Spencer Leigh at the Mathew Street Festival 2006 in Liverpool
This is a longer version of the review which appeared in Record Collector November 2006
For 20 years, I have been watching the Beatles Convention grow in Liverpool over the August bank holiday weekend. 350,000 attended this year’s festivities which incorporated the full-blooded Mathew Street Festival with five open air stages including a large one at the Pier Head.
On Friday night I had to choose between The Bootleg Beatles at the Empire and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra at the Pier Head. Having seen the Boots many times, I picked the Phil with its new conductor, Vasily Petrenko from St Petersburg. Never in his wildest dreams could he have predicted that his first gig would be accompanying Pete Wylie. Wylie commented, “I didn’t think there was a stage big enough for 75 musicians and my ego.” He sang Heart As Big As Liverpool with more light and shade than usual, and Garry Christian of the Christians excelled with Father. The concert ended with a fabulous Pictures At An Exhibition complete with fireworks, but why do the locals bring their dogs to open air concerts? The poor mutts can’t see anything and, of course, go berserk once the fireworks start.
Jennifer John and Thomas Lang sang You’ll Never Walk Alone with the Phil but it was too intricate for the crowd to join in. The following morning Gerry and the Pacemakers did the same song, but Gerry performs the ballad like a pub singalong. Gerry knows how to work an audience and they loved everything he did, which included The Way You Look Tonight and Ferry Cross The Mersey, sung with the ferries in view.
The Proclaimers were too serious for me – bit like inviting Gordon Brown to your party – although they performed Letter From America and Cap In Hand very well. Everybody was waiting for Craig and Charlie to thump out the beat for 500 Miles, and that certainly didn’t disappoint. I didn’t expect much from Doctor and the Medics but they had a well-paced and entertaining act inviting us to do the Time Warp again and shout out Hi Ho Silver Lining. Their Liverpool-born lead singer, Clive Jackson, said that they would sing a medley of their hits and just performed Spirit In The Sky with one of the group disguised as the Grim Reaper. With equal zaniness, I enjoyed Lyons and Tigers on the new music stage. With their lead vocalist Curtis Tigers, they aped around on I’m A Monkey and OAP Love (“Honey you don’t look your age, 76 and you look good in beige”).
During the day, there was the Beatles auction at Paul McCartney’s LIPA, which provides good entertainment even if you aren’t buying anything. A bookcase Paul made when he was 14 fetched £1,900 and the fact that it is still standing after 50 years shows he could have sung If I Were A Carpenter with conviction. Silence greeted the bidding for a signed photograph of Heather Mills McCartney, but when the bids started, it fetched £13. George Harrison’s memorabilia is now on a par with McCarney’s if not Lennon’s, but Ringo’s is trailing behind.