Les McKeown And The Bay City Rollers Story
Eden Court, Inverness
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THERE’S always something a bit depressing about a half-empty theatre, more so if it’s unexpected.
Somehow it had been easy to assume before the show that the hyped-up power of teenage yesteryears recalled and a late flurry of press attention would translate into bums on seats for LES MCKEOWN’S BAY CITY ROLLERS STORY.
But short of physically transporting you back in a time machine to substitute creaky joints and fading eyesight for boy-crazy crushes and an ear for cheesy pop, Les and his band couldn’t have shown his 300-odd fiftysomething fans a better time.
The show opened and ended tapping into blood-stirring Scottish anthems Scotland The Brave and Flower Of Scotland. Before the curtains even opened, the bagpipes’ rousing battle-cry ignited a simmering excitement and tartan scarves were raised high as most of the audience got to their feet.
Twenty tracks from Remember (Sha La La) to an exultant Bye Bye Baby soundtracked a journey deep into Bay City heaven – and hell.
The strangely joyful 50s American high school doo-wop of sing-alongs like Keep On Dancin’ cracked open dusty lyric-banks in the brain. Les’s between-song BCR potted history lesson had just the odd wry remark about the sleazier characters in the band’s chequered past.
Perfect sound, an impressively versatile, talented band, Les’s upbeat banter and a voice that just got better as it warmed up, charmed.
Not sure the chuggy new song Connection hinted at a new BCR golden era.
But Les’s moving cover Killing The Blues – “a song that has stayed with me” hinted that his career could embrace a new direction any time he chose.
The lyrics go “Someone said they saw me swinging the world by the tail”. And Les’s own wild man past made Friday’s hard-working, constantly-smiling performer - who barely broke sweat in a punishingly full-on set – a revelation.
Les singing Shang A Lang sounds a lot like an alternative national anthem for a country that loves its heroes flawed - and rocking a bit of tartan.