Music

All You Need Is Beatles @ The Zoo, Brisbane (05/02/2011)

There are two types of punters who come to tribute gigs: those who want near-copies of their beloved originals to accompany their drinking and those who expect something more.

Despite the depth of talent crammed into a sweltering The Zoo tonight, it’s clear from the outset that only one group will go home happy. And drunk.

Art-rock band Drawn From Bees has collected an impressive range of local acts, organised and promoted this fifth annual The Beatles tribute night, and secured music journalist Ritchie Yorke as MC.

Try as I might, I don’t like Charlie Mayfair. They’re nice kids and their harmonies are sweet, but I just can’t get past the feeling I’ve heard it all before. The folk-pop outfit bumbles through All My Loving like it’s Helter Skelter, with each member determined to butcher the song in a different style. One singer gives it a blues sensibility, Hannah Shepherd plays it straight while the lead guitarist appears to be auditioning for The E Street Band.

She’s Leaving Home is equally disjointed and lacklustre, and a bungled first chorus leaves the singer suitably chastised and unable to recover the sweet, tense front the song requires. They crank it up a notch for Happiness Is A Warm Gun but with volume, they lose clarity. As they leave the stage, I wonder if the track should have been left for a band with more oomph and whether Charlie Mayfair should stick to playing Fleetwood Mac – uh, I mean – their own songs.

Lovers of Modern Art lay down a bass groove thick enough to skate on for mid-career classics Come Together (the riff from Foxy Lady is a nice touch) and Back In The USSR, which gets the weary crowd moving in what feels like 40 degree heat. It’s grand to see girls dancing The Stomp in their 60s-inspired frocks. Bless.

The crowd here is 20 and 30-something dags wearing their thinnest shirts, plus some older Beatles fans and parents of musicians. Band members alone tally 50 of the sold out room.

Grand Atlantic frontman Phil Usher joins Lovers of Modern Art for a rollicking version of Helter Skelter. He’s on the foldback speakers over the crowd doing the rock n roll scream. “Coming down fast now / Don’t let me break you,” he appeals. Aw, you’re no fun.

Between sets, Brisbane’s folk Godfather Ty Noonan serenades the crowd with some of the ballads, including Woman and Beautiful Boy. The fuzzy-headed man with a guitar and soul is a welcome reprieve from the rock.

It seems Inland Sea aren’t quite sure what they’re doing. There’s an on-stage tussle over who will sing the opening number, then what can only be described as a cacophonous cover of All You Need Is Love. Apparently, the song is not true because this band needs no fewer than nine members (one short tonight!) on stage at once. Guitarist Jeremy Hunter shrugs. “We figured it out, it was all right.” They recover for a surf-rock version of Paperback Writer, and as we collectively boogie and sweat out our beers, it feels like the a song about the best of summer.

Only half of Twenty Six are here tonight, bolstered by The Boat People’s Tony Garrett on drums. It’s clearly Twenty Six’s job to cover the acid years, with faithful versions of Strawberry Fields, Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds and Penny Lane. But it’s Tomorrow Never Knows that reminds us of The Beatles’ incredible legacy to modern music. This track is two degrees from modern electronica, and there’s even a trip-hop loop. Throw some keyboards over the top and you could have a thoroughly modern-sounding track from a group like Faithless.

Yorke tells us the gig is a sell out and we’ve raised $10,000 for Queensland flood victims. He says musicians struggle to know how to help in times of disaster. “They’re not plumbers, they can’t go out and do their bit for someone’s house. This is what they can do.”

Blame Ringo has less reason than any of the bands to be here tonight, supporting the Beatles’ legacy. Once called Goodnight Vienna, the band received a tersely worded legal letter from Richard Starkey’s lawyers in 2007 and had to change its name. Now they’re on a mission to “blame Ringo for everything”. They’re angst shines through when they manage to make even It’s Your Birthday sound sinister, with military-style drums.

Dear Grand Atlantic, if you take the Ferny Grove train to Mitchelton, there is a barber on Blackwood St that does $8 haircuts. I’ll even lend you my Go card. Still, it’s nice to see Bill Oddie has a career on bass guitar after The Goodies broke up.

Yorke returns to the stage to read a message Yoko Ono wrote for the crowd: “I wish all people in Queensland a safe recovery from the floods. It seems Mother Nature is expressing her anger at what we are doing to this planet.”

Ono and her late husband would have been proud of what happened next. Noonan returned to the stage to lead an all-in rendition of Give Peace a Chance and the friendly Zoo crowd raised the roof of what many consider a second living room. It was as if we were singing to any flood victims that happened to be walking past, to the ghost of John Lennon and to the tempestuous river that meanders through our city.

Headliners Drawn From Bees are developing an excellent reputation for their finely crafted art-rock releases and strong live show. They dive into Nowhere Man without too much adieu. “The world is at your command,” bass player Stew Riddle wails. During Run For Your Life, singer Dan James is so far out over the crowd, he’s out of spotlight range. He’s singing “Let this be a sermon” and his congregation is entranced. In an age when so many rock stars are espousing faux morals, it’s refreshing to see bands like Drawn From Bees looking after their own. It means we’re bound to keep looking out for them.