It all started with a conversation on a train from Liverpool to London. Berlin-born singer-songwriter Roxanne de Bastion and Graham Holland of Liverpool Acoustic decided that it would be a good idea to celebrate 50 years of The Beatles' "Revolver" by staging a concert at which Liverpool musicians would play the album from start to finish. The concert, in 2016 , was such a success that in 2017 they staged "50 Years of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band", which was equally successful.
Of course, 2018 marks the 50th anniversary of the monumental double album "The Beatles" , which is , of course , always referred to as "The White Album".
Graham and Roxanne made the brave decision to stage a concert at which the whole of "The White Album" would be played , again with musicians from Liverpool's extremely healthy and fertile music scene.
I say "bravely" because a performance of "The White Album" is an epic undertaking . This album has 30 tracks , in contrast to Revolver's 14 and Peppers' 13 tracks. What is more, "The White Album" is probably The Beatles' most diverse album , with heavy rock, acoustic ballads , light pop and weird experimentalism.
A performance of the album in its correct sequence would need changes of instrumentation after every song , so it was important to have a compere who could entertain the audience during the changeovers. This role was admirably fulfilled by singer Thom Morecroft who did a superb continuity job.
And what about the music, you ask?
I have to say that Roxanne and Graham assembled a fantastic array of talent to perform this complex sequence of songs.
The "house band" were the excellent The Ragamuffins who performed the rockier numbers with great skill and verve. These included the opener "Back In The USSR", "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da", "Birthday", "Everybody's Got Something To Hide" , "Revolution 1" and "Savoy Truffle". They also provided sterling backing for Astles [ a wonderful version of "Dear Prudence"] , Thom Morecroft [ a delightful "Martha My Dear"] and Eleanor Nelly [ a gutsy version of "Helter Skelter"]. Eleanor also gave us a beautiful rendition of "Blackbird" , accompanied by Thomas Fripp's gorgeous guitar.
Liverpool has some great duos at present and two of my favourites were here tonight. Firstly, the amazing ME and Deboe gave us wonderful interpretations of "The Continuing Story Of Bungalow Bill" and "Yer Blues" ,whilst Limerance applied their incredible harmonies to "Mother Nature's Son" and "Long,Long,Long".
There were several incredible performances by solo artists , notably Ahmed Khwaja [ a Richie Havens-ish version of "While My Guitar Gently Weeps"], Charlie McKeon [ a brilliant "Rocky Raccoon" which brought the house down] , a stunning "Julia" by the amazing Rachael Jean Harris , not forgetting Liz Owen's extraordinary vocal gymnastics on "Why Don't We Do It In The Road".
Barry Jones [ of The Southbound Attic Band] paid tribute to Ringo with a jaunty version of the drummer's first composition on a Beatles album , "Don't Pass Me By".
We were delighted to hear the co-organiser of this wonderful charity event , Roxanne de Bastion, perform four great "White Album" songs - "Happiness Is A Warm Gun"[with The Ragamuffins] , "I'm So Tired" and "I Will" [both with Thom Morecroft"] and "Sexy Sadie".
Did I mention the experimental aspect of "The White Album"? Yes, and this was catered for by Johnny Sands who gave us a de-constructed "Glass Onion" , with eerie , electronically treated vocals and also by Buddy Keenan [of The Floormen"] who created a fantastic [ in the truest sense of the word] , head-spinning , psychedelic sound collage version of "Revolution 9", that John Lennon would, I am sure, have admired.
As on the "White Album", this wild experiment was followed by "Good Night" ,for which all of the night's performers were on stage for a communal sing-song , together with the audience who had been provided with lyric sheets.
Although it is not featured on "The White Album", the encore featured more community singing with a rousing , rowdy sing-along rendition of "Hey Jude".
Graham and Roxanne have promised that next year will be the turn of "Abbey Road".
I can't wait!
Tonight's concert was a fitting tribute to a great album by some of Liverpool's finest musicians and clearly shows that the city can still produce music of the highest calibre.
There are only so many hours in a day and only so many gigs we can get to. We'd really like to expand our national coverage of the live scene as it remains the life blood of music.
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