Will The Fifty Year Old Teenagers Please Stand Up!

The Rubettes

Theatre Severn

15 April 2016

If you are a fifty something, then one imagines you will clearly remember the Rubettes. Dishing out their Teeny Bopper Music in their pristine white suits and their trademark big white caps, they painted a noticeable image in the landscape of our past.

Should they have stayed there with so many groups that the pop charts had to offer us? Tonight’s show has answered that question with a resounding NO!!

With three original members Alan Williams, John Richardson and Mick Clarke still beavering away and new boy Steve Etherington earning his salt, the band gave a performance as crisp and relevant to today as they ever did, all those school discos ago.

With enough instruments on the stage to please the London Philharmonic the band split their show into two very different halves.

The first half was a much more relaxed style almost “unplugged.” In this set the boys demonstrated their stupendous vocals, song writing skills and pure musicianship. Laughing with their audience they gave the impression that they were laid back and kind of busking , what they called their, “experimental,” first half.

One could however argue , especially after their synchronised Teiko drumming section that they were anything but unrehearsed. Their performance was as tight as the drumskins they were collectively and so musically beating.

It would be hard to find a song as beautiful from that era of pop, than Randy Vanwarmer’s, "Just when I needed you most," However it would be increasingly more difficult to hear it sung better than The Rubettes' version. One suspects there were several watery eyes in the audience as Steve Etherington turned in to his own personal triumph. It was simply beautiful.

Although they go out as The Rubettes featuring Alan Williams, whilst Williams was without doubt was featuring highly in each song, so did they all. Each member offered up an equal percentage of talent and that is probably why they can still go out on stage and do what they have always done….only better!

But Williams was a star and brought the memories flooding back as he belted out his top C with the clarity and strength that he always had. How can a man of 67 hit such a high falsetto ? There’s no answer to that other than the man has enough talent for ten .

The second half was more as one  might imagine a Rubettes show to go. Out came the suits, out came the big Frisbee caps and out came their massive hits. "Juke Box Jive", "Yea, I can do it" and the incredibly catchy, "Sugar Baby Love."

When us of a certain age would watch Top Of The Pops back in the day, parents would stare and growl about the shocking state of British Pop. What they didn’t pick up on was the charts were made up of real musicians, real players and artists who would be strutting their stuff night in night out learning their trade. It is thanks to those guys that we have such great music around us now day in day out. Stuff that shocked our parents.

One feels that Pop is now a cynically run marketing scam where real musicians, real players are pushed out of the way for manufactured  pap!

I defy any of these boy bands or supergroups of the today's selection, to be climbing on stages throughout the UK  in forty years’  time and offering up the level of talent that filled the space tonight.  I would love to watch anyone from JLS or One Direction make their guitars speak to us in the way that Mick Clarke and Alam Williams can do.

However what we shouldn’t do is mourn for the passing of this older music. It hasn’t gone away. If a musician is enjoying success, he doesn’t lose the ability to play on his fortieth birthday  It is still possible for him to keep on playing and improving and writing and creating. It is only the expectations of a highly judgemental society that suggest old musicians have to stop. They don’t, they know that and shows like tonights’ will prove to us the public, that misconception is an inaccurate and unwelcome one

A guitar string plucked by a man of 67 is as sweet as one struck by a younger man.

I believe it was Joan Jett that suggested, Long Live Rock And Roll. Possibly so; but just to make sure of that edict long may the likes of The Rubettes  keep playing and proving, good music like wine improves with age.

This is a five star review.

Owen J. Lewis


Sofia Lewis Sofia Lewis
For many years Sofia wrote here under her male name Owen J. Lewis. She is now mostly writing under her own name of Sofia Lewis. Sofia, who worked on independent radio for over ten years, lives in Shrewsbury and writes plays. She has over 15 titles published and her plays are performed all over the world. She is especially popular in America. Her poetry is also often noted and she writes reams of it most weeks. Since graduating in theatre in 1997 Sofia has been an Actor, Filmmaker, and a Secondary School Teacher. Reviewing theatre is something she thoroughly enjoys and she loves to see great theatre. As a musician Sofia is known throughout the UK she is a folk singer, and is often seen or heard around her native county singing and having fun. Sofia has contributed to loveshrewsbury.com for over a decade and enjoys sharing her views on theatre. Sofia has one daughter and grew up in Church Stretton.

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