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Live Review: Bay City Rollers

17 July 2017 | 1:31 pm | Tom Gaffney

"If you've ever been to one of these shows, you'd know there's a wonderfully special kind of energy coming from the crowd."

More Bay City Rollers feat. Les McKeown More Bay City Rollers feat. Les McKeown

If you've ever thumbed your way through your parents' record collection, you may have come across the music of Scotland's Bay City Rollers. Back in the early-to-mid '70s, these guys were huge - we're talking 300-million-records-sold huge. Their history of being plucked from a Scottish high school to play fluffy pop tracks to swooning teenagers isn't too different from what we see these days. Essentially, these boys were akin to the level of fame and teenage girl-adoration that boy bands such as 5 Seconds Of Summer and The Vamps are renowned for today. Not quite as famous as One Direction perhaps, but ubiquitous enough for there to be a pretty high chance you've heard your mum gleefully sing one of their songs on karaoke. 

Back in the mid-'70s, Bay City Rollers packed out Adelaide's biggest venue (at the time), Apollo Stadium, performing in front of what can only be described as a crowd full of incredibly passionate girls trying to get inches closer to the band members. Now, 41 years later, frontman Les McKeown's taken some mates on the road to bring the songs back to Adelaide.

If you've ever been to one of these shows, you'd know there's a wonderfully special kind of energy coming from the crowd - all of whom spent some of their best moments listening to the band's iconic songs. The preshow playlist was incredible and brought the crowd's energy to serious highs featuring artists such as Suzi Quatro and David Essex.

McKeown and band came on stage accompanied by some traditional Scottish music and then burst into their set with Summerlove Sensation, blending this song in with the start of their hit cover I Only Want to Be With You. If you know these songs, and you can imagine them back to back, you should be able to imagine how energising the start of their set was.

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They also played hits such as Bye Bye Baby, Shang-A-Lang, and Saturday Night, as well as an absolutely incredible medley of songs to pay tribute to late pop idols they shared stages with. This scribe won't spoil it for you if you plan on going (which you should!), but it was a five-minute roller coaster of pure wonder and nostalgia.

Yeah, McKeown doesn't have that high, youthful voice any longer, but there's this feeling that if you spent your teenage years with his face plastered over your bedroom walls, you'd be able to see that he's still got that boyish charm about him that brings back those feelings of innocent adoration.

One or two slight criticisms: there was a sense that this show's a bit of a cash-grab and a little too over the top. In the slideshow that showcased images from their youth, there were a couple of repeated screenshots of McKeown's own Facebook page, as if to say, 'Hey, you should know I still write new music! Like my Facebook page!' Also, it felt like they overstayed their welcome on stage. The B-sides and album tracks that weren't megahits didn't go down super-well with the crowd, with people visibly looking to their partners as if to say, 'Oh, I don't think I remember this one'.

Regardless of all of that, the show had a level of energy that made us feel incredibly lucky to be a part of it. It was real and deep in feeling, which is difficult to achieve. For those among us who haven't been able to go out to a gig and feel in their element for some years, Bay City Rollers gave their generation an opportunity to reunite and take over the venue. Just like the good old times.