The Hollies 50th Anniversary Tour Review
Fifty years in the business is no mean feat. The Hollies, at least the two original members, Tony Hicks and Bobby Elliott, have toured every one of these 50 years. The entire band looks in good shape in spite of, or maybe because of, all that touring. Tony Hicks especially looks just as he did in the early days. He is definitely drinking from the fountain of youth; either that or he has a very dodgy picture hanging in his attic.
The band came on to the tight jive rhythm of the intro sound and the fantastically lit stage with coloured pools and swirls casting across it as droplets of light hung in the background, alternating over the night’s performance with a gorgeous blue starry sky. They were all clad in black like puppeteers, as if giving the music itself centre stage.
The audience was already doing high hand clapping and foot tapping but it actually subsided and the reaction felt restrained as if they needed permission to let go. It wasn’t until about three songs in that vocalist Peter Howarth spoke to the audience and over the piece there was not enough interaction with the fans. Towards the end of the second half, there was some real engagement when they encouraged the audience to dance, sing, clap etc. And they did, with gusto, but it felt too late. As concert goers know, it’s part of the live concert experience to engage with the performers.
The first half included old favourites like I Can’t Let Go, Jennifer Eccles, Yes, I Will, On A Carousel, King Midas in Reverse and The Baby, all performed consummately with the Hollies’ trademark close three part harmonies.
The tight version of Look Through Any Window somehow felt acoustic although it was all electric. In the second half the band was dressed more individually and the atmosphere felt livelier. It featured a beautifully blended medley including Here I Go Again and Gasoline Alley sung by Hicks, Lauri and Stiles that seemed to bring out the best and really sounded like the original Hollies.
Another string of hits like Sorry Suzanne, Bus Stop, Just One Look, Stay, Long Cool Woman in a Black were played with smooth, professional aplomb. Peter Howarth’s solo version with acoustic guitar of I Can’t Tell the Bottom from the Top was a pleasure to hear.
Tony Hicks, a real live Johnny B Goode, exemplified his fine string skills with a sitar solo and Bobby Elliott’s drumming is superlative. Hicks later showed his virtuosity on the banjo, that he managed to make sound like a train, leading up to the band’s fabulous climactic finale with the absolute greats Stop, Stop, Stop, He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother, The Air That I Breathe and a fine acapella encore.
The band gives off a real feeling of being on top of their game and of working well together on stage. Keyboard player Ian Parker was lively and engaging throughout, moving among the audience and fellow band members towards the end.
The Hollies’ musicianship cannot be faulted but the overall concert experience was a disappointment and felt like a bit of a static spectacle. Maybe they were being kind to this audience whose heads were back in the ‘60s but whose bodies were (mostly) in their 60s.