published: 24 /
Steve White, who plays Paul McCartney, talks to Nick Dent-Robinson about touring with the ultimate tribute band, the Bootleg Beatles.
Beatlemania lives on - and over 55 years since the “fab four” were first topping the UK record charts, the Bootleg Beatles are still touring and playing to capacity audiences.
Often described as the “ultimate tribute band”, the Bootleg Beatles are probably the best in the world at what they do. They originally emerged from the 'Beatlemania' show which was an American production that hit the West End in the late 1970s and subsequently toured. After that show ended, the Bootleg Beatles decided to undertake their own tour and they have been selling out theatres ever since. Over time the band's performance has developed and in 2017 they were joined by the Liverpool Philharmonic orchestra in various venues celebrating the 50th anniversary of the 'Sergeant Pepper' album.
The current line-up of the Bootleg Beatles is Tyson Kelly as John, Steve White as Paul, Stephen Hill as George and Gordon Elsmore as Ringo.
Steve (“Paul”) is a native of Nottingham and he explained how he went about the daunting task of portraying the world's best known left-handed bassist.
“Well, there wasn't an advert saying, 'Wanted – bass player, must be left-handed'. No, I'd just been in lots of 60s tribute bands and had played rhythm or sometimes bass guitar. We were always being asked to do Beatles numbers and one of the bands started to do mostly that material. As rhythm guitarist I used to play John's role but then a lot of people said I looked very like Paul. As Paul's left-handed and I am not, I started the process of initially learning all his bass parts right-handed before buying a bass and restringing it left handed. A huge amount of practice followed – but in the end I got the knack and now I can pass as a pucker left-handed bass guitarist!”
The show is in four sections going through the Beatles' distinctive eras.
“We do it all in chronological order,” Steve says. “The first half is the Mop Tops era and then we introduce more musicians - actually these days it's a small orchestra – for numbers like 'All You Need Is Love'.
After the interval it's the 'Magical Mystery' era and then 'Abbey Road' and the late career music. This year is the 50th anniversary of the 'White Album'and quite a chunk of the current tour is dedicated to that. We usually do 'Back in the USSR','Dear Prudence', 'Ob-La-Di-Ob'La-Da', 'Blackbird' and 'My Guitar Gently Weeps'.
A whole part of the show has been completely revamped which is exciting for us as well as our audiences. The music truly is timeless and always such a huge pleasure to play.”
The members of the Bootleg Beatles are all highly accomplished musicians and I wonder if there might be times when they yearn to do their own thing, play their own compositions in their own way?
“It is just so great to have audiences react to us as brilliantly as they always do, that I'm not sure we could ever really top what we do for a living,” Steve responds cheerfully. “There have been so many wonderful moments - and both Paul McCartney as well as the late George Martin have been very encouraging to us and complimentary. It truly is a privilege to perform this material for audiences in 2019, some of whom are surprisingly young. I really don't think I could ask more than that, career-wise! We are all very very happy with our current roles!”