Bay City Rollers – Live @ The Powerstation, Auckland 2018
There is nothing like having your childhood dreams come true. And for one lucky lady, she won’t have to settle for kissing the poster on the wall anymore. The Bay City Rollers were in New Zealand for one night only, and we were all in for a treat.
WORDS AND PHOTOS BY KJ PANUI
The Powerstation transformed an audience of devoted fans back to a time where tartan was the new black. A predominantly female crowd full of tartan attire and shiny mullet wigs, you just knew we were among some hardcore fans.
I spoke with some of the crowd; there were ladies there who had devoted their teenage years to the band and to see one of the originals was indescribable
Les McKeown and the Bay City Rollers’ have been non-stop on tour of Australia since early July and are finishing the entire Australasian leg with a special one-off concert tonight at the Powerstation – hopefully saving the best for last.
I chatted with Les McKeown before the tour, and that smooth Scottish accent will forever have a place in my heart. My only goal was to not embarrass myself too much by the end of the interview.
We discuss how he has been on tour continuously since March this year. He corrects me and lets me know that he has been touring pretty much non-stop for the last 47 years.
Idiot KJ, of course! Failed already.
KP: “The Bay City Rollers have paved the way for all boy bands…you’re a bit of a Messiah (Les laughs). It’s been 40 years since roller mania began…do you still get copious amounts of lingerie thrown onstage or are the fans these days not as risqué?”
Les: “Not so much. I don’t like to encourage that sort of thing. Lingerie is special, but it should be worn by women.”
A true gentleman.
Les: “We get a lot of teddy bears thrown at us though. I don’t know why. Maybe because we’re so cuddly?”.
And for the die-hard fans who know the BCR for their distinctive sound? Do not fear; there is no desire to change up the music.
Looking back over the years, it wasn’t all glamour for the BCR. Originally from Belfast, BCR was one of few bands to tour in Ireland in the 70s.
Les says the fan base was huge at the time with our tours entirely sold-out. He recalls when they were passed between the police in the North and the IRA in the South, and were looked after pretty well.
They weren’t concerned about the political situation around them. They were just keen to play where the fans were, and they certainly appreciate them for that.
There have been stories of mismanagement from the past but Les reassures me that he has safeguards in place; number one being he manages himself and looks after the band. This entails booking all flights and accommodation. When you are touring non-stop that can be a tiresome job.
KJ: “So you had a concert on St.Patricks day?”
Les: “Yeah, but when you are touring, public holidays don’t really make a difference.”
Being the end of the tour, they have allowed themselves a few days to explore the land of the long white cloud. Les talks about the last time he came to New Zealand and seeing the green and how it reminded him of his homeland Scotland.
I’ve promised him a chance to explore it with some sightseeing and hangi – I think he’s holding me to it.
KJ: “So, where to and what next for Les and the BCR?”
Les: “From NZ we leave for tours in the Uk, Ireland, some Festivals in Scotland with some time off in January. And then it is all on again starting with Japan, and I hope potentially another tour down this way.”
Getting back to the concert, finally, the lights dim and the sound of bagpipes rifle through the air. The anticipation is heightened when all band members but Les come across the stage and hype the crowd with slow clapping.
Then, running in from the side, the man the crowd has been waiting to see comes out and the band gets straight to business with classic ‘Summer Love Sensation’.
The crowd goes wild.
People are singing and dancing. Mullets are swaying, and the goal to grab the eye of their teenage heartthrob has begun in the minds of some frisky ladies.
From there it’s banger ‘I only wanna be with you’. This music is a generation or two before my time, but I love to sing to the little I know.
Bassist Simon borrows a phone from a diehard fan and takes videos with other band members; Scott on keys and guitar, drummer Dan and guitarist Phil completing the full lineup – they certainly know how to entertain a crowd!
The band also keeps to the theme BCR are known for. Their get-up consists of shirts doused with splashes of tartan. There are also traces of tartan onstage, with a scarf wrapped around the mic stand.
There is downtime for banter with the audience. Les introduces the rest of the crew and how much fun they have had on their travels. The Powerstation is the final stop on their Australasian tour, and they save the best for last.
Not only does the band take us on a trip down memory lane with their “Rollermania” beats, they also pay tribute to Queen with the ultimate karaoke classic “Bohemian Rhapsody”.
As if the crowd wasn’t hyped enough.
For a guy who has been touring for over 40 years, Les still has the pipes to knock out a tune. You can easily tell that performing and entertaining crowds is his passion.
The second half is full of more classics like “Remember”, “Be my baby” and of course their biggest hit “Shang-a-lang”. It is non-stop.
There is alarm when they finish up with “Shang-a-lang”, but the guys come back out and play two more songs for their encore. As the band say goodbye to the crowd and the end of their tour, they fittingly finish with “Bye, bye, baby”.
After the show, we hang back and talk to drummer Dan. With a Chardonnay in hand, he tells us he’s had a great time touring. As this is the final show of their tour, they leave for home the next day.
The last time I spoke to Les he said the music is all about the fans and what they want. It was a night of non-stop classics, and I am sure there would have been a few husbands that would have been pretty satisfied when their wives came home.
For the crowd, the band delivered at the same level of energy as they did in the ‘70s. It was energy packed. It was clear from this concert, the fanbase is still loyal and true to the Bay City Rollers.