Gig going foodie who reads too much, watches too much film, likes gardening, cooking/baking, and sewing. Likes to go to the theatre and anything arty. Likes travel, likes planning travel....likes solar eclipses.

Monday, 26 August 2013

The Beatles in Urmston - 50th Anniversary Weekend - 10 & 11 August 2013

Do You Like Good Music?
Fifty years ago in a leafy park south of Manchester something quite remarkable happened; 12,000 people turned up to watch a band perform in the rain.  That band was The Beatles, already on their curve to the stratosphere and recently I was lucky enough to be present at the two-day festival to mark this anniversary.  Organised by local resident Peter Killick with an army of volunteers behind him and despite opposition from the Council, the weekend saw a recreation of the event over two days in the self-same park with not only bands from the era,  but up and coming local bands with the crowning glory on the Saturday evening of The Bootleg Beatles. 
Saturday itself started with both the students of Flixton Academy of Performing Arts and Flixton Brass Band keeping the masses entertained before the first band took to the stage.  Hailing originally from Stretford, The Vincents were well known in the area before they disbanded in 1967 and having only reformed in 2012 they proved that they still know how to rock’n’roll.  Playing a set packed with music from the era including Eddie Cochran’s Something Else and The Kingsmen’s Louie Louie compare Mike Sweeney was more than accurate when he described their performance as amazing.  It was like they’d never been away.
Second band on the Saturday bill were The Scorpions, known in the 1960s as The Chancellors, and during an accomplished and noteworthy set they showed why they are still touring extensively across Europe with a more blues style rock’n’roll.  Next on the bill was a true Urmston band; Herman’s Hermits.  Formed by Peter Noone after being inspired by seeing The Beatles play in Chassen Park, not only did they outsell The Beatles in the US in 1965 but were crowned the top selling pop act in America that year and ended 1965 with two Grammy nominations for Mrs Brown You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter.  Truly one of the British pop scene’s forgotten heroes this weekend saw founder member Barry Whitwam playing his first ever homecoming gig with every track in the set a hit.  There are not many bands that can do that and have the audience singing along with every one.  This band can and the longevity of these acts was compounded by the appearance immediately afterwards of The Tremeloes who played at the original gig in 1963 and  whose set naturally including their massive hit Silence is Golden and the song they also charted with at the same time as The Beatles, Twist and Shout and which provided a spine tingling moment for the crowd for whom the sixties party was already in full swing.  Again just how many hits have these bands had?  Final support was provided by up and coming local band The Rainband fresh from a support slot at Glastonbury to provide a modern take on all things sixties and show the influences that rock and roll still has.

Then came the headliners; The Bootleg Beatles.  What can you say?  They ARE The Beatles in all but time travel.  Kicking off with Please Please Me and taking us through a breakneck ride of hits spanning from the first albums and including songs actually played at the legendary 1963 show such as Love Me Do it was a close as you could get to the real thing.  Decked out in their Beatles suits it was easy to forget it was 2013 and not 1963.  A short interval and they re-appeared; this time in more distinctive late 60s garb to usher in The Beatles more reflective period of meditation, deeper lyrics and global superstardom.  To turn around and see an entire park full of people chanting “all you need is love” in the dimming light of the sunset is a very special image and by the time the finale started with Hey Jude the evening had left magical behind and sped into mythical.
The second day dawned anew and saw a greater influx of modern Urmston bands.  Midnight Delta with their blues heavy Stones-esque set, local boys made good The Quangos with their funky 70s meets The Fratellis vibe; certainly ones to watch out for and then Jam tribute extraordinaire, Small Weller, with a note perfect Jam set which oozed into a lazy Sunday like warm butter on croissant.  The next two bands saw a return to the 1960s ethos of the event with The Rockin’ Berries providing the chilled out crowd with some of the best artist/crowd interaction of the event as well as a huge set consisting of massive tracks such as The Move’s Flowers in the Rain and their very own Poor Man’s Son; a track that in 1965 sold over a million copies.  Ending with a medley of pure rock and roll encompassing the likes of Roy Orbison, Jerry Lee Lewis and Eddie Cochran they were a hit with old and young alike and proved that good music always has an audience.  Next up were The Merseybeats; again direct from the era and being the band that played with The Beatles most at The Cavern Club they proved that the songs of the sixties still resonate stronger than most as the crowd sung along.  Every group on the bill had, by way of a Beatles tribute, played a song by the Fab Four and The Merseybeats provided us with perhaps the biggest treat of the day when they unveiled 20 Flight Rock which was Paul McCartney’s audition song to join The Quarrymen.  This was a little piece of living musical history.
Sunday drew to a close with the final band of the event, Mike Pender's Seachers, off to a rousing start with Roy Orbison’s You Got It followed by two of their greatest hits, Needles and Pins and Don’t Throw Your Love Away.  Proving that they had indeed still got “it” their final track and the final track of an amazing weekend was Bryan Adams’ Summer of ‘69.  Not quite ’63 but the crowd didn’t mind and it seemed to sum up the entire feeling of the event and in the sunshine of a British summer  I was there.  In fifty years' time I’ll still say “I was there and it was rock’n’roll and it was good”.  

Photos copyright Brian Merrigan:



This review has also appeared at The Manchester Gazette

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