A few years back (2009 to be exact), I saw a similar show at the same venue that featured Mike Pender (ex The Searchers), Brian Poole, PJ Proby and Chris Farlowe, with backing by Vanity Fare, so I was keen to see how this compared to that memorable night...
After a quick warm-up by Vanity Fare (who played excellently throughout the evening), Brian Poole and The Tremeloes were introduced on stage. The first surprise was that the three members (Brian Poole, Chip Hawks and Dave Munden) all stood at the front of the stage without instruments, with backing by Vanity Fare. Second surprise was the shock of seeing how frail and thin Chip Hawkes looked, wearing a hat and a baggy suit that looked 2 sizes too big for him: he revealed later in the show (with as much humour as he could) that he’d recently undergone chemotherapy for cancer for the 2nd time in a few years, and consequently had lost his hair. He then said that he hated wearing hats, so through it aside! After getting over the initial shocks, I must say that they were excellent. Dave Munden looked a little lost being out front instead of beihind his drum kit (and I did notice that he was walking rather stiffly), but vocally they were all excellent, and they clearly are all great mates with a real rapport between them. They performed a selection of hits from both the Brian Poole and The Tremeloes eras, with Brian harmonising admirably on the latter. Songs included: Here Comes My Baby, My Little Lady, Suddenly You Love Me, Twist and Shout, Call Me Number One, Do You Love Me and Silence Is Golden.
Next on stage was Gerry and The Pacemakers. I saw them earlier in the year at
’s smaller Theatre
Royal, and I thought then he was excellent despite his obvious age. This time
he seemed noticeably less energetic and, despite attempts to hide it with
humour, a little grumpy (he’d also dyed what hair he has left brown, rather
than the more flattering white hair of earlier in the year). All the big hits were present and correct
though, and were generally well played and sung. There were a couple of
exceptions: when he started I’ll Be There, he had a “frog in the throat” and
started coughing, so he stopped the song, had a drink of water, then started
again, this time without mishap. The same cannot be said for I’m The One, where
he and the band seemed to play different things about halfway though, with the
song grinding to a messy halt. He tried not too successfully to make light of
it, but clearly both he and the keyboard player were annoyed with each other.
There then followed confusion as he said he’d play it again, but then proceeded
to play a different song instead. This
tour is announced as Gerry’s last (despite some dates already being booked for
2018), and when I saw him earlier in the year I thought any (semi-)retirement
was a little premature. However I now sadly think it’s the best thing to do
before things become too embarrassing. Margate
There then followed a 20 minute interval, so I took the opportunity to go to The Tremeloes’ merchandise stand to buy a CD, and get it signed by both Brian and Dave (Chips was nowhere to be seen, not surprising as the performance earlier couldn’t have been easy for him). I’d met Brian before and found him a lovely guy, but this time shook both his and Dave’s hands, thanking them for the music (Dave was lovely too!).
To start the 2nd half, Vanity Fare played 3 of their hits, and then they introduced Steve Ellis (ex-Love Affair). He performed 4 Love Affair hits + an enthusiastic cover of The Small Faces’ All Or Nothing, and remains in good voice, but I have to say he also came across as a bit of a t*sser, with few of the on stage graces needed for such a package show. Perhaps he's more suited to a smaller venue on his own…
Last of all were The Searchers. It was the first time I’d seen them in concert, and having heard good reports I was looking forward to them. Sadly, I found them a slight anti-climax. First of all, guitarist John McNally was sick so he was replaced by the guitarist from The Pacemakers. He played and sang all the right notes, but as he kept to a 6-string throughout, The Searchers trademark jangly 12-string sound for hits like Needles And Pins and Don’t Throw Your Love Away was missing. Secondly, the sound left a little to be desired, with Spencer James’ lead vocals often drowned out by the harmonies from the others. Add to that Frank Allen’s disconcerting blinking and screwing of the eyes (was he suffering an adverse reaction to contact lenses or does he always do that?), the overall result wasn’t what I expected. Most the hits were there, as well as fine covers of Del Shannon’s Runaway and Roy Orbison’s Running Scared, and to be fair they were competently performed, but I did find the band compared unfavourably to Mike Pender (with Vanity fare) a few years earlier.
Unlike on the Mike Pender / Brian Poole / PJ Proby /Chris Farlowe tour, there was no big grand finale featuring all the performers together, I’m guessing at least partly due to Chip Hawkes and Gerry Marsden’s frailty.
To summarise, an entertaining and memorable evening! If it was up to me though, I’d have Steve Ellis followed by the Searchers to play the first half, and then Gerry and The Pacemakers starting the 2nd with Brian Poole and The Tremeloes topping the bill.