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the searchers


THE SEARCHERS CONCERT 2017 – Playhouse Whitley Bay

Back in the day, when I was a 14 year old kid, I remember growing up in a house full of music, all from completely different tastes and genres.  My brother, blasting out “Save Me”, the latest hit from Queen – from the big bedroom at the back.  I had the small front bedroom, the acoustics weren’t as good, nor was my Ferguson record player, but the album on repeat was always “Absolutely”, by Madness.  “Embarrassment” had the most crackles on it.  Without doubt though, the sweetest music came from downstairs, tracks from the 60’s spun on an immaculately kept Pioneer turntable, the sound amplified by a Rank Audio amp and the final notes vibrating through beautiful Wharfdale speakers.  Our living room hi-fi was the holy grail to any audiophile, and sometimes, on special occasions, I was allowed to use it.  I loved browsing through my parents vinyl collection, flipping slowly through the 33’s – past albums with images of Lonnie Donegan, The Beatles, Byrds, Kinks, Animals, Roy Orbison and finally coming to rest at one album in particular – “Meet The Searchers”.

To give you some background info, The Searchers are a four piece group that formed in Liverpool in the late 50’s, early 60’s.  Yes, they’ve been around quite some time, their career has spanned 5 long decades and in that time they’ve sold in excess of 50 million records – they still tour the world today.  60’s Liverpool must have been the coolest place to be, influential bands were sprouting up on every corner and these “skiffle or beat groups” went on to dominate the UK charts, and music in general. Tonight’s line up is a little different to the guys that started the group back in the 60’s.  50 years in the music business takes it toll, and in that time band members came and went, but not John McNally who stayed true to the Searchers and is the only original band member playing in tonight’s concert.  John (lead guitar and vocals) is closely followed by Frank Allen (bass guitarist and vocals) who joined the band in 1964, shortly after they started.  He is regarded, by many, as one of the finest front men to ever command a stage.  Spencer James (guitar and vocals) is one of the new recruits, well he’s been a Searcher for around 31 years – the last member to join is the Drummer “Scott Ottaway” who’s done a 7 year stretch.  The Searchers UK tour, tonight, takes them to the “Playhouse Whitley Bay” where a full house awaits them.

The lights dim, a shroud of darkness cloaks the stage rendering the audience deathly silent. After a few brief seconds, a flicker of bright red light, accompanied by the thump of a bass drum, in a heartbeat rhythm, breaks the silence and illuminates the instruments on a deserted stage.  Thump, thump – gradually, along with a few added one fingered keyboard notes, the beat gets faster.  Blue lights, followed by green and yellow enter the fray, it all sounds a little “Close Encounters”.  Finally, in an explosion of blinding white light, the Searchers take their rightful place.  Wasting no time, and getting the audience involved, almost immediately, the quartet launch straight into “Sweet for my sweet”- a loud chorus of “honey for my honey” echoing right back at them.  A good few hits are covered early on with fine renditions of “Its too late” and “Don’t throw your love away” to name a few.  Each song is introduced, after waiting for the applause to die down, by Frank McNally in fine style with good old banter and funny anecdotes of days gone by.  He makes this look easy. T he foursome, immaculately dressed in identical dark tailored suits, white shirts and smart ties, not only look the part, they actually sound exactly like my parents “Searchers” album, but without the crackles and slight imperfections.  Just over an hour in and its interval time, these guys are in need of a sit down and a cuppa – and to be honest, so am I after all that singing, dancing and clapping.

30 minutes disappears in what seems like half an hour and just where they left off, the Searchers were back on track, this time the stiff white shirts replaced with fresh black ones.  A few covers are the order of the day with brilliant tributes played to The Byrds “Tambourine Man” and my all time favourite, Buddy Holly’s “Peggy Sue”.  Both these songs, and quite a few other covers, were all played to perfection, in fact, there wasn’t a missed note or lost key the whole night.  One track I’d never heard before “Bumble Bee”, popular in Australia but never released in the UK, was a big hit with the audience, who were now spell-bound.  The only way to follow this would be with “Love Potion No9” which they did, and it was fantastic.  The night came to a close with a medley of their greatest hits, which went down a storm with the aisle dancing folk. A brilliant night was had by all with plenty of feel good factor thrown it – I’ve still got a smile on my face now, while typing this blog.  I’m not quite sure what the “Searchers” were actually looking for, but on tonight’s performance, I think they’ve finally found it – at the “Playhouse Whitley Bay”.

~a guest Blog by John Gregson from Blade Printers for Nights Out In Newcastle.



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