Phil Hopkins, Arts & Travel Editor

No Prohibition For The Bootleg Beatles 40 Years On

If durability is any way to measure the success of a band then surely The Bootleg Beatles must now be standing shoulder to shoulder with the likes of The Rolling Stones?

Formed in 1980 this lookalike four-piece, along with nine classical musicians, stage crew, lighting and sound men – a veritable tour bus – is now in its third line up since it was formed almost four decades ago.

And what a slick tour de force the ‘Bootlegs’ are.

Surely the original ‘tribute band’, they played St George’s Hall in Bradford last night and, whilst it would be easy to wax lyrical about a band that ‘knocked ‘em dead’ – and they did with a host of sound-perfect numbers from the Beatles’ back catalogue – it is as intriguing to understand why this formulaic group has proved so popular with audiences across the world.

Hey Jude, Back in the USSR, Penny Lane, Strawberry Fields Forever, they were all there along with a capacity audience who screamed, cheered and got to their feet.

Supported by slick, well-edited video throughout – always careful to avoid images of the original Fab Four in order to keep the emphasis on the current band – small talk was kept to a minimum as the band segued from number to number seamlessly.

Apparently it took some time for The Bootleg Beatles to achieve traction in the UK after they were first formed all those years ago, even though they had already been adopted by countries across the globe from America to the USSR, India to Israel.

But now, they are an established part of musical royalty, touring annually and invariably selling out at some pretty hefty venues.

But, what is their appeal?

Simple really. Apart from being VERY good, they place the emphasis on the music with minimum chat in between, giving the audience what they want from any original band, let alone a copycat, hit after hit after hit; they concertina the lives of four men into two hours of distilled musical quality.

They are also authentic and have, over the years, invested heavily in presentation. There’s the nine piece support orchestra which brings the likes of Penny Lane and Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band to life, the costumes, live-action cameras and projected video that runs throughout.

The Bootleg’s take people back to a time when things were simpler. Everyone knew their place, there was no political correctness and, whilst things weren’t perfect, the video portrays a warm image of nostalgia and that’s really appealing in these gloomy days. The Bootlegs are the personification of escapism.

Music, emotion and authenticity, that’s The Bootleg Beatles. They don’t have a winning formula, they have discovered the very elixir of life and, if they continue pedal this potion, it is almost a given that they will continue to please generations to come.


Forthcoming December Gigs: Yorkshire & Lancashire
Liverpool: Philharmonic Hall Dec 8th
Sheffield: City Hall Dec 10th
Manchester: Bridgewater Hall Dec 13th
Harrogate: Royal Hall Dec 19th