Classical Mystery Tour is a Beatles tribute band who answer the question of what the Beatles playing live with an orchestra would have sounded like. For three shows, the band stopped in Winnipeg, Canada, to perform with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra (WSO.)
Unlike the Jeans and Classics band, who performed the music of Queen with the WSO a few months ago, these guys are a true tribute band as they dress up like the Beatles and talk and sing like them — with the accents. Two members of the band looked a lot like John Lennon and Paul McCartney. Some of the members of Classical Mystery Tour performed in Beatlemania musical revue.
Two minutes before show time, it was announced that due to a faulty fire alarm, everyone had to exit the hall and go the front of the building. People were still filtering out of the lobby and heading our of the front doors when suddenly, some people on the inside reversed direction and began to head for their seats. The fire trucks did arrive, but I never saw any firemen enter the building. This incident caused a delay of about twenty minutes. Around 2,000 fans at Centennial Concert Hall were inconvenienced, but the few who I overheard talk about it, mostly laughed it off.
The WSO began the show with a medley of well-known Beatles material. After the applause, the four members of Classical Mystery Tour walked onto the stage, waving and dressed in black suits with skinny ties. Many members of audience seemed to taken back by the costumes. Right away, I was surprised by how much Tony Kishman looked, moved, sang, and spoke like Sir Paul McCartney. From my seat in the 11th row, I'm not sure I could have noticed the difference if a 20-something McCartney was standing beside Kishman. The guy who performed as George Harrison, Tom Teely, didn't look anything like him, but he sang just fine on the Harrison-penned "Here Comes The Sun," and "Something," and handled the lead guitar parts without missing a note.
During "Sgt Pepper," the orchestra members actually did vocalize and clap the audience parts that are part of the recording. Prior to playing the song, the band left the stage for a quick costume change and reappeared in the colorful Sgt Pepper uniforms, long-hair wigs and mustaches, much to the delight of the crowd.
Drummer Chris Camilleri doesn't look much like Ringo Starr, but he spoke like him and drummed like a Ringo clone. His lead vocals on Yellow Submarine and the lesser-known "Good Night," from the White Album, were close enough to continue the illusion that this was The Beatles. Truthfully, the latter song wasn't well received by the audience, since few people really know it. They should have selected something else.
The 1973 McCartney song "Live and Let Die," from the James Bond film of the same name, was also performed with much aplomb and all the bombast of the original. Not to be undone, the member who changed costumes the most, Jim Owen (John Lennon), strolled onto the stage in a an-white suit with long hair parted in the middle, to a response of more gasps of surprise, and began Lennon's 1971 smash, "Imagine." Lennon's vocals were expertly mimicked by Owen, right down to the nasal sound. It was a surreal performance.
After completing the first two sets, The band returned after less than a minute, to perform "Hey, Jude," followed quickly by the evening's final song, "Twist and Shout," which involved almost everyone in the room standing and dancing, even the members of the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra. Conductor Richard Lee looks about as docile and as straight-laced as you can get, but he made his way to the front of the stage and strutted like a peacock, much to the delight of the audience. At one point, in true rock star form, he removed his tux jacket, whipped it around and around and gestured as if he was about to toss it into the audience. The already animated crowd hooted and hollered in response to his teasing. Not ready to call it a night, Lee actually made his way down to the front row and danced up a storm with a woman, again to the delight of the crowd. Seeing the WSO musicians up and shimmying was also quite a sight, and a most unexpected one.
The sound of a live orchestra with the music of a live Beatles tribute band worked. If you think about it, there are several tracks the band recorded that utilized orchestral sounds. Probably the highlight for me would be the performance of "Penny Lane," which has a strong trumpet component. After the song was performed, the conductor and band members pointed out trumpeter Todd Lawton, who stood for a few moments to take in the massive applause.
The Beatles began around fifty years ago, which seems hard to believe, but their music truly spans generations of fans. Most of the audience appeared to be the typical WSO crowd, people in their 60s and 70s, but I did see many younger fans and a few who looked as if they would be quite at home at a punk rock show.
While a copy is never going to be as good or as significant as an original, sometimes a copy is all you need to have a really good time.
Beatles Medley Overture arr: Martin Herman
Got To Get You Into My Life
A Hard Day's Night
I Saw Her Standing There
All You Need Is Love
Here Comes The Sun
Sgt Pepper/ With A Little Help From My Friends
A Day In The Life
Magical Mystery Tour
I Am the Walrus
The Long and Winding Road
Live and Let Die