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Reviews / Crowd-pleasing tribute from Them Beatles

Fab Four tribute act Them Beatles at Mareel on Friday night. Photo: Chris Brown

THE LINE UP of Lisa Ward and Them Beatles is an interesting pairing; the former a vibrant, passionate singer-songwriter whose work is varied and exciting; the latter a group of Glaswegians impersonating a band of Liverpudlians, singing songs that were released before any of them were born. Originality and tribute are a stark contrast, but not an unpleasant one in this case.

Lisa, who recently reached the later stages of BBC’s The Voice, was joined by her “hastily-assembled” band of Sarah Thomson and Craig Birnie (both of Deathstar Canteen) and Eamon Watt, who, we were told, had only learned the songs this week. Not that you would have guessed that fact; Eamon was a better drummer with only one week’s familiarity with the material than many regular drummers are with music they’ve been playing for years.

Most of the set was taken from Lisa’s recent EP ‘Liminal’, which was either bluesy, folky rock or rocky, bluesy folk. Either way, each number was original, different and played extremely well. The very few covers, Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’ and Skunk Anansie’s ‘Weak As I Am’, were clearly favourite songs, given the heart and soul Lisa poured into them.

The only negative was that the majority of the audience decided to skip the support act, only showing up at the interval, and missing out on a show that was better than the headline act at many other gigs. Their loss.

The headliner of the evening was unusual Glaswegian tribute act Them Beatles.

Recent contestant on ITV's 'The Voice', Lisa Ward, opened the show. Photo: Chris Brown

Normally, the proof of the tribute act is this; how much do they sound like the originals? Them Beatles defy such a pedestrian test of quality. A tribute act, normally, restricts themselves to performing the songs of (usually with mixed success) and dressing as (rarely with any success) the band in question.

Not so for Them Beatles, who seem to be role-playing as the Fab Four as opposed to merely ‘tributing’ them. They had the haircuts, the clothes, the moves, even the accents. They referred to themselves only as John, Paul, George and Ringo, and played only period-appropriate, vintage instruments with similarly-vintage equipment to ensure an authentic sound. Most astonishingly, the right-handed Them Paul actually taught himself how to play left-handed bass in order to secure maximum accuracy points.

It certainly shows. Between the accents, the instruments and the effort, Them Beatles have secured a sound that’s as close to the Real Beatles as you’ll get without dusting off the White Album. The songs were spot-on (to the point of being genuinely indistinguishable from the real McCoy) and came thick and fast- very little chit-chat or banter with the audience left more room for more tunes.

Not content to merely do an incredible job of emulating the sound, the Faux Fab Four put on a show that acted as a sort of guide to the band’s whole career.

The first act was all the early-to-mid-sixties stuff that triggered the Beatlemania craze, complete with the matching ties and waistcoats.

The second act hit the mid-to-late-sixties era hard, with a complete costume change into very moddish-outfits and a string of numbers from the changing sound of that period (despite playing a couple of ‘Revolver’ tracks there was nary a sitar in sight).

The third and final act gave us the band’s fracture in seventies; songs sung by each member in turn, their hair (both up top and facial) and costumes now radically different to each other, to represent their inevitable parting of ways. It was a real treat for any Beatles fan.

Them Beatles managed to put the sizeable dance-floor to good use, keeping it occupied with twists, shivers and shakes from the first song til they brought the house down with the sing-along classic ‘Hey Jude’. Every song in all three acts was a crowd-pleaser, the attention to detail in their portrayal of the band was immaculate, their music was on par with a genuine recording, and most importantly, they were having as much fun as the audience. Maybe even more so.

Who are Them Beatles? Four guys who are better at being The Beatles now than The Beatles often were back in the day themselves.

Alex Garrick-Wright