The impossibly youthful County Cavan band The Whereabouts introduce Beatles aficionados, The Beatelles at the Out To Lunch festival
When five young men in a rock ‘n’ roll group called The Beatles travelled to Hamburg, Germany in the summer of 1960 to begin a residency – first at the Indra club and then the Kaiserkeller – they were far from seasoned musicians.
Used to simply standing on stage and playing songs, the band were advised by the clubs’ owner Bruno Koschmider that if they were to entertain the motley group of customers – which included prostitutes and drunken, frequently fighting off-duty sailors – they would have to ‘Mach schau, mach schau!’ (make a show), which the band duly did. Those long months of playing and entertaining difficult audiences would ultimately lead to the legendary performances at The Cavern in Liverpool which drew the attention of manager Brian Epstein.
The rest, as they say, is history. The crowd which filled the Black Box, Belfast to see female Beatles tribute act The Beatelles are a much more civilised bunch than that which used to fill the Kaiserkeller, of course. The only danger of injury amongst this audience would be if an elderly hip was put out of joint by over-exuberant dancing.
Before the main event the crowd are treated to the rhythm & blues styling’s of impossibly youthful County Cavan band The Whereabouts. Stylishly suited and booted, the boys from Kingscourt raise the temperature in the room with a series of brilliantly played songs including Chuck Berry’s ‘Too Much Monkey Business’ and The Who’s ‘My Generation.’
Front man Wayne Watters has the brooding presence of a young Lee Brilleaux and their final number, a storming harmonica assisted take on ELO’s ‘Don’t Bring Me Down’ was worthy of Brilleaux’s band, the mighty Dr. Feelgood.
‘They must put something in the water down in Cavan,’ the Out To Lunch compère exclaims at the end of the extremely well-received set, in reference no doubt to fellow Cavan R&B youngsters The Strypes.
Introducing headliners The Beatelles, the same compère informs the audience that ‘George Harrison is pregnant’ – which garners a few laughs – so the band will be performing as a three piece.
Formed in 2007 by guitarist Catherine Cook – the absent ‘pregnant George’ – The Beatelles (scousers all) are the UK’s only female Beatles tribute band. The trio present tonight are Stephanie Kennedy (John) on vocals and guitar, Louisa Roach (Paul) on bass, and Sian Monaghan (Ringo) on drums.
The set kicks off with ‘(I Wanna) Hold Your Hand,’ which the band begin as a tender, aching ballad before moving through the gears to a more familiar, uptempo version. A quick one two of Barrett Strong’s ‘Money’ (a Beatles staple) and Gene Vincent’s ‘Be-Bop-a-Lula’ is followed by ‘Old Brown Shoe,’ a less familiar George Harrison penned number from 1969.
So far it’s hard to get a handle on the band. Granted, they seem to show both love and familiarity with The Beatles back catalogue. They are also more than competent musicians.
Yet the performance feels a little flat. Perhaps it’s playing as a trio rather than a four-piece that gives the feeling that something is missing – the extra guitar and vocal harmonies perhaps.
The band don’t do themselves any favours by seeming unprepared. They discuss onstage what number they should do next, talk about other female Beatles tribute acts (Japanese mostly) who dress in 60’s gear and do ‘all the John and Paul moves’ as Kennedy says. The Beatelles decided not to bother with all that, but rather to ‘wear short skirts and… sell lots of tickets.’
And so the set continues in a slightly schizophrenic way. Upbeat crowd pleasers (‘Love Me Do,’ ‘Drive My Car’) are interspersed with later, more blues based Beatles songs (‘I’m Guilty,’ ‘Why Don’t We Do It in the Road’). The audience are also treated to songs by other 60’s greats, including the Rolling Stones’ ‘(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction’ and The Animals ‘We Gotta Get Out Of This Place’. In between, the two singers blather away to one another, share private jokes (often at the expense of the drummer) and fitfully engage the audience. The gig concludes with an interesting, slowed down take on ‘Helter Skelter.’
The Beatelles are not a bad band. If you stumbled across them in a pub, club, or as the entertainment at a friend’s wedding you would very much enjoy them. But as a headlining act at a festival they are found wanting (at least as a trio). The band need to put more work into entertaining a crowd. Perhaps they should take the advice of Bruno Koschmider, the club owner whose admonition to The Beatles in Hamburg had such a positive impact on them. Of the two bands on show tonight, only one understood the importance of ‘Mach schau!’ And it wasn’t the band from Liverpool.