Formed in the late 1950s by guitarist John McNally, originally as a skiffle band, The Searchers became a key part of Mersey beat scene regularly occupying the upper echelons of the ‘hit parade’. Although it is decades since the group enjoyed chart success, they still play to sell out audiences as this packed out gig at Lowdham Village Hall demonstrated, writes Mark Salter
‘I hope you’re ready for a lot of singing,’ declared other long standing member, singer and bassist Frank Allen, ever present since 1964. As the band, immaculate in crisp suits, white shirts and black ties, reeled off hits, Sweets For My Sweet, Don’t Throw Your Love Away, Needles And Pins, Sugar and Spice, and Love Potion Number 9, Allen will not have been disappointed with the fans’ efforts. Indeed, straight off the bat, Sweets For My Sweet initiated a call and response exchange between Allen and the audience.
The Searchers line up was completed by Spencer James (vocals and guitar) and Scott Ottaway (drums). However, it was Allen who commanded centre stage, engaging in banter with the audience and with McNally, who proved the butt of a few jokes. Not least when McNally launched into impromptu intros of several Buddy Holly numbers before leading the band and punters in a lively rendition of Peggy Sue. Covers of a similar vintage were The Premiers’ Farmer John, Runaway, originally by touring pal Del Shannon, and Twist And Shout. However, perhaps the most stirring was James’ take on Roy Orbison’s Running Scared, big shoes to fill vocally but James did more than acquit himself.
‘Roger McGuinn (lead singer of the Byrds) said in the press that they were more influenced by us than The Beatles back in the day,’ confided Allen with the group now in black shirts and maroon ties after a quick costume change. He then orchestrated a sing-along to the Byrds’s version of Mr Tambourine Man. Seven Nights To Rock saw choreographed clapping and pointing from the knowing fans, whilst James’ take on Bette Midler’s The Rose added a gentler contrast for no other reason than, ‘it’s just a great song.’
As is traditional at Searchers concerts, all was brought to a crescendo with a medley of the big hits.
‘We’re not packing up any time soon, so hopefully we’ll see you here in the future! Perhaps we can bring our Christmas show. That’s always good fun.’
No one was contradicting the sentiment.