As the curtain rises, the audience is greeted by a black and white video clip of screaming, adoring fans. The band members join in the cheering as they come on stage and launch into the first song of the evening. The tableau is almost uncanny, the intention to perform the songs as the Beatles did, down to the details of dress and hair. It is exactly what you’d expect from a tribute show, until the moment it isn’t. The band disperses and Lee-Ann Fortuin makes an impressive silhouetted entrance and stuns the audience’s catcalls to silence (momentarily at least) with her vocal range. Wild cheers from the crowd. Then the band returns, minus the wigs and costumes.
Lead singer Cedric Vandenschrik explains that they are not a tribute band, but rather a band doing a tribute show. And that means that they also offer their own interpretation of the Beatles’ songs. The rest of the show is just that – the better known songs presented in the band’s unique way. The journey is seamless, beginning with what is known and expected and slipping into the unknown, comforted by the songs we know best. Two more snippets from original footage add to the ambience, my favourite being from the Beatles’ performance at the Royal Variety Show in 1963 when John Lennon delivered the legendary line: “Will the people in the cheaper seats clap your hands? And the rest of you, if you'll just rattle your jewellery..."
Just as the lead-singer announces that the next few songs “will bring the Beatles into the 21st century,” the lights go off. The band rallies – loadshedding now being an expected part of 21st century South Africa – and performs acoustic snippets from a few choice songs, specifically those to which the audience can easily sing along. The campfire-like intimacy and the enjoyment on the band-members’ faces, along with the gusto if not vocal skill of the audience, is a real highlight of the evening. Moments later, lights are back on and so is the show.
As frontman, Vandenschrik has a commanding and engaging stage presence, though I much preferred his performances sans the Beatle wig. The inclusion of Lee-Anne Fortuin also brings new life to the Beatle classics, as can be gauged by the enthusiastic response of the audience. Guitarist Jeandre Schultz adds an extra layer of enjoyment to the show, despite his slightly dodgy vocals. But it is the guitar-playing, singing pianist Chad Zerf who is the standout performer of the band.
Most of the great songs make their appearance in the lineup: ‘She Loves You’, ‘Help’, ‘Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds’, I Wanna Hold Your Hand’, ‘Ticket to Ride’, ‘Sgt Pepper`s Lonely Hearts Club Band’, and ‘Yellow Submarine’ to name a few. The show ended on a high note, with a call for more from the audience and an obliging performance of ‘Hey Jude’ and ‘Hard Day’s Night’ – with a little dance number by Vandenschrik and Fortuin to cap it all. Exactly the right amount of nostalgia and novelty make this show well worth the ticket.
All You Need Is Love runs at the Roxy Revue Bar at GrandWest, Cape Town,3 April to 27 June 2015.