INTERVIEWED! The Bootleg Beatles at Wychwood 2024

The world’s leading Beatles tribute act took time out before their set at Wychwood Festival to talk to Summer Festival Guide

My name’s Steve White, I play Paul. My name’s Paul Canning and I play John and I’m Steven Hill and I play George. And we are The Bootleg Beatles!

The Bootleg Beatles well established tribute act and have been touring across the world for years, but how does it differ playing a festival rather than in an auditorium?

SW: From a festival point of view it’s always a scaled down show because we’ve a much more limited slot. So we kind of gloss over as best we can, it’s probably an early era set and then a late set and that’ll be it. Obviously the costume change mid way through – whereas when we’re in a theatre you get several costumes and lots more guitars and so on and so forth. So it’s definitely a scaled down version.

SH: You think it’d be easier wouldn’t you because it’s only an early and a late era show, but you’ve still got to be good! It doesn’t matter what you’re wearing if you’re not playing and singing well it’s bad!

SW: And of course at a festival people are here to see everyone, they’re not just here to see you. So you haved to sell yourselves to everyone, whereas in an auditorium when they’ve come to see your show you’ve almost won before you’ve gone on you have that to think about with a festival.

PC: You do the hits more aswell when you do festivals. In a theatre show you can afford to put some album ones in and the lesser known ones, well they’re all well known – y’know. But the ones we do at the festival are generally more the hits, the singles and the odd not single but still massive song – they’re all good…it’s a good catalogue to choose from…

How do you whittle down that kind of set when you’ve got such a breadth of material to work with?

All: It’s hard!

SH: You kind of know after doing it for so long. You’ve got the hits, the singles and you could do that and people would be happy. But you’ve only got 45 minutes or an hour at some of these festivals so you can whittle it down. As long as you’ve got those main ones, whether it’s Help, Hard Day’s Night, She Loves You – you’ve got to put those kind of songs in and Hey Jude at the end and you’re happy to do that.

It’s easier than it sounds really. And it all depends on your voices on the day as well. If you’re touring for weeks, months on end and your voice is gone you’ve got to try and work around that and sing one that’s a bit easier but still a hit.

Are there any particular highlights from a personal perspective that you really look forward to playing?

PC: I like doing Come Together, that’s a good one to do as John. And I really like doing Here Comes the Sun especially when the sun comes out which ain’t often – but when it does it’s great.

SH: Well I love Help so I’m biased. I love playing Help, it’s my favourite song I think. Not just of the Beatles you know, of anything.

SW: I don’t think I have a favourite. I like them all too much to be able to choose.

PC: He likes doing Yesterday because he’s on his own!

SW: Ah, yes I do!

PC: He’s good at it actually. Gets to play with the crowd a bit and muck about, it’s really good.

Would you say with a festival crowd you’ve got a bit more of that back and forth to play around with?

SW: Oh gosh, absolutely yeah. I mean, obviously when you’re doing an autditorium it’s almost scripted you’ve got to show particular periods that you’re trying to perform. So you have to get a certain amount of information over to the crowd, so there’s key bits of dialogue that you have to say.

When you’re in a festival you have to make other people enjoy themselves and of course building them up for the next act to follow you know? That’s key, keeping the crowd up ready for the next band to take over. Nothing worse than killing an audience and the next bands got to work them up from flat so that’s what we try to do.

PC: Not actually killing them. We don’t kill the audience Steve.

SW: Well I do!

If you were to sell seeing The Bootleg Beatles to people maybe thinking about seeing another band on at the same time, what is it you’d say to bring them to you?

PC: Well you can’t be big headed and you can’t sell yourself short can you!

SH: We pride ourselves on giving 100% at all times and you’ve got to go with the reputation haven’t you?

SW: I tell you what I’d say, if you want to come and see a band where you know all the songs, come and see the Bootleg Beatles.

SH: Yeah you’re not going to be sitting there going “Whats this one? I don’t know this one!” you know? You’re gonna have a good time no matter what – but we do it well.

PC: We’re the world’s premiere Beatles tribute band and there’s a reason for it. Because they’re all great songs but you’ve got to play them well and you’ve got to care about it and the devil is in the detail and we put a lot of work into it.

SH: You’re right you know, you’re gonna have a good time no matter what.

PC: It’s been going since 1980 and people keep coming back to see it because it’s good and the standards high. So come and see it, I would. I do. I’m in it! Bye!

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