Sunday, March 02, 2008

Buddy Holly Show: More Oh Dear than Oh Boy.

I don’t mind tribute shows at all. Yeah, it’s a cheesy concept. But if you aren’t willing to go along to 'em now and again, you’re stuck with ever-updating music of ‘now’, with all it's desperate re-inventions… which by definition can’t offer the same choice of good stuff as the back-catalogue can. It’s a fine line though. Just as the 1947-written Ring Round the Moon has to capture the spirit of its age without being rooted fast in a distant era; somehow, the tributer has to nod far enough towards the act he’s following to make it credible – whilst putting just enough of his own self into it to keep the thing from slipping into parody. If all he does is slavishly imitate, he's bound to suffer by comparison to the original. Yet if he puts too much of his own take on it, he’ll be damned for not trying hard enough to get it right. What they need, above all, is a genuine affinity with the music. With that, plus enough vocal and instrumental ability to match the original artist, there’s usually enough to make for a good, if undemanding, night out.

So, off I went to Skeg last night for the Buddy Holly 50th Anniversary Tour. (Pedant Alert - that’s 50 years since he toured the UK, apparently. Not since he died).

It's hard to know where to start, it was so ... OK then. First half - like a bad edition of the Antiques Roadshow, it was a reminder that just because something's old, that don't make it good. Dusty Springfield and Connie Francis (Karen Noble) chirrupped brightly but were exposed as obvious fakes by some unrecognisable and leaden arrangements. Then Billy Fury (Michael King) - the only vague resemblance to Billy was his costumes. The backing group (The Rockets), badly need to put work into rehearsals before playing in front of audiences paying theatre prices.

After calming the nerves with a couple of well-earned interval gins
and a good moan to the other disgruntled punters huddling together for a cigarette in the galeforce ballsfreezer blowing straight up Skeggy Beach, I settled back for Part 2.

The thing about Buddy Holly is that his songs were greater than his live performances. He came over as fairly geeky by the standards of his time compared to, say, Elvis, Jerry Lee, Little Richard or even Gene Vincent. So getting him across onstage means playing him up a little and beefing up the tempos and backings. The vocalist here, Marc Robinson, opts for being a true-to-life
look-and-sound-alike, though, and for me it just doesn't work. Neither does chatting up the old dears in the audience in a reedy, nasal approximation of a Texan accent. The backing failed again, despite being supplemented by an excellent slap bass. Drums and keyboards were proficient without setting the stage on fire, but what really held the whole thing back were the limitations of the lead-guitarist. It's one thing to alter guitar breaks because you choose to - quite another when it's because they're too hot for you. Too many bum notes, too many tentative solos, too much of sounding as if he didn't really get 50s Rock and Roll at all.

Usually, I stick reviews on here for the sake of having something to write about
... it's hard for me not to enjoy a live show of any kind at all. This time, though, I really feel as if I can see exactly what is wrong with this one and could put it right, if it was mine to do so. It'll be interesting to watch the hit-counter to see whether anyone connected with the show stops by. I hope they do... they may be getting the audiences this time round, on the back of Buddy Holly's name and reputation. But they are cheapening it with production values as low as these. If I'd got in free, I'd still have felt cheated.


Swearing Mother said...

Hi ASU, long time no comment from me! I know what you mean about being disappointed with tribute shows, if you are a real fan of the portrayed singer or band it can be a real downer when the act just doesn't do it justice.

Just looking like the original artist isn't good enough, they've got to really know where the real thing was coming from, if you know what I mean.

All Shook Up said...

Yup. I'm not too fussed about Buddy.. even if was himself reincarnated. Just I expect pros to get things right, whether it's learning the lines to Shakespeare, dancing the Dying Swan or getting a rock and roll solo off pat.

Good to see you again, btw.

Glamourpuss said...

So they won't be making friends with Graham Norton anytime soon then?


All Shook Up said...

Err no, Puss. Well not in his One and Only show sense, anyway. What they get up to in their spare time is their own business, though.

rilly super said...

this whole tribute act world is very confusing. recently we had what I took to be a tribute T-rex act playing here, but then on closer inspection they weren't 'a tribute to..' but actually just T-Rex, featuring I believe just the original album drummer.

All Shook Up said...

Yeah, they stretch the chewing gum pretty thin, sometimes, rilly. But we've got Gerry and the P***makers, the Measleberts and Herbert's Helmets coming here soon - the original bands. Frankly, I'd sooner see tributers than some of these dozy old farts pretending to be 20 again... including those in the audience. (self excluded, of course. Ahem).