12 months on from the death of one of the few people who can genuinely claim the mantle of ‘the Fifth Beatle’, producer George Martin, and in a year when we’re sure to hear a lot of the phrase “It was 50 years ago today…”, now seems like as good a time as any to celebrate the Fab Four’s unbeatable catalogue.
Beatles tribute shows generally tend to fall into one of two categories: they’re either overly earnest or overly cabaret (think wigs, moustaches, et cetera), and most should be avoided in favour of staying at home and playing the records again. From Mania To Revolution’s crack band of Melbourne power-pop luminaries, known as The Zapples and led by You Am I’s Davey Lane, managed to avoid both pitfalls to turn out a show fun enough for both the casual fan and the super nerds.
Much like The Beatles’ career, the show came in two halves: the mop top years of 1962-1966 and the studio years of 1967-1970. The first set brought blistering renditions of Merseybeat classics ‘Please Please Me’ and ‘It Won’t Be Long’ (featuring Linda Bull) before Radio Birdman’s Rob Younger melded the sneer of The Rolling Stones’ version with the cockiness of The Beatles’ own reading of ‘I Wanna Be Your Man’.
From there, it steered into the peak Beatlemania territory of ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ and ‘Help!’. Kram (Spiderbait) made his first appearance on a jaunty ‘Eight Days A Week’ before The Church’s Steve Kilbey added his laconic vocals to ‘You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away’. Both men joined together to become Paul and John, respectively, on ‘We Can Work It Out’.
One of the highlights of part one was when Zapples member Ash Naylor (Even) joined Linda Bull for the stirring ‘In My Life’. Keyboardist James Fleming added his own twist on George Martin’s peculiar piano solo from the original.
The first set closed with a healthy serving of Revolver goodies. Kram returned for ‘For No One’, reproducing the French horn solo with his mouth. Abby Dobson (Leonardo’s Bride) showcased her impressive vocal range with sublime takes on ‘Here There And Everywhere’ and ‘Got To Get You Into My Life’. It rounded off with the electrifying ‘She Said She Said’ and an absolutely mesmerising version of ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’ that saw drummer Brett Wolfenden pound out one of Ringo’s finest moments like a man possessed.
Part two saw the band out of their mop top regalia and into more colourful attire for the 1967-1970 era. The Clouds’ Jodi Phillis opened the second half by singing ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’, her favourite song of all time, to aplomb. Linda Bull gave it her all on ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ before Wolfenden took centre stage to uncannily channel Ringo’s Billy Shears alter ego during ‘With A Little Help From My Friends’.
Naylor took the lead for ‘A Day In The Life’, with Lane taking McCartney’s middle section. Kilbey hit the verbose ‘I Am The Walrus’ with sly grandiosity. Phillis returned for an ethereal reading of ‘The Fool On The Hill’.
Undoubtedly one of the deepest of Beatles deep cuts, ‘Hey Bulldog’ provided one of the night’s absolute highlights with Lane and Naylor duelling guitars, Fleming rattling out the track’s rollicking piano riff and Wolfenden thumping the tubs with delight.
For ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’, Lane took as inspiration the demo version with only acoustic and organ accompaniment. This performance also featured the originally unused third verse. Younger sliced his way through ‘Glass Onion’ with further sneer. Kram barrelled his way through ‘Everybody’s Got Something To Hide Except Me And My Monkey’ and ‘Helter Skelter’, the latter dissolving into a cacophony of crashing cymbals and wailing guitars, very much as intended.
Bull showed off her soul chops on ‘Oh! Darling’ before Naylor took the lead for a glorious ‘Something’. Both Wolfenden and bass player Nick Murphy aced the intricacies of their respective parts.
A rocking ‘Come Together’ nearly ended it all before the night’s performers hit the stage for ‘Golden Slumbers’ and ‘The End’. It was a rousing end to a show that could have gone on so much longer.
It’s rare you’ll see a Beatles tribute show where the likes of ‘It’s Only Love’, ‘Hey Bulldog’ and ‘Everybody’s Got Something To Hide Except Me And My Monkey’ get a run ahead of ‘Hey Jude’ and ‘Yesterday’, but From Mania To Revolution wasn’t an ordinary tribute. Striking the perfect balance between reverence and irreverence, it was clearly put on by people who absolutely love the source material and weren’t just out to suckle at the teat of golden nostalgia.
Originally published in The Brag.