Last night I had the pleasure of attending a Searchers concert in Mandurah. There was a great deal to enjoy about this performance from a group that has its roots way back in 1957.
The current lineup has only one original member from 1957 (John McNally). Frank Allen joined in 1964, Spencer James in the eighties and Scott Ottaway in 2010 so it is a blend of old and new. John and Frank give the band a sense of credibility to be allowed to still be called a ‘sixties band’ and the others have made it possible for these two talented gentleman to continue doing what they obviously love.
They have been to Australia few times in the past but for one reason or another I chose not to attend. I would not class myself as a Searchers fan but they created enough hits in their time to keep any enthusiast of sixties music satisfied.
This show really comes together to entertain without coming across as too slick or a touch phoney which can be a danger for bands that have been playing as long as they have. The set list comprised of all the hits (not sure they could ever get away with not doing that) and some well chosen covers. Some songs were selected because there was a special reason for them to be included. It might be a dedication to a musician no longer with us or song they had always admired. There were a few songs that I had never heard that were lesser performing hits from early albums.
There were several things that stood out for me that made this concert memorable for all the right reasons.
There were stories. Lots of them. Stories about the songs, tales of the glory days, some name dropping and anecdotes about other musicians from yesteryear. All told with good grace and humour. It may be that they have told these stories a hundred times but it certainly did not come across that way.
The stories were there for a reason and people lapped them up with as much enthusiasm as the music itself.
The harmonies were terrific and they really delivered that sound that the band is renowned for.
It was kept simple. No gimmicks, no bling. They did not even have their name on the drum skin. Just four guys in matching suits giving us a little piece of themselves. It was all about them, the memories and the music.
A nice touch was the entry and exit music they played. I quite like the idea of using a certain tune to intro for every show. I like the consistency and the dependability of the idea. I think it is something I will incorporate into my performances.
Of course a show is rarely perfect and there were some things that stood out as not quite coming up to scratch for me personally.
They had a major issue with a loud crackling sound that was very obvious. They were aware of it and said they would deal with it in the break. Like them, I assumed it was a dodgy lead. Turned out to a problem with the bass amp and one they could not fix. It was disappointing that a solution could not be found as it was quite a distraction. They did apologise profusely and said that these things happen with live entertainment.
The vocal mix was not quite right for me. Spencer was too loud and overpowering at times which spoiled some of the harmonies. I am sure that Frank and John can hold their own and I believe a bit more subtlety was warranted.
The final thing that I found to be not up to standard happened when they came up to sign cd’s etc. They came out quite quick after the show as they had promised which was terrific. However they had taken a moment to change into various t-shirts from their lovely performing outfits. It took a moment for people to realise it was them. They shattered the illusion they had worked so hard to achieve on stage.
Aside from the great music and the interesting anecdotes one thing really stood out for me about this show. This is a band who really knows their audience. They know exactly how to get them on side and keep them there. They know how to speak to this group of people and how to make them laugh without insulting or offending anyone.
This is a skill well worth learning for any performer and The Searchers are a fabulous example of what it means to not just sing, but to ENTERTAIN! They took the audience on a memorable, musical journey and for a short time a group of older citizens were young again, and that is worth its weight in gold.