In 1958, Buddy Holly and The Crickets played 25 venues across England back to back from 1st to 25th March, sometimes playing two or even three shows a night. The American singing sensation headlined a variety bill hosted by ‘the comedian with the modern style’, Des O’Connor.

To celebrate the 60th anniversary of Buddy’s only ever visit to our shores, the UK’s first and best-loved Buddy Holly act, Buddy Holly & The Cricketers, revisit some of the same venues on the same dates in 2018 with a very special show backed by the English Rock and Roll Orchestra.

The audience at the Opera House Manchester roared when the lead actor-musician playing Buddy Holly asked if anyone had been at that infamous tour 60 years ago, but the audience wasn’t all of the older generation as the classic rockabilly great clearly still appeals to younger fans 60 years later.

Buddy Holly and The Cricketers present Buddy’s music and other rock ’n’ roll greats as you have never heard them before. They broke up the set with other well-loved songs from the era from the likes of The Everly Brothers, Ray Charles and Chuck Berry. We were even treated to a brilliant rendition of ‘I Fought The Law’ that was later famously covered by The Clash.

To have the English Rock and Roll Orchestra supporting was a real treat. They lifted the songs from being catchy early rock music to a whole new level with violins, cello, saxophone, a trumpet and even a harp to truly elevate the songs and add a swell to the emotion of such a nostalgic gig.

We heard orchestral versions of beautiful songs like ‘Everyday’, ‘Early In The Morning’ and ‘It’s So Easy To Fall In Love’. More upbeat rough and ready tunes like ‘Blue Days, Black Nights’ and ‘Peggy Sue’ worked together to make a thoroughly enjoyable set. We heard some songs from lesser-known B-sides as well as all the big hits.

Buddy Holly and the Cricketers have thrilled audiences all over the world for more than quarter of a century and they are a very polished act, produced by Simon Fielding. The band members themselves were very high energy, each having their own part to play in the show. There was light choreography and at one point even a double base played upside down, which was a sign of true showmanship. It’s a joy to see tribute acts this well put together and I often find that there’s less pressure on the audience and the artist as a tribute performance than when attendees have spent increasingly more money on tickets, so everyone tends to enjoy themselves so much more.

There was a lot of audience interaction as we were encouraged to clap and holler along with the songs, emphasising Buddy Holly’s Texan roots. At one point one of the band members even came out and slow danced with various audience members, invigorating everyone to get out into the aisles and join in.

The last twenty minutes encore from Buddy Holly and The Cricketers was a raucous medley of the greatest classic rock n roll songs of the 1950’s including Johnny B. Goode by Chuck Berry, Tutti Frutti by Little Richard, Great Balls of Fire by Jerry Lee Lewis and Let’s Twist Again by Chubby Checker. Everyone in the audience was up on their feet dancing, clapping and hollering for more – proof that rock n roll never dies!

Reviewer: Jo Flynn

Reviewed: 25th March 2018

North West End Rating: ★★★★