Unless you checked out of reality back in August — or simply scrolled past our extensive coverage — you either heard about or managed to snag a ticket to one of the hottest tours in recent memory: the British Invasion 50th Anniversary go-round. Abridged as it were, the lineup swept through 10 cities in just over two weeks, packing theatres and serving up some of the greatest music to come from the Motherland in the last century. Featuring Denny Laine, Billy J. Kramer, Chad & Jeremy, Mike Pender (of the Searchers), and Terry Sylvester (of the Hollies and Swinging Blue Jeans), the show encapsulated what made Americans hungry for more, more, more English tunes after the onslaught of Beatlemania.
In collaboration with Steve Gardner of Digital Leaf Photographics, here are 20 images from the tour that capture the performances as beautifully as they were executed in real-time.
Above: The Keswick Theatre prior to showtime; Billy J. Kramer during sound check in Ridgefield, CT. (Photos: Steve Gardner/Digital Leaf Photographics)
Kicking off in Ridgefield, Connecticut, the tour was preceded by a brief rehearsal on the West Coast, before the crew flew east. Supported by a talented group of musicians that largely accompany Peter Asher live, their strong backbone and obvious musicianship was what gave the entire show a seamless feel.
Above: The house band (L-R: Brian Pothier, Bill Cinque, Jeff Alan Ross, Liberty DeVitto) backs up Chad & Jeremy during sound check at the Keswick Theatre. (Photo: Steve Gardner/Digital Leaf Photographics)
A week or so before the tour launched, Gerry Marsden fell ill and was given strict doctor’s orders not to fly. As he was set to be a huge chunk of the tour (and since he was, of course, a crucial part of the British Invasion), the news was devastating for ticket-holders, as well as the tour crew. But, thankfully, Terry Sylvester stepped in, and, though he didn’t exactly fill Gerry’s extra-large shoes (who could?), he ably delivered a succinct set of Hollies classics, and brought the Merseybeat with the Swinging Blue Jeans’ “You’re No Good” and “Hippy Hippy Shake.”
Above: Mike Pender performs. (Photo: Steve Gardner/Digital Leaf Photographics.)
Speaking of Peter Asher, the former half of British Invasion duo Peter & Gordon joined his compatriots for the tour’s opening night in Ridgefield, Connecticut, as well as a smattering of its West Coast dates. Absent, however, was Jeremy Clyde, who hit a bit of a traveling snafu back in England. Thankfully, Skype somewhat saved the day, and Clyde made his tour debut in true “Oz, the Great and Powerful” fashion.
Above: Denny Laine rocks out in Westbury, NY. (Photo by Steve Gardner/Digital Leaf Photographics)
Above: Singer Christine Ohlman and Billy J. Kramer backstage after the tour’s opening night in Ridgefield, CT. (Photo: Steve Gardner/Digital Leaf Photographics)
Above: Terry Sylvester and Mike Pender perform in Westbury, NY. (Photos: Steve Gardner/Digital Leaf Photographics)
Joining the Liverpool contingent was Mike Pender, voice of the Searchers. Talk about a commanding stage presence; from the moment Pender strutted onstage and launched into “Sweets for My Sweet,” he had the audience eating out of his hand. Wielding his signature black-and-white Rickenbacker, Pender ripped up Searchers classics like “Don’t Throw Your Love Away,” “Sugar and Spice,” and, of course, “Needles and Pins.” Ending with the band’s biggest hit (at least here in America), “Love Potion No. 9,” it’s safe to say that Pender’s portion of the show was one that could have stretched the rest of the evening with no complaints.
Above: Pender’s guitar featured a spaceman sticker, courtesy of his grandson. (Photo by Steve Gardner/Digital Leaf Photographics)
Finally together, Chad & Jeremy delivered a gorgeous, gregarious set of music and tales spanning their 50 year history. Choosing to not compete with their rocking predecessor, Mike Pender, they immediately reset the stage with an a capella version of “You Are She,” from 1966’s Distant Shores. Both Stuart and Clyde are still at the top of their vocal game, especially evident as the band took a break and the duo stripped down to just guitar and piano. (One night, a friend of mine even leaned over and said, “They sound exactly the same. It’s a scary thing!”) Obviously, hits like “A Summer Song” and “Yesterday’s Gone” were staples, but C&J also chucked in other crowd-pleasers like “Willow Weep For Me,” “Distant Shores,” and a cover of the Vipers’ “No Other Baby” (which they performed in 1963 on The Dick Van Dyke Show), earning them automatic standing ovations — both before and after their set.
After a brief intermission, Billy J. Kramer served up a mixed-bag of his hits, along with new material from his most recent album, I Won the Fight, including the title track and an anthem to his hometown called “To Liverpool With Love.” Though his was the longest set of the night, and, typically, new and unfamiliar songs zap an audience’s energy, this was not the case with Kramer. His enthusiastic and impassioned performance got the crowd on its feet, just in time for his closer, the Lennon/McCartney-penned hit, “Bad to Me.” A special shout-out to his former manager and new Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, Brian Epstein, was a nice touch, too.
Above: A backwards stage shot of the incredible house band, including Liberty DeVitto (right) on drums. (Photo by Steve Gardner/Digital Leaf Photographics)
Admittedly, following Kramer was a tough task, but for a pro like Denny Laine, who, besides being a member of the Moody Blues was also an original member of Wings, all it took was a little James Brown to completely change gears. Though his set was surprisingly short — only three songs — Laine made great use of his time, showing off his vocal chops on “Go Now!” and his 1967 solo single “Say You Don’t Mind” (accompanied by its trippy promo video). Many audience members clambered for Wings’ “Time to Hide,” but Laine laughingly reminded them, “This is a ’60s show.”
He did, however, bend the rules slightly when it came to the encore. Launching into “Band on the Run,” Laine was joined by the rest of the tour’s artists, who sang and clapped along to the chorus. It was a nice, poignant touch for so many contemporaries to sing a hit from one of their contemporaries — one that was recorded almost a decade after the first wave of the British Invasion. Was it a statement about the longevity of the music, or simply a fun singalong on which to end the night? Either way, it, like the tour itself, totally worked.