[LIVE REVIEW] The White Album “The 50th Anniversary Concert” – Hamer Hall, Melbourne 13/07/2018

Photo:  Jim Lee Photo

While 50 years may have passed The Beatles White Album is still as relevant today as it was way back in 1968. It really was way ahead of its time musically and will still be revered in another 50 years to come. This isn’t the first time ‘the lads’ have tackled this album in its entirety live, they toured the album in 2009 and 2014, which would explain how faultless tonight’s performance was. With a stellar ensemble including strings and brass and all things musically wonderful, our four main performers took turns in belting out the famous songs we all know and love. While the audience was predominantly of the older demographic, there were flashes of youth, two of them being my children who I thought could use an education in how this monumental album sounds live.

The acoustics of Hamer Hall was glorious as always as Chris Cheney (The Living End) took to the stage with the classic Back In The U.S.S.R. with his recently blonded locks akin to The White Album itself.  Dynamic as always Chris had heads bopping immediately as he tackled the opener with ease. As we know most songs on The White Album are short in length but long in stature, and no sooner was Chris on the stage he was off and replaced by Phil Jamieson (Grinspoon) who delivered the beautiful Dear Prudence. Our first look at Tim Rogers (You Am I) was Ob La Do Ob La Da, as he sashayed onstage in one of his trademark vintage suits. The fans whooped with joy on his arrival, he clearly had a cult like following going on.  He did not disappoint as we all basked in the glory of this upbeat classic as Tim was joined by Chris, Josh, and Phil to finish it out. Tim stayed on stage for a few more songs with Bungalow Bill an audience favourite. While my Guitar Gently Weeps was the longest song of the night and Chris showcased his amazing guitar skills from start to finish. Kudos to lighting director Kait Hall, the radiance was stunning all night, beautifully paired with the songs to provide the perfect accompaniment for the whole evening.  Aria award winner Josh Pyke had his first solo performance with Martha My Dear with some heavenly strings and brass adding another level of gracefulness. With more singing changes than I have had hot dinners, Phil was back For I’m So Tired and then Josh sang the exquisite Blackbird, introducing it as a ‘little song he wrote’ which had us all erupting with laughter. Piggies had Tim prancing onstage wearing a pig mask which gave everyone a giggle, then he took to the crowd for a wander as Josh transitioned into the vocals for Rocky Raccoon.  As we moved towards the end of ‘side one’ all singers had another shot at the microphone with Josh seeing out the first act with Julia.

A brief 20-minute interval was just enough time to duck out and get myself a programme and check out the merchandise on offer. Act two opened with Birthday, Chris had everyone’s toes tapping and singing along to the rock anthem of our yearly anniversary. Phil took on Yer Blues and Sexy Sadie which were both big winners. Chris apologised for what he was about to instill upon us as the opening of Helter Skelter rang out. Chris once again displayed his outstanding musicianship, lending the song the heaviness it deserved. A slowed version of Revolution saw Tim at the helm, followed by Phil with Honey Pie.

The fab four of the night had a terrific comradery, not just as work associates but as great mates, Tim’s banter hilarious over the course of the evening, even piggybacking Phil off stage, which made for quite the comical exit. Musical director Rex Goh and vocal arranger Lindsay Field must be applauded for the impeccable display of musicians on stage. The whole show was a combination of sensational talent, all working in unison to celebrate this golden anniversary of such a pivotal album. Drums, guitars, keyboards, pianos, strings and brass nothing was overlooked to create The Beatles sound we have all come to love. The band took on Revolution No 9 with is renowned ‘number 9’ being spoken over and over, and Tim finished out with Goodnight. A fitting end to a fabulous night of rock and roll. But of course, it wasn’t over just yet as stools were placed on the stage and we were treated to a beautiful acoustic set including, Nothings Gonna Change My World and The Ballad of John and Yoko. Then it was full band back on stage for a more upbeat version of Revolution. Tim invited the audience to dance for which they happily obliged, a few having one too many chardonnay’s and living out in real time the famous quote “Dance Like Nobody’s Watching”! All Things Must Pass the George Harrison ballad was a heartfelt tribute to fellow musician/musical director/vocalist Paul Gray who succumbed to his battle with myeloma earlier this year. Paul had been a part of the The Beatles touring family and his loss weighed heavily on all his bandmates. It was a beautiful way to close out the show, done with love and respect for their musical ‘brother’.

As the final bows were taken I took in the enormity of what I had witnessed, it was something The Beatles had never even taken on in its entirety and tonight’s awesome foursome ripped it out in spades. It was a white-hot display of musical brilliance that deserved every bit of the standing ovation they received. Congratulations to all involved, you did The Beatles proud.

Review Contributed by Cassandra Hale