

The Bootleg Beatles.

Then, The Bootleg Beatles make a quick costume change into 1964 with piercing renditions of Twist and Shout and She Loves You accompanied by Beatlemania screams projected into the auditorium – really putting us in the moment, the screams are replicated by the audience appreciation at each songs climax.

1966 launches with a performance of Paperback Writer, before The Bootleg’s move on to tracks from The Beatles classic Revolver album. George Harrison’s Taxman gains topical twist with references to Harold Wilson and Edward Heath been replaced by Boris Johnson and Liz Truss while the bands orchestra join them on stage to add brass and a fuller sound on Got To Get You Into My life and Tomorrow Never Knows. (I just had to pinch myself seeing the latter performed live! – a wonder in itself!).

The second half sees The Bootleg Beatles return with their orchestra in full 1967 Summer of Love regalia for faithful recreations of Strawberry Fields Forever and Penny Lane (the latter complete with Matt Grocutt on Picolo trumpet and Rob Woollard on Fireman’s Bell). While Your Mother Should Know and Yellow Submarine encouraged audience participation, I Am The Walrus and Eleanor Rigby enabled us to marvel at the on-stage authentic recreations of the Beatles studio originals.

Another costume change saw The Bootleg Beatles wind up the 1960s with Revolution, Here Comes the Sun and Let It Be before an encore of Get Back and Hey Jude.

Very few homage acts can deliver a different show based around The Beatles repertoire with each tour and The Bootleg Beatles remain the topper-most of the popper-most in their field!

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