Forte

The White Album: The 50th Anniversary Concert

Author: Helena Metzke

Four of Australia’s greatest male vocalists come together once again, for what is one of the most successful Beatles events ever to be staged in Australia.

THE BEATLES, ALSO KNOWN AS ‘THE WHITE ALBUM’ DUE ITS DISTINCTIVE PLAIN WHITE SLEEVE, IS THE NINTH STUDIO ALBUM BY CRITICALLY-ACCLAIMED ROCK BAND, THE BEATLES.

50 years on, the album remains a renowned work of art, which continues to be celebrated around the world. Returning for the third time, following two sold-out tours in 2009, and 2014, Chris Cheney (The Living End), Phil Jamieson (Grinspoon), Tim Rogers (You Am I), and Australian singer-songwriter Josh Pyke, are reconvening to once again honour The White Album.

“It still has something to offer,” begins Chris Cheney, lead-vocalist and guitarist of The Living End. “It’s not nostalgia – it’s not great just because it’s a nostalgic record – I think it still pushes the boundaries, it’s still odd and fascinating, and it’s powerful.”

“It’s got everything in there,” he says. “Take something like ‘Black Bird’, surrounding human rights movements, or something like ‘Piggies’, which looks at confronting authority.

“And then you’ve just got these weird and wacky, beautiful songs woven in between.”

Cheney was approached some years ago by Tim Woods, promoter of The White Album Concert, when the notion of the tour was initially put forward to him.

“There was a bit of hesitation at first, because I’d never really done anything like this before,” explains Cheney. “And I think playing something like a Beatles song – one song here and there is okay – but to do an entire performance, well, the last thing I wanted to partake in was a tribute band or a covers act.”

“But when I found out that Phil, Tim, and Josh were involved, it was like, ‘Okay, this isn’t just going to be a cheesy cover band,’” he continues. “I realised this was something where we were all hopefully going to bring something unique to the table, and it’s been absolutely magical, which is why we’re now doing it for the third time.”

Performing The White Album in full, from beginning to end, Chris, Phil, Tim and Josh maintain they are not imitating the works of John, Paul, George and Ringo, but rather celebrating them. “There are enough Beatles covers bands out there, who sing in Liverpool accents and pretend they’re The Beatles,” expresses Cheney. “And that’s just not our kind of thing, really.”

“We all come from different backgrounds, and it’s obviously been something that has reacted well among audiences; us putting our own stamp on it,” says Cheney. “But in saying that, it’s sacred material, and it’s something you don’t want to stuff up.

“We’re very aware of where we’re treading, and we’re just giving it a different spin; we’re not adding to it, and we’re hopefully not taking away from it.”

Widely regarded as the most influential band in music history, it was commonplace for The Beatles to break genre boundaries. Drawing from an extensive pool of influences, the four-piece experimented with a variety of genres, including pop, rock, folk, and blues, just to name a few.

“The main thing I’ve drawn from them [in my own musical career] is that it’s okay to have diversity in your music – it’s okay to have lots of different influences,” says Cheney. “And so I guess I’ve tried to sort of channel my influences, the same way that they did theirs.”

“They weren’t afraid to borrow ideas from other people, and they wore their influences on their sleeve,” he says. “And I like to think I’m trying to channel The Beatles influences as well, when I’m performing my set of tracks off The White Album.

“If I’m playing something like ‘Back in the U.S.S.R’, I know that Paul McCartney was influenced by a cross between Chuck Berry and The Beach Boys, you know, that sort of vibe, that real ‘50s rock n’ roll, which is my kind of background.

“We really try and get into the essence of what The Beatles were trying to do, and we’re not just copying their version.”

Backed by a 17-piece orchestra, which is led by musical director Rex Goh, the ensemble will feature guitars, strings, and horns, as well as two drummers, causing the concert to be a true spectacle.

Celebrating its 50th anniversary, The White Album continues to hold its mark in history, as one of the most progressive works of its time, and titles The Beatles as true geniuses of their craft.

“I seriously pity anyone who is just like, ‘I’ve never really listened to The Beatles,’ or, ‘I’ve never paid much attention to them’, because I think you’re really missing out,” expresses Cheney wholeheartedly. “There are a lot of great bands out there, and they’re just one of them, but to not have a knowledge of their work, or to not have any Beatles records in your collection, is a bloody tragedy.”

When & Where:
Hamer Hall, Melbourne – July 13 and 14