Review: The band the Beatles never were….The Rutles

Lifestyle / Fri 23rd Aug 2013 at 10:59am

The Rutles – The Square, Harlow:  21/08/13
By Gary Shaw

I DECIDED to get in the mood for tonight’s gig by listening to the Beatles on my way to the venue. I wanted to make it a level playing field for Neil Innes and co., so I played one of the Beatles’ Anthology albums released in 1996. To be honest, a lot of the music played tonight, could have fitted easily within the Anthology series. Remember, the Rutles are a Beatles pastiche act, not a parody. These are not comedic songs per se, more an imitation and in this instance, imitation really is the sincerest form of flattery.

Neil Innes originally wrote 20 songs back in the ’70s for the “All You Need Is Cash” (fake) TV documentary. There was then the addendum of a further 16 for the “Archeology” album in 1996. Tonight, they took the stage shortly before 9pm and played 27 of these, with a short break in between.

Neil had a birthday cake-shaped hat and enquired whether it was anyone’s birthday. No one replied, so the hat looked a wasted opportunity, but a young lady came forward at the break to announce it was to be her birthday on Saturday. At this news the band launched into an impromptu version of “Happy Birthday”. Happy birthday Rosa!

A lot of the songs are very close to the Beatles classics that inspired them. Some perilously so. If not for Neil Innes’ knowing the band, he may have had legal proceedings against him. In fact John Lennon apparently warned him not to use “Get Up And Go”, as it was too similar to “Get Back”. This was after he refused to return his video copy of the TV show!

As I mentioned, this wasn’t a night of comedy songs, but there was plenty of humorous banter between each number. Not just from Mr. Innes the leader, but also Mickey Simmonds the keyboard player and the other remaining original member John Halsey on drums.

This was a thoroughly enjoyable and entertaining evening. Feel free to kick yourself if you missed it. My favourite moments of the evening were the classic songs “I Must Be In Love” and “Cheese And Onion”, the pig masks worn for “Piggy In The Middle” and the newspaper-tearing solo on “Back In ’64”.

I should give mention to the stars in the audience as well. Founding member of Harlow band the Newtown Neurotics, Steve Drewitt, is a regular at the Square and tonight was certainly no exception. Also watching the show were Mickey Gallagher of The Blockheads and the legendary Chas Hodges of Chas and Dave.

Whilst chatting with friends in the interval about which songs they could play, I jokingly suggested they cover something from the George Harrison album “All Things Must Pass”. A triple vinyl released after the Beatles break-up in 1970, filled with tracks John and Paul rejected. The Rutles played the title track in the second half, presumably as a tribute to George who sadly passed away in 2001. I will be reading palms and tea leaves at future concerts!

I could tell that Neil Innes obviously has a lot of love for tonight’s musical template, namely Messrs Harrison, Lennon, McCartney and Starr. The Rutles are now on a national tour, we were indeed fortunate to have them play the Square, but then we’re lucky to have such a great local venue as the Square. The management recently celebrated their fifth anniversary.

Here’s hoping for many more. Thanks guys.
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