Beatlemania hits New Zealand
From the time Ringo Starr joined, to the moment John Lennon left, The Beatles were together just seven years. And give or take a few line-up changes, The Bootleg Beatles have been going more than four times that.
Widely regarded as the world's best tribute act to the Liverpool band, the group was founded in 1980, before John Lennon was killed, George Harrison had died, Paul McCartney had made bad marriage choices and before Ringo Starr became the voice of Thomas the Tank Engine.
During the show the four look-alike musicians work their way chronologically through the band's catalogue of songs.
From the early days of Beatlemania through to the psychedelic explosion of Sgt. Pepper and the Abbey Road finale, the music, costumes and hair change to reflect the change in what they are portraying.
Founding member Andre Barreau - aka Harrison - said over the more than three decades he's spent performing as part of this Fab Four, the feeling towards the band has changed noticeably.
"When we started The Bootleg Beatles, John was still alive...and it was only 10 years after they split. So there was still that feeling that...they still might get back together and make another album. But when John was murdered, of course that all changed," said Barreau.
"Back then, [The Beatles] was more a bit like your older brother, 'yeah, he's good, but I know him very well'. Now, it's 'well that will never happen'. Now, there is much more reverence - which I'm totally in favour of."
The four Englishmen - Barreau, Hugo Degenhardt (Ringo Starr), Adam Hastings (John Lennon) and Steve White (Paul McCartney) - are all fans of the originals.
They say that's the only way they can survive doing what they do.
"I've always been a Beatle fan and through my teens it just got more and more and more, as you discover the albums. And then they became my favourite band ever. They have to be to make you sick enough to do this," said Hastings.
From playing around New Zealand this month, to a show in front of more than 10,000 people in a Mongolian town square last month, there is no denying the popularity of the Lennon and McCartney songbook, even if the favourites have changed.
"Some songs weren't as in vogue when we first started playing. Something like Yesterday was very, very fashionable - and it's still a great song - but now something like Here Comes The Sun or Helter Skelter are really big deals, which they weren't then," said Barreau.
And even the originals have enjoyed what this tribute band does.
"We met George at a party - he was incredibly charming, and I was very nervous," said Barreau
"I went and stood next to him and I could just hear him talking... and that was good enough for me. Then one of us went over and said 'hello, we are The Bootleg Beatles', and he said 'oh. Who is the Bootleg Brian Epstein, [The Beatles' early manager] because he's got all the money'. And then from that moment onwards we just talked."
They have also met McCartney and the band's long-time producer Sir George Martin along the way.
But Barreau said even all these years later, the real thrill comes from performing live.
"We really do believe in live music, and when we play live we have a live orchestra of eight musicians, so we can do things The Beatles never did. But we don't use tapes or synthesisers or shadowy figures in the back filling in gaps. Everything is live.
"We are trying to re-create a concert, so we do it in character. But we are not so serious that we think that we really are them, y'know?"
The Bootleg Beatles - New Zealand Tour
October 18 - 21 - ASB Theatre, Auckland
October 25 - 28 - St James Theatre, Wellington
October 30 - CBS Arena, Christchurch
Tickets from Buy Tickets and Ticketek
- © Fairfax NZ News
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