THIS REVIEW WAS PUBLISHED IN UK ROCK MAGAZINE DECEMBER 2009
BigBoppa's Rock n'Roll Club, Enfield, Winter Special
Roy Orbison (Iain Sparks) Friday 8th October
By including Orbison's version of The Great Pretender" ("Crying" album), Ian Sparks as Roy Orbison summed up quite nicely the theme of the BigBoppa's tribute weekend. Both Iain and Graham relied
on pre-recorded technology which worked fine for their musical back drop, and both sang on microphone and played guitars, not mimed as some tributes annoyingly do.
Friday was not quite a packed house, but it was a first time for Iain at Boppa's, and a friendly chat revealed several funny and interesting stories from his many years as a musician, having played the world over. One worth repeating was that in the early days as a semi pro as a hotel chef, on the same day he had provided Barbara Orbison lunch, that evening he also landed the Roy Orbison part on the West End stage. A coincidence indeed..
Donning a wig and shades, Iain morphed into the Big 'O' for his 2.5 hours set, and the resemblance was creepily close. I guess most of us were on the edges of our seats wondering if he was going to reach that first high note in his opener "Only The Lonely, and this he did with ease to good applause, at that point we settled down knowing the rest of the performance would be class.
The 15 Orbison numbers sung that night included one of his last recordings with the Travelling Wilbury's "You're Not Alone Anymore," but it was "Mean Woman Blues" with live harmonica which got the dancers to the floor. "Pretty Woman" had the audience hand-clapping and a yelpin', but I was curious to how Iain was going to handle "Crying", and with a nod to Del Boy (actually Philip Pope's Tony Angelo), Iain said he was going to sing it straight, another excellent version of an Orby classic.
Interestingly Iain mixed up the evening with some soul material, OK, not UK Rock fodder, but his treatment of some Ben E. King and Temptations material shows how diverse this Roy Orbison is. I am sure he would have paid homage to Solomon Burke if he was aware of Solomon's recent demise. A groovin' self penned "Play Me Some Music" had Iain on the dance floor, but I could have done with a miss of the Beatles stuff, however BigBoppa's rock n'roll patrons don't appear to resent the 1960's British beat boy bands. His repertoire for the night of 25 songs just included the one Sun label recording, Claudette from Roy, and none from the Elvis material in the second set which was mainly 1960s, in fact we had really just two true rockers "Teddy Bear" and "Don't Be Cruel" plus Roy's version of "Mean Woman Blues".
Mike Deasey was probably more desperate than Iain to get the dancers up, but I did not see too many of the usual Wednesday night jiving fraternity present. Iain acknowledged his audience listens to, rather than dances to the popular Orbison ballads. A more rockin' second set would have scored points, nevertheless a very entertaining evening with a warm bond between the audience and entertainer.
Buddy Holly (Graham Holly) Saturday 9th October
Graham was a resounding success at last year's BigBoppa's, with patrons insisting on his return. Saturday night was no different with many new guests attending to see what all the fuss was about. A cool character, smart in dark suit, bow tie and a Fender Stratocaster strung around his neck, Graham is an intelligent re-incarnation of the Lubbock legend, and his performance is forthright and amusing, but not twee or a send-up. Where Iain as Roy attempted a quiet Texan accent, and was more jokey, Graham kept it fairly straight. Of course all the hits were delivered and I just refer to a few later on. Graham had a good interaction with the audience, and one question he pitched referred to the origin of "That'll Be The Day" title, a clue was a deep John Wayne drawl which indicated it was taken from the 1956 film "The Searchers, "not Frankenstein" Graham added. He also reminded us that this was Buddy's first number one hit, not in the UK, but in the USA. Again the question was asked if "Maybe Baby" had similar origins – the question remains unanswered. Graham introduced one song "that was always heard on a Sunday", "Heartbeat" of course, followed by" Not Fade Away" with the story of how the rhythm was beat out on a cardboard box. "Think It Over" was the first song to get several dancers up, and that was when the Holly magic took its grip, Graham, could do no wrong. "Fools Paradise" was a number little heard nowadays, and much mirth when Graham asked if there were any thigh slappers in the audience, a reference to "Everyday".
After the break Graham came on in his snappy two tone Western jacket, and with a carefully constructed set basically tore up the dance floor with a mix of classic rock n'roll, e.g. "All Shook Up", "Rip It Up", "Summertime Blues", "Jailhouse Rock", and a hand clapping "Cotton Fields". The finale was a return to Buddy with the audience singing along to "Guess It Doesn't Matter Any More". The fast "You're So Square", the rockabilly "Rock Around With Ollie Vee" and a packed dance floor for "Rave On",. "Peggy Sue" and the Decca rockabilly Nashville version of "That'll Be The Day" finished another brilliant evening. I was a bit puzzled again why there were not many of the usual Wednesday rock n'roll dance crowd, perhaps a good job since guests this night were jiving anywhere they could find room.
Impresario Mike Deasey should be acclaimed for booking two quality musicians over the two successive nights, a risk that hopefully paid off.