From the Welfare Hall to the Wales Millennium Centre

On Sunday evening something quite remarkable is going to happen.  Back in 2018 a group of musicians got together to produce what they called ‘The Ultimate Classic Rock Show’.  I suppose the easiest thing to do would have been to book a couple of pub gigs or maybe find a big enough social club that would give them an audience there as much for the bingo and beer and the music.

But these guys had a bigger dream. They wanted to take the songs they had loved growing up and play them the best they could and play them to a theatre audience.

After some rehearsals the band stepped out at the Welfare Hall in Ystradgynlais to an audience of 45.  That was in 2005. On Sunday they will walk onstage at the Wales Millennium Centre to a sold out, 1800, capacity audience. In itself that’s terrific but that concert is just one in a yearlong tour right across the country.  From Gravesend to Bolton, Bury St Edmunds to the O2 Arena in London.  

So how did it happen?

The amazing thing about ‘The Ultimate Classic Rock Show’ (TUCRS) is that there are no ‘star names’ in the band that are the pegs for people buying tickets for the shows.  There are plenty of Tribute acts that try to dress and sound like the original band.  Quite often the band will include one or two original members who have managed to secure the rights to their old band name. Right from the start for TCURS the songs were the stars of the show.

Now that’s not to say these musicians are ordinary players just because they happen to live locally and in the past you might have seen them playing in a local pub or at a wedding.  These musicians are top notch and they take immense pride in making the music sound as good and authentic as possible.

A lot of the music is guitar based which is not surprising when you hear that one of the original driving forces of the band is Luke Bradshaw, a fine guitarist.  But looking through the official programme there are clues as to why the show crosses boundaries and genres. They are not musical snobs.

Band member Gareth Kedward has written a whole article about guitars which seems a little presumptuous to be honest because Gareth plays keyboards in the band!!!

Guitarists Andy Park and LukeBradshaw.

Gareth talks about how much rock music owes to Hank Marvin.  Now I’ve racked my brain to remember the set I saw TUCRS play in The Swansea Grand. I don’t remember hearing any Shadows songs but its obvious the people putting together the show realise its takes all sorts of music to make their show work.

Gareth goes on to say that

‘if you are a guitarist don’t limit yourself to one particular sound.  Almost any guitarist will have a particular approach that can help in your adventure as you learn the guitar’.

When it comes to guitars its hard to miss them when you go to a TUCRS concert.  The band has come a long way since the Welfare Hall Ystradgynlais and so has the show.  When you enter the theatre the stage is set with long shimmering banners, and a stage full of keys drums and risers and front and centre more guitars than they used to have in the window of Picton Music.

In fact Gareth says that one of the questions the band is often asked is

‘Do you use them all or are they just for show?’.

I must admit that thought did cross my mind before the band started but it soon became clear that if you want to recreate that authentic rock sound that so many different bands made their own you do need the right guitar.  I’m sure ‘Hotel California’ would sound ok on the 6 string electric Luke used on previous tracks but to sound authentic you need a 12 string and there was one on stage just for that song.

It’s a Sound and Light Show.

As well as playing the music well the ‘show’ has become more and more important.  TUCRS has managed to put together a top team of sound, lights and stage crew.  I should know because over the years I’ve worked with all of them. When I put on a show myself these are the guys I call first. 

Adrian Bamford has the sound down to a fine art working with the latest technical gear to make the show as slick and painless as possible.  Even with a music shop full of guitars the stage itself is relatively uncluttered as all of the band operate on ‘in ear’ monitors.  That saves on humping gear and the possibility of feedback.  Its an investment that pays off for the show.

It’s pretty obvious the sound needs to be great but when you’re performing in theatres so does the lighting. Llwyd Herniman the lighting man works with the theatre crew but also brings in up to 30 fixtures from moving lights to smoke machines.

Guitar tech Tony Opal is one of the busiest men on the crew.  He can be seen checking pre show and in the interval to make sure everything is just right and occasionally walking on stage to execute a guitar change over during the performance itself.

I nearly forgot Ian Parsons.  I’ve mentioned Ian in previous blogs but in the TCURS Ian fulfils a number of roles.  He sets up the projector, helps to create the videos and sometimes even wanders on stage dressed in a flat cap and long brown Foreman’s coat as he tries to fix a problem without too much disruption.

Then there’s the band…

I’ve known many of them for many years and what they have achieved makes me incredibly proud and also inspires me to keep going.  Luke had a dream to make this a theatrical show and the band have all bought into it with the same degree of passion and commitment to excellence.  They have rehearsed and toured and rehearsed and refined and they are now reaping the rewards for their hard graft.

Sammi Broad with Andy Park.

When I say the guys in the band I should single out one in particular.  I first met Sammi Broad when she became part of the cast for my musical ‘Amazing Grace’.  At the time she was in school or maybe college and as well as being a great singer and performer I also saw how she looked after the younger members in the cast, especially my daughter. Somehow she manages to hold down a number of roles in theatre as well as being a mum.  Sammi I don’t know how you do it.

I’m sure over the years there have been times when TUCRS band and crew have questioned if they were mad to follow this dream.  That must have been the case when half way through one of their first major tours COVID struck and shut everything down.  But they kept going.  They planned, worked, advertised, played gigs and returned to venues to play them again each time to bigger crowds.

As they walk onto the stage at the Wales Millennium Centre on Sunday I hope they give themselves a moment to enjoy how far they have come…and then start planning where they want to take The Ultimate Classic Rock Show next!!!

2 thoughts on “From the Welfare Hall to the Wales Millennium Centre”

  1. Saw TUCRS in Swansea Grand, great sound ,great choice of songs, awesome night, keep doing what you do so well,be looking out for the next one .

  2. Jackie Jeffrey

    What a night fantastic music the dancers from the Jeff Guppy group were amazing, fantastic songs can’t wait to see them again hopefully again next year well done everyone as I said what a night

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