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Friday, April 1, 2011

Christchurch not alone - rock veterans

Christchurch not alone - rock veterans

Last updated 05:00 02/04/2011
Gerry and the Pacemakers with Herman's Hermits at the Aurora Centre, Burnside High School, 4.30pm, Friday, April 1.

Brian Taylor, managing director of Kings College, CTV building, was farewelled at a memorial service at the Aurora Centre on Thursday.

He was my science teacher at Lincoln High School.

In his lab sat a tiny silver transistor radio out of which the songs of bands like Gerry and the Pacemakers and Herman's Hermits could be heard quietly while we tried to get our teenage heads around the periodic table.

I spent a lot of this time listening to his radio and scribbling ideas for stories in a notebook.

Mr Taylor would say "Anderson, are you scribbling again?" with a raised eyebrow and a smile.

I hated science, but the way he taught made it seem interesting.

Herman's Hermits circa 2011 arrived on stage, clean cut in suits and ties, in the same venue a day after the service.

The audience was mostly silver-haired, but there were pockets of 20 and 30-somethings, too. I talked to a guy in a Metallica T-shirt waiting to get to his seat.

With precious few gigs on in Christchurch right now, he said he just "needed to hear someone play an electric guitar". I understood.

Peter Noone (aka Herman) might be gone, and the Hermits' lineup is a moveable feast, but drummer Brian Whitwam has been "bashing away" for 47 years.

With self-deprecating humour a charming story of meeting Elvis was recounted before they launched into hits Mrs Brown You've Got A Lovely Daughter, Jezebel, Sunshine Girl, My Sentimental Friend, No Milk Today and I'm Into Something Good before their encore I'm Henry the VIII. Some audience members tapped their fingers on their armrests enthusiastically, others waved their arms over their heads.

At intermission I waited for the ladies' behind a woman with a zimmer frame.

In the foyer stalls selling homemade baking, icecream, alcohol and sweets were mobbed. One woman told me that this was the first time she'd been out of her house since the earthquake. She sat near the door. Another was limping because her leg had been crushed by falling debris in the City Mall on February 22.

The spotlight followed Gerry Marsden as he strode into view in a white blazer, his passion for controlling the lights proved to be a good-humoured theme of the evening. (Everybody say "ohhhh" now).

Opening with It's Gonna Be Alright, the group took the audience back to their youth or as Marsden put it "we'll take you back to your youth – it'll be a long trip" with their own classics such as I'm the One, the song John Lennon missed out on – How Do You Do It?, I Like It, I'll Be There, Ferry Cross the Mersey, and others they borrowed for the occasion – a fantastic version of Jerry Lee Lewis' Whole Lotta Shakin' Going On and Great Balls of Fire. Their version of Bette Midler's The Rose was less palatable, but overall they rocked.

Both groups went out of their way to play two shows here and it was well appreciated.

As well as transporting people back to their youth – the lovely silver-haired gent next to me recounted his own exploits in a band in the '60s while he was at Burnside High School – they helped people forget their cares for two hours.

Marsden dedicated their finale, You'll Never Walk Alone, to the people of Christchurch. Everyone stood, as best they could, and sang along.

I shed a tear as I scribbled notes, but this time I think Mr Taylor would have approved.

- The Press

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