The Beatles wrote the soundtrack to many people’s lives and it’s no surprise that the band continue to be loved and revered. Some Australian artists have previously tackled the Fab Four’s work with the Let It Be and White Album tours, which now leads us to Back2Back. It’s a concert that made its debut in Queensland in 2011 and whose latest instalment saw the Sydney Opera House awash with colour, melody and harmony.
Back2Back sees arguably The Beatles’ two best albums tackled by a 16-piece band and no less than five rock vocalists. The show sees Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and Abbey Road performed sequentially and in full plus old favourite, “Get Back”. It’s a mammoth production with visuals that are as deep as the sea of green (sorry, wrong album) and some layered, orchestral grandeur and old fashioned rock ‘n’ roll music that spans all the colours of the psychedelic rainbow.
The musical director for the night was Rex Goh, a talented guitarist who also doubled as the composer at times. Goh has studied and toured extensively and a beatific smile did not leave his face as he played his important role in paying tribute to these four ground-breaking men. The Liverpudlians had also had a huge influence on the five vocalists (some of whom were making their second appearance at such a tribute show) with Tim Morrison (Trial Kennedy, The Voice) even having the lyrics, “All you need is love” inked on his arm.
The rock vocalists all brought rather different approaches to the songs, which served well for such a varied collection of music. In the programme, Michael Dwyer was apt when he described the original tracks as being love songs and ones that were: silly, desperate, joyous, knowing and wondering and that they were great ones about money, power, sweet dreams, heavy karma, the sun, the sea and the end. Doug Parkinson had previously appeared on the Let It Be tour and brought his smoky, soulful baritone to the proceedings while Russell Morris was utterly convincing as he sang pop, rock ‘n’ roll and the blues.
At times some of the singers weren’t as strong as The Beatles, but these were some enormous shoes to fill. At the very least their stage presence wasn’t lacking with Jon Toogood (Shihad) bringing a real sense of fun and silliness to the occasion. He played the front man and the fool while Tim Morrison was the cheeky upstart during the occasionally whimsical, “When I’m Sixty-Four”. But it was Jack Jones AKA Irwin Thomas (Southern Sons, Electric Mary) who played and sang one of the evening’s highlights, “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)”, which was so full of brooding passion you could’ve bottled it.
The 16-piece band did a stellar job of translating the songs for the stage. There were moments of orchestral wonder and colourful psychedelia as they straddled the lines between pop and art (mostly during Sgt. Pepper). The Beatles had grappled with the limitations of the concert and taking these studio records – ones layered to the nines with new, experimental sounds and technology – out on the road. But there were no such limitations at the Opera House and this revolutionary music was given a real chance to shine. The definitive album of the rock era and The Beatles’ final swansong were celebrated for all their grandeur, creativity and majesty and all with a sense of dignity, joy and fun.
“With a Little Help from My Friends” was faithful to the original while “Within You Without You” reached the lofty heights of spiritual mystery that made the original so perfect. “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds” was sung by Jack Joneswho clasped his nose at times to recreate John Lennon’s more nasal delivery and while it looked a bit strange it sounded excellent. The vocalists and musicians all showed a good sense of camaraderie and a real chemistry, especially when they all came together over Lennon and McCartney.
Songs like “A Day In The Life” and the George Harrison-penned, “Something” (which Frank Sinatra described as the greatest love song of all time, no less) really crystallised what the Fab Four were all about. These also helped show why their legacy and influence continues to remain important to this very day. These were the real goose bump-inducing moments, which fans would continue to remember long after the curtain had fallen. Other numbers like “Come Together” and “Get Back” by comparison were all about making people dance (which they really did do during the latter). “Here Comes The Sun” meanwhile, was all about celebrating life and light before Abbey Road’s final pop symphony was played in full and left us with the final message: “The love you take is equal to the love you make”.
Beatles Back2Back was a real celebration of The Beatles by artists that clearly loved them and continue to be inspired by them. It was great to experience such complex songs live (it’s also a feat that the group themselves never actually accomplished) and it was nothing short of special and extraordinary. In short, it was a fun night of faithful music, delivered from and celebrated by true fans.
The Beatles Back2Back Sydney set list:
Act 1- Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
1. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (sung by Doug Parkinson, Russell Morris, Jack Jones, Jon Toogood and Tim Morrison)
2. With a Little Help from My Friends (sung by Doug Parkinson with Russell Morris and Tim Morrison)
3. Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds (sung by Jack Jones)
4. Getting Better (sung by Tim Morrison with Russell Morris)
5. Fixing a Hole (sung by Doug Parkinson)
6. She’s Leaving Home (sung by Jack Jones)
7. Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite! (sung by Jon Toogood)
8. Within You Without You (sung by Russell Morris)
9. When I’m Sixty-Four (sung by Tim Morrison)
10. Lovely Rita (sung by Russell Morris)
11. Good Morning Good Morning (sung by Jon Toogood with Doug Parkinson)
12. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise) (sung by Doug Parkinson, Russell Morris, Jack Jones, Jon Toogood and Tim Morrison)
13. A Day in the Life (sung by Jon Toogood with Doug Parkinson)
Act 2- Abbey Road
14. Come Together (sung by Doug Parkinson, Russell Morris, Jack Jones, Jon Toogood and Tim Morrison)
15. Something (sung by Tim Morrison)
16. Maxwell’s Silver Hammer (sung by Jon Toogood)
17. Oh! Darling (sung by Russell Morris)
18. Octopus’s Garden (sung by Doug Parkinson, Russell Morris, Jack Jones, Jon Toogood and Tim Morrison)
19. I Want You (She’s So Heavy) (sung by Jack Jones)
20. Here Comes the Sun (sung by Russell Morris)
21. Because (sung by Doug Parkinson and Russell Morris)
22. You Never Give Me Your Money (sung by Tim Morrison)
23. Sun King (sung by Jack Jones)
24. Mean Mr. Mustard (sung by Jon Toogood)
25. Polythene Pam (sung by Jon Toogood)
26. She Came In Through the Bathroom Window (sung by Doug Parkinson and Tim Morrison)
27. Golden Slumbers (sung by Doug Parkinson)
28. Carry That Weight/The End (sung by Doug Parkinson, Russell Morris, Jack Jones, Jon Toogood and Tim Morrison)
29. Her Majesty (sung by Jack Jones)
30. Get Back (sung by Doug Parkinson, Russell Morris, Jack Jones, Jon Toogood and Tim Morrison)
Originally published on 3 January 2014 at the following website: http://www.theaureview.com/sydney/the-beatles-back2back-tribute-opera-house-02-01-14
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