Colston Hall, Bristol 


Bootleg Beatles December 2015


First, a little story: my 11-year-old daughter recently gained a merit mark at school for bringing in a book of Beatles lyrics and discussing them.

“Well done,” I said. “And what was the lesson you were in? English? Music?”

“No, Dad,” she replied, “History....”

Well, indeed. It’s getting on for half a century since the Beatles were at their peak, so I guess that does count as history.

Even so, it’s certainly living history, as a packed Colston Hall turning out for the Fab Four can attest.

Of course, it’s not Them. How could it be? But if you want as near-as-dammit, the Bootleg Beatles have been filling that gap for ages now - the original, and beyond doubt, the best.

More than 50 years since John, Paul, Ringo and George last stepped on the Colston Hall stage in their expensive winklepickers, tonight it’s the turn of Adam, Steve, Hugo and Stephen to do the honours.

They’re good. Very good. Using authentic amplifiers, drums and guitars, plus an orchestra, the Fake Four breeze through a selection of hits, occasional album tracks and costume changes representing that short but world-shaking era in popular music. The hall’s legendarily patchy sound quality only adds to the lo-fi appeal, and a background of clips from the 1960s gives the show a nice context.

Of course, we know the material back to front, from Love Me Do to Get Back and everything in between.

Still, it’s pleasant to hear the occasional surprise, such as She’s Leaving Home and Rain.

The show also leaves room to admire the horn and string sections so carefully arranged by Beatles producer George Martin, as well as unexpected flourishes - I never realised there was so much jazz buried within Ringo’s drumming, especially on I Feel Fine.

As John Lennon, Adam Hastings is close on perfect, portraying the air of cool detachment Lennon carefully cultivated.

But the others give him a run for his money; Steve White’s Macca is full of chummy, thumbs-up nods and winks to audience members while Stephen ‘George Harrison’ Hill does the diffident thing perfectly.

The magic of the Beatles lies in two areas.

First, the songs, the look, the whole unique package.

And secondly, the fact that they themselves can never recreate it, and turn it into a septugenarian parody (like some 60s bands we could mention).

So it’s down to the Bootlegs, and while they continue to shine like this, the 60s will never disappear into the history books.

Tom Henry