What an interesting week for reviews it’s been so far. Last night in Wimbledon, This is Elvis showcased the 50th anniversary of his ’68 Comeback Special leading into the ‘Vegas’ years but, the night before that, Richmond Theatre’s roof was not only raised but blown clean off when Buddy Holly and The Cricketers featuring The English Rock and Roll Orchestra came through London’s leafy suburb to also celebrate another anniversary – exactly sixty years since Buddy Holly and The Crickets toured the UK. And what a fascinating comparison both evenings provided.
Whereas, by 1968, Elvis was making a tense return to a new era of live performing after a stint in the army and an extensive film career, the recreation of Buddy Holly’s UK tour could only represent the pinnacle of his popularity and short 21-month career (with the singer’s life being cut tragically short in February 1959 in that infamous plane crash).
2018’s 22-date UK tour, produced by Simon Fielder, is presented as a 1958 concert but, with today’s technology, arguably offers a far superior sound reproduction than was available in the late 50s. My masterstroke was celebrating Mother’s Day by bringing Nanny Sardines along. Aged just nineteen in 1958 it was fascinating hearing how she felt transported back in time by half a century. The excitement and emotion emanating from the lady on the cover of our magazine was also reflected right around Richmond’s auditorium as nostalgia won the day culminating in the whole crowd up on their feet at the end for the rip-roaring final medley of rock ‘n’ roll hits.
Rave On, Oh Boy!, Everyday, That’ll Be the Day, Not Fade Away, Peggy Sue, True Love Ways, Maybe Baby, Raining in My Heart, It Doesn’t Matter Anymore... the list is seemingly endless, plus a handful of covers such as At the Hop, Jonny B Goode and Brown-Eyed Handsome Man. This is pure 50s Rock ‘n’ Roll with a helping of Gospel thrown in – and the crowds are loving it.
As 22-year-old Buddy Holly, Gordon Taggart fits the bill perfectly and, together with the Cricketers (Conner Arnold, Alan Grice, Brad Brunsdon and Nick Player), the talented band show just how much fun was to be had on both sides of the stage back in the day. It’s quite obvious that in 2018 this lot are also loving what they do which even spilled out into the foyer post-show when they hung around to meet the elated audience as they filed out of Richmond Theatre. There’s just something undeniably infectious about the birth of this music that you cannot help enjoying.
The inclusion of the seven-piece English Rock and Roll Orchestra (4 strings, 1 harp, 1 trumpet and a sax) is a real added bonus and allows Holly’s later music to flourish; in fact it’s incredible just how much Buddy Holly’s songs evolved in such a short amount of time. The addition of strings to his output was truly groundbreaking at the time making the singer a true pioneer and major influence on groups such as The Beatles and The Rolling Stones.
You really have to be there, folks! You’ll have the time of your lives. But, as in 1958, this tour will be over before April so go to www.simonfielder.com/english-rock-roll-orchestra for dates and details.