Review: The Bootleg Beatles, live at Sheffield City Hall

Bootleg Beatles play the Alhambre 22.7.11
Bootleg Beatles play the Alhambre 22.7.11

“I SEE the stewards are asking some of you not to take pictures,” says the ‘bootleg’ George Harrison to a scattering of boos and jeers. “We don’t mind, but please don’t do it on your mobile phones or digital cameras because they haven’t been invented yet.”

And so, the slightly farcical scene is set – it’s the 1960s all over again, and what better way to relive one of the most historic eras of the last century than through the eyes and ears of, arguably, the best band of all time?

Bootleg Beatles play the Alhambre 22.7.11

Bootleg Beatles play the Alhambre 22.7.11

It’s been 45 years since The Beatles’ last concert in Candlestick Park, San Francisco on 29th August, 1966, but the demand to hear their music remains higher than ever, and The Bootleg Beatles are probably one of the best bands on the planet to bring it to you.

Charting the history of the Fab Four, the Bootlegs start off with mop-tops and turtle necks and fight their way through Beatlemania once more by belting out the likes of I Want To Hold Your Hand and Can’t Buy Me Love, before a quick costume change into their Sgt Pepper’s gear for another magical mystery tour through their flower power years.

Ending the evening on a run through the final years, when The Beatles showed their skills and development in mature song craftsmanship on The White Album, Abbey Road and Let It Be, the Bootlegs pull off a note-perfect trip back in time – complete with a visual feast to please any ageing hippy.

Highlights of the set are the tracks from Sgt Pepper’s onwards – partly because not even The Beatles themselves ever toured to play these songs live, but mainly because The Bootlegs deliver them with such loving attention to detail and colourful imagination.

It makes for the perfect pre-Christmas concert – from the swinging and sensational Help through to the psychedelic dream of I Am The Walrus and the stomping Come Together, before everyone is on their feet, arm-in-arm and swaying in unison to the joyous Hey Jude.

At times it’s all a bit panto, and a bit daft, but at the end of the day it’s just a celebration of the spirit of joy, life and love that The Beatles channelled so perfectly. After all, all you need is love.

By Andrew Trendell