It is staggering to learn that two of The Beatles’ most iconic albums, ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ and ‘Abbey Road’ were never performed live in their time.
Thankfully, the latest chapter in the Back2Back concert series does just that, with 19 musicians and singers tackling the two albums consecutively and in full in Beatles Back2Back. One would be hard pressed to find less apt lyrics for a tribute show than those of the opening number, ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’, and it was clear from the joyfulness of the four rock vocalists paying homage to the Liverpool legends that they truly hoped we did enjoy the show.
Australia’s Russell Morris, Jack Jones and Kav Temperley along with English folk-rock singer-songwriter Jon Allen brought an ease and camaraderie to the stage that belied Brisbane (25 August) being only the third stop on the national tour. Granted, Jones and Morris performed together in the show’s 2014 instalment, however watching Allen sing 'With A Little Help From My Friends’ backed by Morris, Jones and Temperley, one could be forgiven for thinking you were watching good friends kicking back at a mate’s house for a spot of karaoke.
A mixture of solos, duets and quartet numbers, the show flowed effortlessly as the vocalists moved from track to track. Morris, introduced by Jones as a national treasure, shone in ‘Here Comes The Sun’ and ‘Polythene Pam’, and entertained the audience with anecdotes of his experiences during The Fab Four’s sometimes psychedelic reign.
Temperley brought an element of vaudeville and storytelling to his tracks, folding his body and side shuffling along to ‘Fixing A Hole’ and punctuating the clings and clangs of ‘Maxwell’s Silver Hammer’ with enthusiastic kicks and fist pumps. When it came time to sing ‘A Day In The Life’ – a song he described as possibly his most favourite ever – Temperley absolutely made the grade, showcasing his range in a heartfelt rendition.
Allen hit his stride on ‘Good Morning Good Morning’ and ‘Something’. Introducing the latter, Allen described George Harrison as the unsung hero of The Beatles, an opinion shared by many members of the audience judging by the ensuing warm applause.
But it was Jones who stole the show. Confessing that he drew the short straw when introducing McCartney’s ‘Oh! Darling’, Jack proved his mettle, tearing up the song with a gut-wrenching powerhouse performance. After a brief reprieve when all four sang ‘Octopus’s Garden’, during which Allen and Temperley brought a sense of larrikinism to the show – boyishly bouncing off each other and performed The Swim dance moves – Jones once again brought the house down with his delivery of the tortuous, desire-filled ‘I Want You (She’s So Heavy)’.
With the little ditty ‘Her Majesty’ signalling the end of the setlist, former lead singer of Wa Wa Nee, Paul Gray, who had provided backing vocals throughout the show from behind the piano, acknowledged the 15-piece band before leading the ensemble into the encore, ‘Get Back’ off The Beatles’ ensuing album ‘Let It Be’. As the audience clapped and sang along, I couldn’t help but smile knowing that Billy Shears had got his wish.