The Classic Rock Show Tour made its annual stop-off at The Queen’s Hall in Edinburgh tonight giving the audience exactly what it promises to provide on the tour advertising “A Live Juke Box” that plays a selection of some of the best known (and maybe some lesser known) music from the “Classic Rock” back catalogue of artists as diverse as Led Zeppelin, David Bowie, Patti Smith, Bruce Springsteen, The Beatles and many more.
The format here is a simple one – take some talented musicians, plug the instruments (and vocals) into the sound system and run non-stop, back to back songs for nearly three hours (including a small half time interval). Judging from the increasing audience numbers at this show every time I review it at The Queen’s Hall and the heavy touring schedule of the show, this is obviously a format that is working very well and playing to a lot of people every tour.
To be clear here, although the music played is all from other bands’ back catalogues, this show for me never really enters standard “Tribute Band” territory as the musical arrangements, whilst staying true to the originals in many areas, are also flexible enough to allow the show’s own take on many standards. The use of multiple vocalists (four tonight) to sing solo or in harmonies those songs that suit their voices best is also an interesting one.
As always, our core upfront band consists of Wayne Banks (Bass), James Cole (Guitar) and Howie G (Guitar) and all three are very good at what they do. James and Howie have a huge range of playing styles to cover in any show, and to any guitarists watching, an enviable supply of different guitars to work with as that current particular song requires. Always working away throughout the show too, Karl Penney (Drums) and Henry Burnett (Keyboards).
As always, our show opens with an immediately recognisable song, and tonight, it was “Whole Lotta Love” by Led Zeppelin setting the very early musical tone for much of the coming show as many obvious classics followed –“Bat Out Of Hell”, “Hotel California” and “Freebird” being only a few of them. Some surprises too – “Helter Skelter” and “Because The Night” amongst them.
With four vocalists for the show, everyone has something unique to bring to the stage, but new arrival to the group Chris Ousey is giving this line-up the harder edged sounding rock vocals that it really requires and “Highway To Hell” was a perfect song for him to display that ability on here. The Queen’s Hall is a former church, so I have to admit enjoying the irony of listening to this song in this venue. Also nice to hear Jess Harwood (from Rumours of Fleetwood Mac) on vocals and a very nice stripped back version of Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide” provided a change of pace to the show at just the right time. This song also proved that sometimes “less is better” as although it is great to here good arrangements of classic songs, some were to me a little over-arranged at times. Having said that though, the arrangements on the multi-layered Bruce Springsteen classic “Jungleland” was a pleasure to hear. Jimi Hendrix of course had to feature in this show somewhere, and the band’s arrangements of “All Along The Watchtower” were flexible enough not to make this a carbon copy of the original. I do have to admit a little amusement always though that this “Classic Rock” song is an interpretation of a Bob Dylan song, even though the two versions are very far apart from one another.
There were the odd moments when it did look like the band were a little weary from a gruelling tour schedule, but any such flagging moments were quickly passed over and a return to full power established.
It is fair to say that the bulk of tonight’s audience were old enough to have heard (and probably seen) many of the bands featured here first time around, and so many songs performed here have obviously meant so much to so many people in this audience over the years. As with any show of this kind, it is always difficult as a reviewer to know if the applause is for the band or memories of the original song. The truth is probably a mixture of both as the audience did love these songs and would certainly not have taken well to any band not doing them justice on-stage.
This show is not travelling light, and a serious amount of musical and stage equipment like this needs a serious technical and road crew behind it to not only function, but to be perfectly in place every show, so a big round of thanks here to the unseen off-stage members of this tour that put everything in place every show for our musicians to provide us the music.
Review by Tom King