The Seekers 50th Anniversary Tour: Bridgewater Hall Manchester

On Thursday May 29th 2014 I eagerly took my seat to see The Seekers perform “live” for the first time in my life. A solitary 33rpm record in my Mammy’s collection had introduced me to their sound as a toddler, as both she and my Granny liked to listen to it. And so it was with much anticipation that I awaited the arrival of Keith, Bruce, Athol and Judith to the stage. My husband Rob was just as excited, and by God we were not disappointed when the lights went down. Video tributes of congratulations from Olivia Newton-John, Sir Cliff Richard and Andre Rieu began the evening’s entertainment, with The Wiggles paying tribute later on in the show.

Within a few bars being played that unmistakable Seekers sound flowed around the auditorium. It is as distinctive a sound as the legendary “Wall of Sound” from Motown, once heard you never forget it, and no-one can replicate it either. As the amazing vocals of Judith began singing the beautiful The Water Is Wide I was physically moved to tears, it sounded so wonderful. Judith looked as stunning as ever, and this was emphasised even more when their performance today had a backdrop of vintage video from the 60s. Judith in a full length sparkling evening dress hardly seemed any different to the white chiffon dressed young woman of fifty years ago. It was a clever idea considering the picture I had in my head of them as a group comes from a 1964 album! The only difference (with the exception of the men’s hairline) was that Keith and Bruce had a microphone each, rather than standing facing each other using one mic. But the sound and essence of The Seekers had not dimmed in all that fifty years, and the “then & now” stereo stage look proved that. I was impressed by “new songs” the group recently recorded Silver Threads and Golden Needles and In My Life. As the first half closed with a medley including This Little Light of Mine and Open Up Them Pearly Gates, I was taken right back to my childhood and Sunday school.

During the interval both my husband and I were captivated by a black and white video accompanying a marvellous song Far Shore. A newer song (1997) to the group’s repertoire it had everything, and I suspect will become a firm favourite of ours. In the second half the audience were regaled with Judith’s Colours of my Life and a spine tingling rendition of Just a Closer Walk With Thee, a firm favourite of my Mammy’s. This particular song highlighted the incredible range of Judith’s voice. The guys (Keith and Bruce) performed a song whose tune my Mammy used to hum and stamp her foot to for effect. They did exactly the same thing for Louisiana Man, and it was another example of something I hadn’t heard since childhood. When this kind of song springs up unexpectedly out of nowhere, I like to think it’s my late parent telling me she is enjoying the show too!! Then the awesome I Am Australian with Athol’s double bass doing a very good impression of a didgeridoo, and the story-telling lyrics held my attention completely. I’ve always adored songs with meaning and proper stories, and folk songs have a particular affinity for this quality. During this Australian masterpiece I was reminded of hearing a song for the first time during the Daniel O’ Donnell I attended a couple of weeks before. In Daniel’s song a man was being deported to Australia in a prison ship for a petty crime, and here in The Seekers they were talking of prison ships arriving. The tales of humanity told in music and verse, and both emphasising how intertwined this world really is. And of course it confirmed how universal music is as a language too.

Throughout the show I was touched to see how protective the men were toward Judith, who had done remarkably well to recover from a brain haemorrhage to perform. Initially doctors were not sure if Judith would be able to sing again, but as she told the audience “I did a few bars of Morningtown Ride and the voice still seemed to be there.” She jokingly mentioned later that the doctors hadn’t checked to see if she could play the tambourine, which she played with aplomb. I watched how Judith played her tambourine and was struck by how much she made it look like an art form, and as someone who always picks up the rhythm/beat of a song; I might give it a try myself. It would be a lot easier to manage than taking up the drums!!

The group finished with an encore of The Carnival Is Over and the audience gave them a rousing standing ovation. The whole evening had been a wonderful mix of nostalgia and great music, and I felt truly privileged to have been part of the audience. I have been fortunate in my life to have attended several concerts, many of them in huge arenas with cramped seating, or cavernous halls with seating bolted together so high it could bring on vertigo. By complete contrast The Bridgewater Hall with its comfortable chairs, plenty of leg room, wonderful acoustics, and seemingly unhindered viewing (where ever you were seated), put this venue in a class of its own. The classical elegance of our surroundings matched perfectly the amazing Seekers “Wall of Sound” we had just listened to in wonder. As we left that beautiful auditorium my husband and I both said in unison “that was THE BEST CONCERT WE HAVE EVER ATTENDED”. So to The Bridgewater Hall and the incomparable Seekers, Rob and I would like to say “Thank you from the bottom of our hearts. You were amazing!”

The Seekers-how they look today.
The Seekers-how they look today.

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