Beatles Back2Back

Beatles Back2BackFriday evening last at the Sydney Opera House I had the pleasure of hearing the albums 'Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band' and 'Abbey Road' in the 'Back2Back' concert series. These two contemporary masterpieces have been described by some as 'Two of the greatest albums of all time' (Rolling Stone), and under the musical direction of Rex Goh and Vocal Director Lindsay Field, the 'Back2Back' concert drew together some of Australia's finest musicians and singers to take us on a journey back in time.

The evening kicked off to a packed house with a rousing rendition of 'Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band', the title piece of the Beatle's eighth studio album of the same name which appeared in June of 1967. Segueing into 'Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, the fabulous Jack Jones (aka Irwin Thomas) of 'Southern Sons' fame took to the stage with style and a voice to make you swoon. Not having had the pleasure of hearing or seeing this performer before, over the course of the evening I became increasingly amazed by his immense talent. The voice is beautiful, his phrasing sensitive and his ability to make you sit up and listen undeniable – why Irwin Thomas is not a household name is anyone's guess! In the second half of the evening he sang 'I want you', the final song from the 'A' side of  'Abbey Road' (the Beatle's eleventh studio album released in September 1969). Irwin's humbling and unforgettable rendition of this song and his jaw-dropping guitar playing were the highlight of the evening.

Although the evening definitely belonged to Irwin Thomas, the other performers were also really great. The line up included Doug Parkinson, who sang with a wonderfully mighty voice, and I would have loved to hear more from him although his smoky vocal quality strayed so far from any of the vocal tones associated with 'The Beatles' that it seemed a little odd – it was impossible to listen to these famous songs without imagining the originals.

Tim Morrison who sang 'Getting Better all the Time' displayed a nice growly rock tone and real commitment to his performance, although his rock singer stage antics seemed odd in the concert hall. The audience were largely 'mature' and yet Tim sang bent down at times to the front row, trying to reach their hands as though they were teenagers. Given the fact that Tim is rather fit and good looking, I can only assume that the old ladies quite enjoyed this!

Tim also sang 'When I'm sixty-four' and 'Something' which were both impressive performances – particularly 'Something' which allowed him to show off the powerful and stable top of his voice. This young artist is talented and going places, I just hope that trusting in his significant ability will allow him to present a more relaxed persona to the audience.

'Lovely Rita' and 'Oh! Darling' were sung by 'Aria Hall of Fame' inductee, King of Pop and Australian Icon Russell Morris, whose gravelly tone perfectly suited 'Oh! Darling' which McCartney sang on the 'Abbey Road' album – apparently on the day of the recording McCartney sang a lot beforehand to obtain the gravelly sound. Russell Morris is a seasoned and humble performer and he often gave praise to his fellow performer Irwin Thomas during the evening. It seems that he regularly wears a black hat whilst on stage and whilst this looks stylish it is rather reminiscent of Walter White from 'Breaking Bad'.

Last but definitely not least, Jon Toogood – the frontman for New Zealand's eminent rock band 'Shihad' and another 'Hall of Fame' inductee  – made a charming and significant contribution to the success of the evening. His stage presence is affable and his voice, whilst more suited to upbeat songs than ballades, is expressive and stable. Jon Toogood seems to get around the stage on springs rather than legs and although he forgot some of his lyrics in 'Maxwell's Silver Hammer' (not 'too good'), his rendition of 'A Day in the Life' was excellent and very reminiscent of Lennon's original.

The audience was clearly pleased with the singers and the fantastic musicians of the sixteen piece band. Many in the audience were transported back to their youth through the tunes and lyrics and could be seen singing along with those on stage. Somewhat of a shame though that there were so few youngsters in the audience and we can only hope that the education system might introduce them to these classic albums of the sixties.

Beatles Back2Back

Venue: Sydney Opera House
Dates: 2 – 4 Jan, 2014
Tickets: $89 – $149
Bookings: 02 9250 7777

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