This will be an unusual gig review post. Of sorts.

The music
As a kid, I had heard of Liverpool’s Fab Four prolly from the radio and telly (for some reason, I vaguely remembered a cartoon TV series on RTM back in the day).

We never had a record player then, and even with the 8-tracks and music cassettes we had during my childhood, the family’s collection was mainly relatively older stuff like dad’s Elvis Presley or mom’s Neil Sedaka. As an older lad in the 80s, an archetypal Beatles song to my ears would be one from their earlier releases (eg I Wanna Hold Your Hand), and it baffled me when I read guitar magazines that rock musicians would quote The Beatles as their influence when it comes to song writing. It wasn’t until at med school when a good friend of mine introduced me to their later post-1964 releases. Then again, it never made me a great fan of the band – I like their stuff but not overly hardcore ga-ga over it.

The city
This year saw three Beatles-related experiences for me, for some reason or other, and this included a trip to their hometown of Liverpool.

I had been to Liverpool a few times. The first time was way back in 1990 for a med school interview with subsequent (infrequent) visits 15-odd years later playing tourist (or watching a gig organised by some Malaysian students). My trips seem to gravitate towards Albert Dock (safe bet for parking), which included a Beatles museum. This was my first ever visit to the museum but unfortunately, it had to shut early for some reason or other which meant we only had one hour to see/hear everything.

The film
Another Beatles-associated experience this year was also somewhat incidental – I finally saw Yesterday (albeit a few months late) on telly, directed interestingly enough by Danny Boyle, about a failing singer-songwriter who discovered one morning that the world hadn’t heard of The Beatles, after which he started cashing in by pretending that Beatles songs were his, short of Eleanor Rigby for the most part of the story.

Despite seeing Ed Sheeran’s annoying self, it was a pretty good yarn.

To top it all was the third experience, when I later found out that The Bootleg Beatles were coming to play Sheffield City Hall, with an emphasis on material from Abbey Road as this year marks the record’s 50th anniversary. Which leads me now to…

The live performance
The same friend from med school had seen The Bootleg Beatles back then, and I just learnt that this much-acclaimed Beatles cover band that I’ll be watching will comprise new members who had taken over the original band members. I did think they will be made up, but to look young when you are middle-aged may be pushing it! I saw some old photos online and saw that “Paul” at one time was not a southpaw – ouch! I hope for this show I’m attending, the new “Paul” will be a leftie for accuracy’s sake. In case you are wondering, this is a real band – there’s no miming or anything of that sort.

The ticket had a half seven start marked on it and for some reason, I took it as “doors open”. The result being clever old me then had to enter the hall late to take my seat at the end of their first set when they were just finishing Yesterday. After a few minutes, the second set began – with the band dressed up in their Shea Stadium get up and played The Beatles’ material from that era. My first impression was that they are really good. Of course, they couldn’t sound exactly like the real thing but it was a very good facsimile. “Paul”‘s vocals were of a higher register but it didn’t take away my enjoyment of the performance a little bit. I have to say the other three were rather almost spot on, voice-wise during solo renditions and vocal harmonies, as well as their mannerisms physically and when they speak. The only thing was that “Paul” looked heavily made up that, while I can see the attempt, he looked like a cross of McCartney and Stallone. Sorry! The guitars and drums also sounded genuine, almost era-specific – it didn’t sound like it was mixed to make the band sound current.

The next segment of the show was a The Magical Mystery Tour set. I was slightly disappointed because I would’ve loved their Sgt Peppers set as I was keener on that record more. Nevertheless, their rendition of Penny Lane was brilliant, complete with a string and brass section. Even their cellist had a fireman’s helmet on, and clanged a fire extinguisher for good effect. Also, if you think about it, The Beatles stopped touring after 1965, which meant songs like the ones in this set and the next, had never been played by The Beatles live in front of a paying audience.

The last segment of the main show was the commemorative Abbey Road set which saw the band dressed up just like The Beatles on said record cover (“John” was beardless though, but that was fine). They kicked off the set with a superb rendition of Come Together. They covered pretty much 80-odd percent of the record, although I wished they included Octopus’ Garden, as “Ringo” had only sung once (Act Naturally) in the Shea Stadium set that night. As an encore, it was really good to see fantastic covers of Hey Jude and Revolution. At the end of the show, they announced that they will be back for another tour of UK halls in late 2020. After snagging a T-shirt at the City Hall foyer, suffice to say that The Beatles’ music was heard more frequently in my car.

Sheffield City Hall set 11.12.2019: SET 1 It Won’t Be Long / All My Loving / Roll Over Beethoven / She Loves You / I Want to Hold Your Hand / Yesterday // SET 2 Twist and Shout / Can’t Buy Me Love / Help! / I Need You / Act Naturally / You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away / We Can Work It Out / I Feel Fine / Ticket to Ride / I’m Down // SET 3 Magical Mystery Tour / I Am the Walrus / Penny Lane / Strawberry Fields Forever / Eleanor Rigby / Hello, Goodbye / All You Need Is Love / Across the Universe // SET 4 Come Together / Something / Oh! Darling / Here Comes the Sun / You Never Give Me Your Money / Mean Mr. Mustard / Polythene Pam / She Came in Through the Bathroom Window / Golden Slumbers / Carry That Weight / The End /// Hey Jude / Revolution