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Upbeat Beatlemania comes to Wycombe
JOINING a new band can be a nerve-wracking experience, but when you happen to be impersonating one of the most famous musicians in history, the pressure is really on.
Simon Blight did just that in January, when he took over the role of Paul McCartney in the UK’s premier Beatles tribute act, the Upbeat Beatles. The band has been entertaining crowds across the world since 1997, recreating Beatlemania as far away as China.
They begin a helter skelter of a UK tour this month, saying hello goodbye to 24 venues over four months, including a day tripper to Wycombe Swan theatre on September 25.
And Simon, 45, says realising his boyhood dream of playing the Liverpudlian legend has been a revolution for him, having been something he wanted badly since taking up music as a child. He said: "When if first decided to be a musician aged 12 or 13 I really got into the Beatles, and when I found out there were tribute bands, I just wanted to be a McCartney.
"There’s been a couple of Pauls in this band, but I’ve replaced the longest standing one who’s now our manager so there was definitely a bit of pressure!
"But after only about two or three gigs it felt like we’d been playing together all our lives, they’re such great musicians.
"It’s actually been quite an easy ride. I can’t really say it’s a job because it’s such a wonderful experience."
Simon is under no illusions about the responsibility of recreating the style the co-songwriter in the most famous band in history.
Having studied every aspect of the bass player’s voice, playing style and mannerisms, Simon claims he is getting better at perfecting the role and fixing a hole left by the previous Paul.
And while impersonation is vital to the experience, he realises the importance of bringing his own passion for the fab four to the stage on their magical mystery tours.
"I feel that if you get the details right for the whole band, you get the bigger picture properly," he said. "But if we perform formulaically you lose the spirit, so it’s got to come from the heart.
"McCartney is such a hard musician to live up to, you’ve got to get the voice and bass just right - it’s a tall order but hopefully I’m there now."
John, Paul, George and Ringo quitted touring after 1966, only performing live once more for their famous London rooftop appearance in 1969.
Now, in a two-part 50th anniversary show, James, Simon, Roger and Colin couple the euphoria of early Beatlemania with never-before performed tracks from the Beatles late career.
Though Simon enjoys when the band twist and shout and get back to the fab four’s roots, he admits the challenge of performing the Beatles’ complex late work excites him most.
And as he and his bandmates prepare for the the long and winding road across Britain, Simon relishes the chance to re-trace and experience a day in the life of early Beatles tours.
"The first half of the show charts Beatlemania and the sheer raw power of it, but the second recreates summer of love and has a more artistic feel," he said.
"But as much as we want to bring you the story, it’s also a great night out. We want to get people up and dancing from the word go.
"Every now and then we’ll play a place where the Beatles went on their first tour, and it’s nice to be treading those footsteps.
"We’ve never played in Wycombe actually, so I must have to check my rock almanac to see if the Beatles ever made it there!"
To book your ticket to ride with the Upbeat Beatles on September 25, contact the Wycombe Swan ticket office on 01494 512000 or at www.wycombeswan.co.uk
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