Recreating harmonies of a generation
One of these nights, one of these crazy old nights . . .
The music of the Eagles and Fleetwood Mac will fill Invercargill's Civic Theatre next Friday night when a stellar lineup of Southland singers and musicians band together to pay tribute to two of the biggest bands of the past generation.
But as musical director and show organiser Craig Allott says, it's not a tribute show.
The cast won't be slipping into costumes and character like a musical theatre show. This will be all about the music, he insists.
"There'll be certain visual overtones, but we're still trying to be in keeping with musicians playing the music.
"We still want people to come into a show where they think the music is serious."
Allott had been toying with the idea of a Fleetwood Mac/Eagles show for nine months.
"I really wanted to do it. It was always a game of two halves, Fleetwood Mac and the Eagles, and I always wanted to do it because I felt people would love to see it.
"I love going to those tribute shows that come to town. It's a lot cheaper way of seeing those sort of things and I thought why couldn't we do this here?"
He had the 28-song set list written about nine months ago and just needed "a wee push", which came in the form of Jason Schmidt and Shannon Cooper-Garland.
He told them about the concept at the end of the Hippy Hippy Shake show at the Ascot Park Hotel in March, and they were on board straight away.
"Jason said, ‘email it to me'. The next day he comes back and says, ‘right, the theatre's booked, let's get busy'."
First, they had to assemble a dream team of vocalists and musicians.
"The people involved are all the right people to pick," Allott says.
"Everyone that's there is definitely meant to be there," he says.
Southland Entertainer of the Year Michelle Lange, Cooper-Garland, Dave McMeeking, Jason Schmidt, Dene Allen, Allott and Arun O'Connor all share lead vocals and sing harmonies.
Allott, O'Connor, Schmidt and McMeeking play guitars, Scott Calvert is on keyboards and vocals, Aaron Ives is on drums and Chris Hewton is on bass.
Allott says they all bring something special to the mix, from the drums forward.
"Aaron Ives has been really pivotal about how this thing's progressing and he's been right on the money.
"Arun O'Connor was born for this show. He knows every lick and every chord.
"Dave McMeeking, I mean good grief, that Don Henley stuff - he's just all over it.
"Shannon and Michelle both bring their own takes on both the female singers in Fleetwood Mac and add that nice top-end harmony to the Eagles.
"You look at everyone involved and they've all got their talent parts that make up the whole."
Rehearsals started in earnest only two weeks ago, because everyone involved had so many other commitments.
They started with the vocals. With eight strong singers in the show it took a little time for everyone to find their harmonies, Allott says.
"We've been finding our places, finding where we best sit."
At times there are eight-part harmonies, creating a mesmerising wave of powerful vocals, while other songs sounded better stripped back with fewer harmonies, he says.
"I went into this thinking it's going to be really cool with eight people singing all the time, but once we sat down in a circle to do them acoustically the first couple of practices it became quite apparent that we could end up sounding more like the Beach Boys than the Eagles."
Just a week out from show time, Allott is excited about how quickly and how well it's all coming together. There's magic in that music, and he's feeling it.
"It's great fun doing it. The first time you play through The Chain by Fleetwood Mac and all the harmonies hit, there's a real something that happens to you, that spine-tingling thing that you would always hope for if you were ever going to do these songs live.
"It's very cool."
ONE OF THESE NIGHTS
The music of the Eagles and Fleetwood Mac Civic Theatre Friday, May 23, 8pm
Tickets from Invercargill City Council TicketDirect, $40
The Southland Times