Buddy Holly Lived, Last Night at the Corn Exchange

I love the way BBC Radio Merseyside presenter, Asa Murphy says “Devizes,” in his Facebook video-diaries. The rich scouse accent feels almost alien against the usual Wiltshire enunciation. In fact, there was a scouse tinge amidst the customary folk chatter in the Corn Exchange last night, as it prepared for the hit show, Buddy Holly Lives.

Asa had messaged me early in the week, asking to give the event a push; he still had sixty tickets left. We did what we could, but I had to forewarn him Devizine’s demographic doesn’t trend to an older age group, generally. Also, it was perhaps the wrong weekend to stage anything rock n roll in town, both the Long Street Blues Club and the Melksham Rock n Roll Club had events, popularly enticing loyal target audiences the show would surely attract too.

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Yet my only inane grumble about last night was that we crammed into the Corn Exchange like sardines, the seats adjoined with paper-depth separation, left barely the leg-room of an Easy-Jet flight, as this massive hall was brimming to bursting point; seems virtually every remining ticket at the beginning of the week had been snapped up. While a younger crowd could cope with this, the nature of the show bound to attract an older crowd, who surely need just a little space to move, particularly being the show was absolutely spellbinding and enticingly danceable. You could feel the audience, of an average middle-age, being there were a few younger, itching to jump off their seat but fearful in their morals that they’d be shoving elderly neighbours to the floor.

Although the last thing I wanted to do was injure a kindly old lady with my frenzied twist, when Asa finally suggested we get up and dance, by pronouncing “we are still teenagers!” the crowd needed no more encouragement, and the finale saw old and young throwing away cares, qualms and perhaps, any medical advice against excursion, to dance wildly in the aisles and manage best they could in their space.

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If Asa also suggesting continuing the party into the Exchange’s basement nightclub in jest, had become reality, I’d wager this generation would show the younger a move or two! For rock n roll, agree or deny, doesn’t care, it doesn’t care if you reject its influence on every brand of pop which followed, and even if after this aged generation the songs of Buddy Holly was to fade away, his and his peer’s daring experimentation, hedonism and desire to fuse cultures will be the blueprint for everything which ever follows.

But maybe I’m getting ahead of myself, for Buddy Holly Lives is not a ground-breaking turning point for rock n roll, rather a homage to those that was, and for which was sublimely performed and thoroughly entertaining. Its narrative separated the show into four sections, recreating historic moments in Buddy’s career; his beginnings at KDAV radio which demanded he abstained current trends in rock n roll gave us a country intro, with a need to break the rules. Again, the resistance against shying away from playing the majority Afro-American Harlem Apollo and in doing so, giving Caucasians acceptance here, made an explosive second section leading to the interval.

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An inspiring third section a recreation of Buddy in the studio, enlightened his desire to experiment with strings and orchestral accompaniment, whereas the final section, though rather predictable, took the audience to the Winter Dance tour which saw the tragic end to this young prodigy’s life. Combined, Asa, backing group and associates acting the parts, gave us a comprehensive catalogue of Buddy’s songs and covers which Buddy would’ve approved, with panache and precision.

Rarely done with a “tribute act,” Asa tugged off trademark glasses and leapt out of character, to explain his reasoning for creating the show, the importance of bringing it to Devizes, and in doing so, not only introduced his charming charisma which has labelled him the “king of swing,” but paid a moving ode to Bruce Hopkins. It indicted the originality in this show, for though it had enough narrative to combine the songs, unlike a theatrical production, there was not enough to distract from the music, but more-so, this was not a tribute act, but a homage to Asa’s influence. It also stated the charitable donation the show made.

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In conclusion then, the combination of the show’s charitable cause, the reasoning for producing it, the subtle but significant narrative, the band and Asa’s realistic, vivid and skilful recreation of the legend of Buddy Holly and the Crickets, made this show absolutely brilliant.

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