THE BUDDY HOLLY STORY AT THE BRISTOL HIPPODROME
The Bristol Hippodrome – Monday 2nd – Saturday 7th June
In 18 short months Texas-born Charles Hardin Holley was pivotal in revolutionising the face of contemporary music. The Buddy Holly Story tells a tale of the musical icon’s meteoric rise to fame and his final legendary performance at the Surf Ballroom in Iowa, before his tragic and untimely death at the age of 22.
In 1956 Buddy Holly and the Crickets are becoming a regular feature on the local radio station’s ‘Sunday Party’.
A DJ hosts from his sound desk above the performers on stage. We join the show’s audience, invited to applaud and then be silent via a hand held cue-card and are treated to the 1950s radio experience, complete with washing powder ads, sung harmoniously between acts. An ‘On air’ sign illuminates and slow and sleepy Country and Western music, the order of the day, begins.
When Buddy and the band notch it up a few gears, breaking into a fast and furious Rock ‘n’ Roll number, it’s easy to see how shocking or exciting this energetic music would have been, depending on your stand point. (My parents were in their teens when they first heard ‘skiffle’ and ‘rock and roll’ and they assure me that, in stark contrast to the tame ballads which had been popular before, you just couldn’t help but jump up and dance to this infectious new music.) After this unexpected musical outburst, the DJ apologises profusely to his audience.
The show is great fun. Many instruments are experimented with during the record production, but the huge bass is virtually a constant. It’s played live, used as a seat, a step and is sometimes lifted in the air like a dance partner. My boys always enjoy some acrobatics and the bass antics didn’t disappoint.
Since watching the show I’ve been keen to find out more about this amazing musician’s life. I’ve done a lot of reading and assumed that if I googled him it would be a fairly simple matter to find some clips of his controversial performances, but actually there’s very little to be found and most of what there is seems to be poor quality home movie footage or smiles to the camera as the band boarded a plane. I did manage to find this clip from a 1957 airing of The Arthur Murray Dance Party which gives a taste to us young ‘uns of how alien the concept of rock and roll really was to the mainstream media.
It made me feel extraordinarily sad that such a prolific and creative composer had such a short life which came to such a premature end. You’d think that the show might reflect that feeling but in fact its vibe is totally the opposite. I found myself singing along (apologies to other audience members), drumming along on my lap and enthusiastically dancing around during the standing ovation at the end.
Roger Rowley was a superb Buddy Holly, Jason Blackwater was fabulously larger than life as The Big Bopper and Lydia Fraser was show stoppingly good as the Apollo performer.
Great music. Great musicians. Great show. Thoroughly recommend it. I’d happily watch it again.
The Buddy Holly Story
Monday 2nd – Saturday 7th June
Evenings at 7.30 pm
Matinees on Wed & Sat at 2.30 pm
Tickets: £12.90 – £36.40
Concessions available at certain performances
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DISCLOSURE: I RECEIVED TICKETS FOR THE PURPOSES OF THIS REVIEW. ALL OPINIONS ARE OUR OWN.