Beck Theatre, Hayes, 4th February 2004

We're Through by Helen

Set List

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 

Kicking 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 this occasion.  

The 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 simply outstanding.  

Carl 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.  

This 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!  

The 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.  

The 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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