The Bootleg Beatles @ Music in the Gardens

The Bootleg Beatles opening night performance at Music in the Gardens took Phil Turner back to Earls Court ’95, where the Beatles tribute act famously supported Oasis, in what is widely regarded as their best ever show. 

July 3, The Botanical Gardens

For a man of a certain age, Oasis at Earls Court in ’95 was a pretty big deal. They were the biggest band on the planet, or so it felt to their army of drunken disciples, and the music was still new enough to sound fresh, scintillating and vital. The fact that it was also hugely derivative didn’t matter; the sounds of The Stone Roses, T-Rex and of course, The Beatles were snaffled up, shaken about a bit and kicked back out of Noel’s guitar and Liam’s tonsils with a roar, sneering at anyone who wasn’t enjoying the ride with them.

And they weren’t ashamed to acknowledge the source of their inspiration, so much so, that supporting them that night in west London were The Bootleg Beatles, widely regarded as the finest Fab Four tribute act on the circuit. In fact, that booking seemed to pave the way for a period where it became acceptable to watch tribute bands almost as if you were seeing the real thing. If Oasis were happy to be supported by an homage to their biggest musical heroes, then what was wrong with me watching The Clone Roses if the real band couldn’t be arsed to go out and gig anymore?

More than 20 years later and I’m right down the front at Music in the Gardens, feeling 18 again. The heavens have just opened and The Bootleg Beatles are in the final chorus of ‘Hey Jude’ with the crowd belting the ‘nah nah nah, nananana, nananana’s’ straight back at them. It’s one of those moments you only get at an outdoor gig or festival when the inclement weather actually seems to add to the atmosphere. We’re all getting wet but we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Truth told, the gig had been a slow burner up until then. But that’s probably more about The Beatles early work than their note perfect cover band. They start out in the tailored suits and mop tops singing the likes of ‘She Loves You’, ‘I Feel Fine’ and ‘Day Tripper’; and there’s nothing wrong with early Beatles of course, it just doesn’t work as well in this environment as the more mature stylings from ‘Revolver’ onwards.

As the outfits change and the wigs get longer, so the gig gets better. ‘I am The Walrus’, ‘Hello Goodbye’ and ‘All You Need Is Love’ feel just about perfect as the night draws in and even the surprising choice of ‘Revolution’ as the encore seems to fit the occasion.

When you have such a rich back catalogue to choose from, I guess it’s not hard to put together a crowd-pleasing set… but it takes skill and musicianship to make them still sound fresh after all these years.

20-odd years on from our last encounter, The Bootleg Beatles and I are all older, wiser and probably a little chunkier, but as the Fab Four themselves sung so aptly; “It’s getting better all the time…”

Music in the Gardens is an annual 4-night outdoor concert held at The Botanical Gardens. This year it also featured 10cc, The Sheffield Philharmonic Orchestra and Unite The Union Band. It’s a great place to take a picnic to. For updates and more info about the 2018 line up keep an eye on

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