Review: The Bootleg Beatles at New Theatre Oxford (25/02/17)

The long-running tribute to the most successful band in music history came to Oxford

Just how do you manage to spin a new take on the most famous band in music history?

Well the answer is, you don’t need to.

The Bootleg Beatles brought their latest UK tour to Oxford’s New Theatre on Saturday — and their tried-and-tested method of recreating the Beatles’ incredible vocals and breathtaking harmonies complete with stunning costumes still leaves audiences wowed almost 40 years since they started doing it.

The group are on their second John Lennon, their third Paul McCartney, their second George Harrison and their fourth Ringo Starr since their first gig back in 1980.

But in Adam Hastings (John), Steve White (Paul), Stephen Hill (George) and Gordon Elsmore (Ringo), they have hit the jackpot.

The four musicians are, fittingly, fabulous as the Fab Four — recreating some of the most successful and well-known tunes the world has ever seen with fantastic authenticity.

Bursting onto the stage in the way most of us picture the Beatles — as four moptops dressed in sharp, black suits and black boots — the “one, two, three, four” count of I Saw Her Standing There gets the show underway with a blast of energy.

She Loves You, I Want to Hold Your Hand, Can’t Buy Me Love and a host of other hits follow in the opening section.

‘Close your eyes and you’ll think it’s them’ is a phrase often wheeled out to describe tribute bands, and very often it’s a description as inaccurate as the depiction of the artist who the performers on stage are claiming to be portraying, but it’s testament to the Bootleg Beatles that in this case, that phrase fits the bill.

Close your eyes and you will, genuinely, think you’ve travelled back in time over 50 years to when the real thing toured these theatres. There’s less screaming, though.

As ‘John’ reels off a note-perfect and rasping rendition of Twist and Shout, however, the entire audience gets a little carried away and this could well be a scene from 1964, were it not for the smartphones capturing the moment.

Moving through the years with four different costumes and ‘sets’, we get to hear songs the Beatles never performed live themselves.

‘Paul’ takes us down Penny Lane, ‘John’ tell us all about the Strawberry Fields and ‘Ringo’ knows that he does it all With a Little Help from My Friends as the group bring Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and Magical Mystery Tour to life.

In the final section, ‘George’s’ performance of While My Guitar Gently Weeps is spectacular, and contains an extended solo that Eric Clapton, who played on the original 1968 recording, would be proud of.

The only downside? The sheer number of hits the Beatles had means that not everybody’s favourite songs make the cut — but to pack so much history into just one evening is a remarkable feat in and of itself.

If there’s a better live tribute to the Beatles out there — I’m yet to find it.


To find out where the Bootleg Beatles are playing next — and I really recommend that you do — click here.

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