show is in its 19th year, and word has got around: the audience
was eager for its nostalgia. Against a Carnaby Street backdrop,
the Manchester-based Dakotas provided the evening's backing as well
their own hits. Remember Bad to me and Little children?
the opening, on cruised Wayne Fontana, also Mancurian but looking
like a Mexican boss, with his white suit and ample girth. It was
Wayne who set the evening's musical hall tone, with quips about
waistlines and bladders. The audience looked its age, its greasy
quaffs and rhinestones set off by greying temples and walking sticks
so, their enthusiasm abounded for the golden-tressed Brian Hyland,
over from California. Brian churned out 12-bar standards to get
in the mood. Things speeded up with Slow down, and his performance
was capped by Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny
the interval, John Walker (Walker Brothers) came on, a Peter Cushing-Mr
Pickwick hybrid in green velvet and gold specs. Also Californian,
he soon forgot Oxford's rain, displaying his classy treacley vocals
in hits like Make it easy on yourself.
the audience primed, on bounced Peter Noone. It could have been
1964, year of I'm into something good with Herman's Hermits. Maybe
it was his country yokel act and yellow thatch, but Peter had what
it takes: teenie-boppers began writhing in the aisle, while a bunch
of 50-somethings burst up to the front to drool. Peter's routine
was jammed with numbers like No milk today and There's a kind of
hush, and won a standing ovation.
also struck by The Dakotas' Mike Maxfield, "on lead guitar
since 1962". Have they really been doing this for 40 years?
But if one musician stood out, it was Toni Baker, on keyboard for
the group. For me, his ability and versatility outsoared the rest.