50 years since the release of The Beatles' revolutionary Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, the album still lives on as timeless classic (returning to number one in the charts last week). So to celebrate one of the most influential records of all time, we went along to The Jazz Cafe to watch their all-star band perform Sgt. Pepper from start to finish, as well as a number of other Beatles classics.
Sgt. Pepper is a challenging album to cover (The Beatles never intended it to be performed live), given all of the experimental sounds and prepared instruments, but the band didn’t leave anything out. This is partially thanks to the keyboardist’s, Ciara Haidar, diverse abilities to cover so many different styles (while singing at the same time) along with her sexy Nord keyboard (totally jeal). We did wonder what they were going to do when they got to ‘She’s Leaving Home’, but they were joined by a 5-piece string section who delivered a touching, sensitive rendition of the song that left the audience in awe, in spite of the previously energetic atmosphere.
The event had probably sold out judging by the amount of people in there – it seemed completely full. The audience had a comforting mix of ages and tastes, but the crowd members singing along with the most enthusiasm, as if the songs were national anthems, were the dads. In proportion to The Beatles infinite fan base, there are only a handful of people who were lucky enough to see the legendary band live before their split in 1969. You can be as pessimistic as you like about tribute bands, but performers like these, dedicated to doing other artists’ work justice, give us all the opportunity to celebrate the music in its best environment (even though its originators may no longer be with us).
Every single track performed from Sgt. Pepper sounded as close to the original versions as you can really get with a live performance, so hats off to the band for absolutely nailing the sound. Outside of the dad-led singalongs of ‘With A Little Help From My Friends’ and ‘When I’m Sixty Four’, as well the crowd pleasing ‘Getting Better’, the band played a number of great tunes from The Beatles back catalogue. The heavily participating audience were on great form, which you’d expect with a night like this, so the band kept everyone’s spirits high by belting out hits like ‘I Am The Walrus’ and ‘Come Together’; there was a particularly impressive rendition of Eric Clapton’s guitar solo on ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’ from Liam Hart. John Robinson and Paul Cousins, on guitar and bass respectively, were accompanied by Charlie Love on drums and Ned Crowther on percussion, every single member of the band was singing and loving the atmosphere; any performance feels elevated by a band properly enjoying themselves, which is what it’s all about after all.
This 50th anniversary celebration was a marvellous way to remember the lasting impact of The Beatles (there’s also a great documentary about Sgt. Pepper on BBC iplayer worth watching), with a DJ playing Beatles related tunes before, during, and after the set. The DJ was throwing on tracks like ‘Don’t Let Me Down’ and Wilson Pickett’s cover of ‘Hey Jude’, as well as songs from each members solo career, with The Wings and John Lennon all making appearances. The Jazz Cafe always put on great events like this, it’s a venue where they completely understand and share a passion for all types of music, with a true appreciation of great musicians, good sound, and a stylish setting, so we can’t really fault it. It was a wonderful way for fans to embrace the nostalgia and relive this musical masterpiece, we just want to be there chanting along to ‘Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds’ all over again.