Sea of green? Maybe. Sea of grey? More likely. It was a crowd of my dad’s vintage that sought shelter from the cold in the warm, gold foyers of Hamer Hall in Melbourne’s Art Centre precinct on Tuesday night (with a smattering of us upstarts thrown in for good measure).
A gangly Kiwi crooner, an Oz rock frontman, a comedian’s son, and a Melbourne folkster were who we had come to see. It may sound like the start of a bad joke, but only the eclectic classics of The Beatles could bring such unique artists together in such an exciting fashion.
The legendary Liverpool quartet are hands down one of the biggest influences on popular music today. McCartney, Lennon, Harrison and Starr are four of the most famous names in the industry, and although it’s been over 45 years since they were making music together, their distinctive sounds have been reverberating in our collective pop psyche ever since. With their sixth and seventh studio albums, Rubber Soul (1965) and Revolver (1966), The Beatles traversed folk-rock, psychedelic rock and melodic pop, producing hit after hit after hit.
In the same vein as The White Album concerts of 2009 and 2014 (starring Tim Rogers, Chris Cheney of The Living End, Josh Pyke and Grinspoon frontman Phil Jamieson), Rubber Soul/Revolver was another spectacular outing for The Beatles’ music. The series is a world-first, because The Beatles never actually performed these albums live, let alone track-by-track and back-to-back.
Psychedelic cartoon car rims spun around comically in the backdrop, eclipsed by a dozen of Australia’s finest musicians and sessions artists (led by musical director Paul Gray). Rising stars Marlon Williams, Fergus Linacre of Kingswood, singer-songwriter Jordie Lane and Husky Gawenda (of Husky) arranged the night into solo efforts and rousing group harmonies.
As a group, they opened with ‘Drive My Car’, the first off Rubber Soul. Williams was then left alone to strum and hum a dainty rendition of ‘Norwegian Wood’. The New Zealand native traded his usual Southern-soaked stories for boy-meets-girl ballads. Lane kept things mellow-yellow on ‘You Won’t See Me’, Linacre did his best Lennon screech on ‘The Word’, and the gnomish Husky serenaded with ‘Girl’.
They make a fitting Fab Four, not just because they can sing and entertain in their own right, but because each of them are genuine fanboys when it comes to the mop-top pop-makers. Musically too, each performer brought a polished mix of rock, folk, indie and country to their interpretations of The Beatles tracks. The group rendition of ‘Nowhere Man’ was a first-set standout (just missing a Jeremy Hilary Boob cameo, I must say. Fans of the Yellow Submarine cartoon will know what I mean).
Part two, Revolver, opened with the rousing rollicker, ‘Taxman’ (is there a Bronwyn Bishop in the house?). The highlight came from Williams’ still and evocative performance of ‘Eleanor Rigby’, though I must say, their were no “lonely people” in the audience by this stage. Though Williams claimed he didn’t “care” about Revolver, he seemed to be having the most fun, turkey bopping his way up and down the stage alongside Lane’s awkward uncle moves.
The next shindig came in the form of ‘Yellow Submarine’. Cartoon lemon subs lit up the backdrop, as the 12-deep band launched into full orchestral mode complete with Rule Britannia voice over. During the lively chorus of “we all live in a yellow submarine” everyone was on their feet, bolstered by the fact that Williams did a jog through the aisles to ensure fun was being had.
Husky got the Indian flavours flowing on the Harrison penned ‘Love You To’ (with guitarist Rex Goh delivering the goods via a funky, turquoise sitar). Psychedelic rainbow swirls erupted from the projector, whipping the stage into a dizzying cascade of colours. Lane kept the trippy feels coming with the LSD-induced ‘Doctor Robert’ and although the song itself is quite boorish, the Clip-art pill imagery got a few chuckles.
Linacre had his best solo vocal performance of the night on ‘Got to Get You into My Life’, saving for the blistering chorus with Kingswood-esque grit and volume. The encore (three songs not on the two albums) kicked off with ‘We Can Work It Out’ followed by the single’s B-side, which, well frankly, you can work it out!
If the bottom of the bright orange program from the night is anything to go by, another tribute show is set for 2016 called All You Need Is Love. If it’s anything like Rubber Soul/Revolver, it’ll be a thoroughly enjoyable night out. Baby, you can drive my car any day…
The Rubber Soul/Revolver show will be on at the Canberra Theatre Centre tonight, and finish up at the Sydney Opera House on August 7th & 8th. Limited tickets left at www.rubbersoulrevolver.com.