Beck Theatre, Hayes, 4th February 2004
I’m Alive / Here I Go Again / Jennifer Eccles / Yes I Will / On A Carousel / Sandy / Listen To Me / Can’t Tell The Bottom From The Top / I Can’t Let Go / We’re Through / Fire Brigade / Look Through Any Window / Blowin’ In The Wind
Long Cool Woman / Sorry Suzanne / Just One Look / The Baby / Soldier’s Song / Gasoline Alley Bred / Too Young To Be Married / Bus Stop / Blackberry Way / Carrie Anne / Stop! Stop! Stop! / The Air That I Breathe / I Can Hear The Grass Grow / Tiger Feet / He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother / It’s In Every One of Us
off a new tour at the Hayes Beck Theatre is apparently a long-standing Hollies
tradition: understandable, considering the friendly intimacy of the venue and
the consistently loyal audience. Both factors allow for first night glitches and
nerves, although truthfully not too many of these appeared to be in abundance on
show began with the introduction and arrangement of “I’m Alive” first
heard (by myself, at least) on Carl’s debut tour with the band back in Autumn
2000. Although the “traditional” arrangement of the song is great, this one
turns it into an energetic rock number with some terrific drumming from Bobby
and a blistering guitar solo from Tony. Predictably, the opening number was
followed by the hits the majority of the audience came to hear: firm favourites
“Here I Go Again”, “Jennifer Eccles”, “Yes I Will and “On A
Carousel”. Everyone was on great form. “Sandy” remains a personal
favourite of mine and was performed as beautifully as ever, the lead vocal
went off for his first break, and Ray joined Alan and Tony along the front, also
now something of a tradition. The acoustic “Listen to Me” was tuneful and
inspirational, the harmonies as tight as ever. Next came the first musical
change of the evening, a new version of a song which was apparently making a
welcome return to the set after many years and which was the follow-up single to
“Heavy”. “I Can’t Tell The Bottom From The Top” is a pleasant, laid
back ballad. This version featured an excellent lead vocal from Alan, with warm
harmonies from Ray and some lovely piano work from Ian. It is easy to envisage
Elton John playing piano on the original recording session; much of the
intonation and chord-structure is reminiscent of some of his much later solo
work, in fact this could easily have been written by him. At the same time,
Alan’s vocal embodied tuneful accuracy and a relaxed warmth which could be
likened to celebrated vocalist Phil Collins.
welcome musical change was followed by Carl’s return to centre stage, the
equally welcome return of “I Can’t Let Go” and the first visual surprise
of the evening. A large screen now forms part of the stage set, onto which
various patterns, pieces of film and live images of the band members themselves
are projected. Clever stuff, and as Tony remarked, a nice change! As Carl
bounced through the energetic “I Can’t Let Go” he was accompanied by
whirling, brightly coloured "flower-power" images. The imagery
continued for the remainder of the first half, and indeed most of the rest of
the show, zooming in on Ian for his solo spot on “We’re Through” and
notably on Carl for his piano solo on the same song. “Fire Brigade”, as
impressive as ever, was backed by a huge, red rotating light. The visuals
certainly add vibrancy and it is interesting to be able to observe Tony’s
guitar playing and Bob’s drumming techniques close-up. Great for the folk at
the back of the stalls and in the Gods, too!
second musical change came in the shape of “Look Through Any Window”.
Apparently this alternative “West Coast” style of the song – “a
variation on a theme”, in Carl’s words – has been in the set before.
However, it was completely new to this less-experienced follower of the band,
and very enjoyable. The arrangement is reminiscent of The Eagles and America,
moody and dramatic, the highlight being some very fast, “spell-binding”
guitar work from Alan and Tony before the more familiar theme came creeping
back at the end. The other highlights of this inclusion were the projections;
the song was backed by large stained glass windows through which Tony’s
movements on guitar were visible. Very effective. This refreshing change made
way for the familiarity of “Blowin’ In The Wind”. In truth, this could
never really become tedious and what better way to end the show’s first half.
Carl’s vocal remained powerful and faultless.
second set opened with the intro to last year’s tour, sliding easily into
“Long Cool Woman.” Usual
suspects “Sorry Suzanne” and “Just One Look” followed in quick
succession, to the delight of the audience.
“Soldier’s Song” was as spine-chilling and dramatic as ever, perhaps even more so with the new introduction and accompanying imagery (you’ll just have to wait and see!) Carl’s vocal only gets better on this one, it is an absolute classic. The acoustic set encompassing “Gasoline Alley Bred” and “Too Young To Be Married” was still in; while this remains a highlight of the show, I can’t help feeling it would be nice to hear Carl’s interpretation of both songs for a change. The close-ups on Tony’s guitar work were interesting. “Bus Stop” was accompanied by yet more cinematic surprises (again, wait and see, but not too difficult to imagine the nature of them!), as was the ever-energetic “Stop! Stop! Stop!” Move classic “Blackberry Way” had them singing in unison, “I Can Hear the Grass Grow” was raw and fresh. The sheer passion and effort Carl infuses into powerful ballads “Air” and “Heavy” never seems to falter and this audience reaction, as ever, reflected this.
Finally, “It’s In Every One of Us”; this has ended the show for the past few years now, but I challenge anyone to find a better conclusion. The huge globe projected at the back of the stage provided a new, apt backdrop, symbolic of the meaning behind the lyric. The message is universal, relative to the whole and applicable to everyone, no matter who they are or where they may be and the beautiful harmonies and tender vocals from Tony, Ray, Carl and Alan continue to convey this perfectly. This band simply never fail to deliver as they continue to enthrall audience after audience. "Born To Do It" takes on new meaning every time the Hollies walk onto a stage.
Review and Photo by Helen Macdonald
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