Routes Jukebox is the second instalment of LIMF’s series of ‘Music Migrations’ Commissions. Getintothis’ Paul Riley took a refreshingly different look at Liverpool’s musical heritage.
After a slightly difficult start to day one at St George’s Hall, LIMF struck gold at The Epstein Theatre tonight with Routes Jukebox: Liverpool From New York and Beyond. Musically directed by producer Steve Levine, the show looked at influences that shaped the music of the city.
Musical cabaret is an old, and rarely done thing these days, and after tonight we’d like to see a bit more of it. It doesn’t have to feel cliché. It was a fitting medium with which to look at how the unique history of Liverpool has made it so creative. Drummer Steve White, Lightning Seeds’ bassist Martyn Campbell and Waterboys’ pianist Richard Naiff made up a backing band which supported a cast of musicians who looked at key records that came into Liverpool from America after WWII.
The performance included songs by Lonnie Donegan, Leadbelly, Elvis, The Everly Brothers, The Searchers and even Jamaican rocksteady vocalist Alton Ellis, all woven into the story by BBC Radio 2’s Janice Long, who narrated from a 50’s radio booth at the side of the stage.
Natalie McCool beautifully sang traditional She Moved Through The Fair and a hair-raising version of Billy Fury’s A Wondrous Place. R&B singer Terri Walker’s considerable vocal talents made for a stunning rendition of Anyone Who Had a Heart, originally by Dionne Warwick and then released in the UK by Cilla Black. Perhaps the longest of the numerous breaks for applause was for Mic Lowry’s incredible five part vocal arrangement of The Chants‘ Doo Wop classic Sweet Was the Wine.
Rather than risk running out of compliments, we’ll just note that superlative musical performances abounded in a show that proved we don’t need a maudlin singalong to Ferry Cross the Mersey and 47 choruses of Hey Jude to celebrate Liverpool.
After the first part of the performance, Squeeze’s Chris Difford played a selection of tunes including Pulling Mussels from a Shell and The Farm performed songs including Groovy Train, both of which made a fair part of the audience deliriously happy.
A short interval, and then Liverpool’s story was brought bang up to date with Dave McCabe and The Ramifications. Scallies in black dresses, masks and 3-stripe playing dark, angular disco vibes and the odd ballad, with a cheeky smile and tongues firmly in cheeks. Bleeps, clicks and Moog/P Bass led grooves with numerous nods to the musical styles celebrated at the beginning of the evening. Boss.
An evening that was fantastically curated and a joy to watch, Routes Jukebox was much greater than the sum of its parts.
Photos by Getintothis’ Martin Waters