Monday, 6 April 2009

Gerry and the Pacemakers

Last night, I took my father to see Gerry and the Pacemakers in concert at the Opera House in Wellington. It was Dad's birthday present from last year; he is good at finding ways to get me to pay to take him to concerts he wants to see. ;-)

Technically, the concert was Gerry Marsden and a backing band; there was not a pacemaker in sight on stage, although I'm guessing there were several in the audience. Fair enough; it was a 50th anniversary tour. Except for a 10-year-old girl sitting in front of me, I was probably the youngest person there by about 30 years. (Ok, ok - Dad is only 28 years older than me, but you get the picture.)

Growing up in a musical household, I was introduced to two distinct musical influences from the 1960s: Dad's early Mersey sound, and Mum's cheesy pop American hits 1960-1965. Over the years, I have developed a musical empathy for both styles and can see how they existed in parallel worlds before the British invasion hit during the mid-60s. As soon as Gerry opened his mouth and delighted us with his broad Liverpudlian accent, there was no denying which camp he was representing, although he did play several crossover covers during the night.

The rhythm section (drummer and bass player) were tight and the guitarist (musical director) had obviously worked hard to establish a new musical direction for the group's sound. The keyboard player eventually woke up; I'm not sure why he was there for the first hour or so. (Yes, I'm probably unfairly hard on keyboard players; it takes one to know one.)

Local actor-cum Dancing With the Stars-cum wannabe singer Shane Cortese started the show with the backing band, playing a set of rock and roll-style numbers and a few obscure covers. He has great energy and has obviously done a lot of work developing his vocal skills in recent years. It was hard to stay enthused though; the break in between his set and the main event was excruciating long as well, while Shane was out front "signing merchandise", or trying to convince as many punters as possible to part with their money.

And so Gerry began his set. He's very short (it was funny watching roadies lower his mic stand and lower it again), entertaining, and his voice is still well pitched with a similar tone to his younger days. The high notes weren't a problem, but anything below a certain range was noticeably moved up a note or two. His constant banter throughout the evening added humour and warmth. It was a bit strange having him ask for the house lights to remain on during the whole concert so he could see the audience; weren't we there to see him?

There were far too many 'filler' songs for my liking; covers from an eclectic song list which didn't necessarily go well together or add anything to the song being covered. We were all there for Ferry Cross the Mersey; I'm not sure if I like the treatment the rhythm section gave it. The concert ended with the ultimate tearjerker, You'll Never Walk Alone. Despite trying not to, I couldn't help crying, as I have done every time I've heard this song since it was played at my boyfriend's funeral 15 1/2 years ago. The Liverpool football fans were happy, though, and more than a few red scarves were waved around for effect.

All in all, an ok concert but not one to rave about. Dad seemed to enjoy hearing some of the B-songs that his band played in the 60s. As I was leaving, I realised that this is the only concert of this type that I have been to since Stevie Wonder in Christchurch, and my next concert will be Simon and Garfunkel in Auckland in June. With that in mind, it's hard to compare with musical legends on that scale.

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