Come Together: The White Album: Aotea Centre Nov. 12, 2022

Come Together celebrates The Beatles White Album live and in person at Auckland’s Aotea Centre. 13th Floor’s Carin Newbould and Ivan Karczewski were on the job!

Julia Deans, Dianne Swann, Jon Toogood, Samuel Flynn Scott, James Milne, Brett Adams, Finn Scholes, Jol Mulholland, Matthias Jordan, Mike Hall, Alistair Deverick, Nick Atkinson

Knowing in advance what the set list would comprise – a trip through The Beatles’ eclectic, somewhat disjointed but much-loved “White Album” – this was never going to be a mystery tour. However, with a dazzling line-up of kiwi talent tackling the diverse genres and musical challenges of this seminal double album, it was definitely a unique and truly magical gig.

With 30 tracks to get through (not to mention bonus additions – more on that later!), no  one in the packed auditorium could say that they didn’t get their money’s worth. The audience was in high spirits, clearly anticipating a great night of familiar music. Kicking off with Jon Toogood’s high energy delivery of “Back in the U.S.S.R.”, his comment of “It’s so good to be here!” drew an enthusiastic response.

Julia Deans changed the pace with her rendition of “Dear Prudence”, heavy on the drums and evocative of Siouxsie and the Banshees’ 80s cover. Deans was consistently stellar in her performance throughout the evening, taking lead vocals on “Martha My Dear” and  “Happiness Is A Warm Gun”, whilst striding and slinking her way around the stage. Dianne Swann showed her versatility throughout the night, tackling “I’m So Tired” and “I Will” alongside the guitarists, changing the pace for “Long, Long, Long Time” and leading the audience in a singalong of feelgood “shooby do”s for “Revolution 1”. As relevant today as back when the album was released in 1968, we still proclaimed that “we all want to change the world”, but for tonight felt that “it’s gonna be alright”.

There were plenty of singalong, happy numbers included amongst the more sombre, reflective elements of the album. People got up to dance along to “Ob La Di, Ob La Da” (surely a track as divisive as Marmite in terms of lovers and haters?), joined in with “The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill” and clapped with enthusiasm to “Why Don’t We Do It In The Road?”. The feelgood vibes were further ramped up with Dianne Swann’s announcement that New Zealand had triumphed over England in the Rugby World Cup, although clearly the audience were more invested in the White Album than the Black Ferns on this particular night! The ensemble were clearly having fun with numbers such as “Piggies”, “Rocky Raccoon” and “Honey Pie”, featuring the inimitable Finn Scholes on trumpet. Alongside Nick Atkinson on saxophone, the brass duo contributed hugely to many of the songs and were obviously paramount in the finale.

Alistair Deverick on drums got his Ringo Starr vocal moment in singing “Don’t Pass Me By” and in delivering powerhouse rhythms throughout the evening, notably in “Dear Prudence”. But the guitars were the stars of the show, ranging from soft acoustics for “Julia” and “Mother Nature’s Son”, through the experimental avant-garde vibes of “Revolution 9” to the thrash elements of “Birthday”, which opened up the second half to an energetic and rapturous response. Julia Deans and Jon Toogood also showed their guitar skills in an amazing, whole ensemble rendition of “Helter Skelter”, which alongside “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” and crowd favourite “Blackbird” were the standouts of the evening. “Helter Skelter” was fresh, exciting and could have been a contemporary track, rather than something released over 50 years ago! “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” was brilliantly performed and a real treat, showcasing Brett Adams’ accomplished guitar skills. The simplicity of “Blackbird”, delivered superbly by James Milne, again had the audience singing along.

Milne also performed the rather contentious “Sexy Sadie”, whilst The Phoenix Foundation’s Samuel Flynn Scott tackled “Savoy Truffle” and “Cry Baby Cry”, also contributing to the majority of ensemble pieces. Shihad’s Jon Toogood did much of the heavy lifting of the night, but making it look effortless. He established himself immediately with “Back in the U.S.S.R.”, added his guitar skills and a huge amount of energy to “Helter Skelter” and gave an awesome heavier rock dimension to “Everybody’s Got Something To Hide”. He absolutely owned “Yer Blues”, leaving the stage during the extended instrumental break to run into the middle of the audience, much to their surprise and appreciation.

The ”White Album” finishes with “Good Night”, in this instance a powerhouse performance showcasing Julia Deans’ rich, soaring vocals. Of course, we knew it wouldn’t actually be “goodnight” at this point, despite having had 30 tracks covered. The ensemble proceed to deliver a brilliant medley from Abbey Road, starting with “Because (The World Is Round)” and concluding with another singalong classic “Carry That Weight”. For the encore, “A Day In The Life” counterpointed “All You Need Is Love”, getting everyone to their feet in a joyous and definitively feelgood celebratory finale.

There was little to criticise in what was truly a brilliantly performed, wonderful trip through one of the most revered albums of all time… unless you were the chap who repeatedly requested “Norwegian Wood”! Despite his vociferous campaigning, sadly it didn’t feature. Maybe this exciting, skilled ensemble will “Come Together” again next year, unconstrained by the album cover format, to deliver a different selection of Beatles tracks? I’m certain it’d be a sell-out, as last night’s audience would undoubtedly relish another chance to experience more of their favourite songs.

Review by Carin Newbould

Click on any image to view a photo gallery by Ivan Karczewski:

 

SET LIST (THE WHITE ALBUM)

  • Back In The U.S.S.R.
  • Dear Prudence
  • Glass Onion
  • Ob La Di, Ob La Da
  • Wild Honey Pie
  • The Continuing Story Of Bungalow Bill
  • While My Guitar Gently Weeps
  • Happiness Is A Warm Gun
  • Martha My Dear
  • I’m So Tired
  • Blackbird
  • Piggies
  • Rocky Raccoon
  • Don’t Pass Me By
  • Why Don’t We Do It In The Road
  • I Will
  • Julia
  • Birthday
  • Yer Blues
  • Mother Nature’s Son
  • Everybody’s Got Something To Hide
  • Sexy Sadie
  • Helter Skelter
  • Long, Long, Long Time
  • Revolution 1
  • Honey Pie
  • Savoy Truffle
  • Cry Baby Cry
  • Revolution 9
  • Good Night

ABBEY ROAD MEDLEY

  • Because (The World Is Round)
  • You Never Give Me Your Money
  • Sun King
  • Mean Mr. Mustard
  • She Came In Through The Bathroom Window
  • Golden Slumbers
  • Carry That Weight

 

 

ENCORE

 

  • A Day In The Life
  • All You Need Is Love

 

Carin Newbould