In 2009 an idea was pitched to some of Australia’s best musicians, to jump in front of a 20 piece band and smash through The Beatles ‘White Album’ cover to cover. The eventual line-up included members from every corner of Australian musical royalty… Chris Cheney (The Living End), Phil Jamieson (Grinspoon), Tim Rogers (You Am I) and Josh Pyke.
2009 was a resounding success, so much so that the group reunited in 2014 and did it all over again. Then came 2018, the 50 year anniversary which was a milestone too big to pass up, so the band grabbed their gear and hit the road again.
50 years have passed since The Beatles released ‘The White Album’, a double LP loaded with 30 songs that represented a band at the peak of its adventurous powers, yet one which was riddled with fractures and frustrations.
The album would be the ninth from the British masters of pop/rock, nestled in between 1967’s ‘Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band’ and 69’s ‘Abbey Road’. Its songs were released to mixed reviews, yet have aged gracefully throughout the years. Sadly for Beatles’ fans the double LP never saw the light of day on the road, with the band never playing any content off the album live.
“By attempting such a grandiose project with such deliberation and honesty, they have left themselves extremely vulnerable. There is not the dissemblance of being “our boys” from Hard Day’s Night, nor the disguise of Sgt. Pepper’s Band; it is on every level an explanation and an understanding of who and what the Beatles are.” – Rolling Stone (1968)
Hamer Hall in Melbourne would be the destination to kick off the 2018 tour, which would see the show play 13 dates throughout July, gracing stages in Newcastle, Sydney, Brisbane, Canberra, Adelaide and Perth.
A crowd of just under 2500 punters piled in, with a beautiful mix of elder statesmen, youthful musos and happy couples eager to see such a defining album brought to life. A slight edge of nervous anticipation oozed from the crowd as the starting time neared: could they really pull this off? Would they do it justice?
Slowly the lights dimmed, the 21 piece band including two drummers, three guitarists and a full string and horn section took their places… and out waltzed Chris Cheney with his trusty Gretsch in hand.
Within the opening few bars of ‘Back In The USSR’ it was clear for all to see that this talented ensemble was capable of doing this 50 year old masterpiece justice.
Each individual added their own musical nuances as they rotated on and off the stage throughout the evening. Cheney had the crowd moving with rockier numbers such as ‘Helter Skelter’, ‘Birthday’ and ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’, while Josh Pyke and his beautiful acoustic styling did justice to the likes of ‘Blackbird’, ‘Martha My Dear’ and ‘Long Long Long’.
The ever entertaining Tim Rogers was masterful in his efforts to liven up some of the more indifferent songs on the record. His showmanship added some flavour to ‘Happiness Is A Warm Gun’, ‘Piggies’ and ‘Revolution 1’.
The surprise of the evening was Phil Jamieson, with his usual heavy-rock influences taking a back seat for the night as he tackled some of the more delicate cuts from the album along with Pyke. ‘I Will’, ‘I’m So Tired’ and a truly beautiful version of ‘Dear Prudence’ impressed the crowd, with Jamieson also getting back to his heavier routes with ‘Yer Blues’.
As the concert appeared to wind down with the 30th and final song on the record ‘Goodnight’, although the crowd hoped for a little more. In a special treat for Beatles lovers the boys came back on stage with acoustic guitars in hand to delve into some classics from the expansive Beatles catalogue.
The boys’ harmonies were stunning, with the finale acting as a true testament to the brilliance of these musicians. Their constant banter with each other throughout the night was also a highlight, with the genuine appreciation for each other making way for moments of comedic gold at each other’s expense.
The night exceeded expectations and as fans we must hope that for the 55th anniversary the boys go around again, because I believe most people in Hamer Hall that night would be back in a heartbeat.