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The Bootleg Beatles and Orchestra, Symphony Hall, Birmingham - review

Across an alternative universe and with a little help from more than 70 friends, the final years of The Beatles were celebrated in a two-hour concert with a symphonic twist.

The Bootleg Beatles
The Bootleg Beatles

There were anniversaries galore as the 50 years since the release of Abbey Road were celebrated by The Bootleg Beatles, marking 40 years themselves since the alternative Fab Four kicked off in the West End with Beatlemania.

With the release of the 50th anniversary remaster of Abbey Road having just hit No. 1 in the album charts, there was a celebratory mood about the whole endeavour.

Master of ceremony Neil Innes, of Rutles and Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band fame, helped turn the clock back in comic style for the And In The End tour, celebrating The Beatles' final two albums, Abbey Road and Let It Be.

Supported by the massed ranks of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, under the baton of Richard Balcombe, The Bootlegs took us through the whole of Abbey Road, in sequence, a glorious sweep of different styles that ended, as on the album, not with the majesty of the Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight/The End medley but with the folksy 23-second McCartney curio Her Majesty (at least introduced in a comical way).

With specially composed arrangements by Ian Stephens, the 70-piece orchestra augmented the sound of the Bootlegs, in turn supporting the band or occasionally taking the lead themselves.

It was used to most thrilling effect in I Want You (She's So Heavy), the band and and orchestra swelling and melding, with Tyson Kelly, an uncanny Lennon lookalike and soundalike, taking centre stage.

The gentle strains of Something were beautifully augmented by the orchestra's strings, with Stephen Hill emoting beautifully as George, while Golden Slumbers found the horn section lifting the song into the heavens as Steve White captured Paul beautifully, thumbs up mannerisms and all.

Octopus's Garden saw Gordon Elsmore grab the vocal limelight too in inimitable Ringo style – he even sits like him at the drum kit.

The second half of the show started with just the band as the famous Apple rooftop concert was recreated, with even a trio of “police officers” arriving on stage to bring those proceedings to a halt prematurely during Get Back.

The Let It Be album was marked with a five-song selection with the orchestra back on board again; The Long and Winding Road, Across The Universe and the title track among them.

Finally we got the big arms aloft finale of Hey Jude, the non-album pre-Abbey Road hit that guarantees a hall full of na-na-na-naas, and the show ended as that album should have done with a reprise of, what else, but The End.

It's been said before that The Bootleg Beatles are “more than just a tribute band” and, if you can suspend disbelief (sitting near the back actually helps!) with a performance of such accuracy and spirit, you can't help but be swept away by the magic of a concert the likes of which the real Fab Four never gave themselves.

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