Back to the 60’s and 70’s for this one, accompanied by My Beloved Wife, as I had bought tickets for us as one of her Christmas presents. The Boy Wonder (while asleep in bed) was left in the capable hands of his oldest cousin, as we got a taxi into town (although having to confirm that the Phil was indeed in town and what road it was on led me to conclude that the driver certainly hadn’t done ‘the knowledge’…).
This was the perfect venue for this nostalgia-fest, and we were certainly at the very youngest end of the clientele age range. The Hollies have had more than thirty UK hit singles, spending 231 weeks on the chart in the 1960’s, the ninth highest of any artist in that decade. This meant that there was to be no support act, with the main band performing across two sets.
There are only two original members these days, drummer Bobby Elliott (the oldest at 73) and guitarist Tony Hicks. Bassist Ray Stiles has been with them since 1986, and was formerly in Mud. He’s now 68 and needed assistance from a roadie to get up and down the couple of steps his stool was placed on. Keyboardist Ian Parker joined five years later, with the current line-up completed by lead singer Peter Howarth and Steve Lauri on guitar. All of the band contributed backing vocals during the set, as they replicated their great harmony sounds to a good standard.
They kicked off with three timeless hits, “Here I Go Again”, “I Can’t Let Go” and the lovely “Sorry Suzanne”, all of which originally had reached the Top 5. The sound wasn’t the greatest, especially initially, but the band carried on regardless. Next came a rather charmless version of one of my favourite songs, “On A Carousel” from 1967.
The set hit a lull with an uninspiring Holland/Dozier/Holland tune called “Emotions” and 1965 album track “Very Last Day”. There were accordion and drum solos in “We’re Through”, before a guitar- and vocal-only start to the usually sublime “Look Through Any Window”, which unfortunately featured some OTT guitar solos. A couple of newer, less inspiring numbers came next, with the first part of the set climaxing with “Just One Look” and “Stay”, their first two Top 10 hits in the UK.
As youthful audience members on a mission, I was able to be first to the bar at the interval despite not being in the best position in the venue to get there, for an over-priced (but pleasant) bottle of Liverpool Organic’s Liverpool Pale Ale.
The second half kicked off with a fairly unnecessary version of “Stop! In The Name Of Love”, a non-hit from 1983, obviously much better known by The Supremes. More timeless songs followed though, with “Jennifer Eccles” (a song I always assume to be from a few years earlier than its actual 1968 release date) and “Yes I Will” being followed by the wonderfully-written (by Graham Gouldman, later of 10cc) “Bus Stop”.
Their first number one (of only two), 1965’s “I’m Alive” got the crowd going, before Hicks broke out what was described as a ‘sitar guitar’ for “The Baby”, with the instrument certainly being the highlight of the song. A fairly bland version of Bruce Springsteen’s “Sandy” was followed by the classic “Carrie Anne”, which hit number three in 1967, with a mass crowd sing-a-long.
One of my favourite Hollies tracks, “Stop Stop Stop”, was somewhat bluegrass-ified before the set ended with their two perennial big ballads – “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother” and “The Air That I Breathe”. Surprisingly, they did not reference the former’s return to the top spot when covered by The Justice Collective at Christmas 2012 to raise awareness of the Hillsborough Justice Campaign.
The ensuing standing ovation brought about what I suppose could technically be termed the encore, although the band didn’t actually leave the stage. They played “Long Cool Woman In A Black Dress”, a rockier number from 1972, so a bit of a disappointing end to proceedings, especially when realising that they didn’t perform “If I Needed Someone” (a George Harrison song that they took to the Top 20 in 1965) or the magnificent “King Midas In Reverse”.
However, they put on a pretty decent show, given their elderly status and the fact that only two of the band were original members. The show finished early enough for us to grab a quick pint in the Roscoe Head before catching the train home before it got particularly late.
I went for my red Parlophone Records t-shirt in honour of their record label between 1963 and 1972. The only other tee I spotted in the crowd was The Eagles, with most of the audience probably considering themselves to be too old for t-shirts, especially on a Saturday night out in town.
Here are some highlights from the set list: