Looking around Darlington Civic on Tuesday night, I reckon I was, for once, one of the youngest in the audience. The show was "The Hollies, We Got The Tunes" and was the start of their latest, and amazingly 50th anniversary, tour. What was very clear from the sell out gathering is that their popularity is as strong as ever with not a spare seat in the house.
For one who was (certainly) not around for The Hollies' first hits, I have only really known their works from 60's compilation albums and movie soundtracks but you don't manage to tour every year for 50 years non stop by just replaying a Rock 'n' Roll back catalogue. Granted, the majority of the audience were there to hear "Bus Stop", "I'm Alive", "Carrie Anne", "Just One Look", and "Stop, Stop, Stop" but to think of The Hollies as simply being a 60's pop band is to completely miss the essence of a group which has clearly influenced bands as diverse as Genesis and The Beautiful South. I was enthralled by the folksy "On a Carousel", the bluesy "Gasoline Alley Bred" and the anthemic "The Air That I Breathe" and seeing them played live gave such an insight into the graft and craft that goes into creating a cultural soundtrack.
I don't think the Darlington stage has ever played host to as good a guitar and drum combo as Tony Hicks and Bobby Elliott (except for previous visits by the band); Hicks has such freedom and amazing dexterity and you can clearly see where guitar heroes of the modern age get their inspiration from - without his pioneering style of play people like Slash, The Edge, Mark Knopfler would never have had the belief that guitars could lead a band. As for Mr Elliott, take a bow Britain's best ever drummer, such diversity of style and technical prowess is unparalleled.
Lead vocals for The Hollies have changed since Alan Clarke left in 1999 but since 2004 Peter Howarth has brought a vocal range and power which can cope with the huge variety of songs, together with a stage presence and obvious enjoyment of performing. He takes centre stage for two stand out solo acoustic numbers, a beautiful rendition of Bruce Springsteen's "Sandy" and a unique take on the Hollies standard "Here, I Go Again"
This show was the first night of a national tour and one which will undoubtedly sell out very quickly - for traditional Hollies fans, go see your heroes again and enjoy reliving your youth; for those who enjoy great live music, phenomenal songs and a fab night out, go, and be amazed at how you haven't seen them sooner.
Tour dates and more information is available on their website www.hollies.co.uk