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Local music all-stars to rock on Beatles 'rooftop concert' anniversary

Instruments used by members of The Beatles are displayed at the exhibit "Play It Loud: Instruments of Rock & Roll" at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, Monday, April 1, 2019. The exhibit, which showcases the instruments of rock and roll legends, opens to the public on April 8 and runs until Oct. 1, 2019. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
Seth Wenig
Sunday's show in Peoria will feature many of the area's most established and respected musicians from such area groups as The Nikbeats, Kool Ray & the Polaroidz, Ready Steady Go, Johnny Quest, The Bogart Jones Band, the Matthew Curry Band, and others.

On January 30, 1969, the Beatles — Paul McCartney, George Harrison, John Lennon and Ringo Starr — performed their last live “concert” together on the roof of Apple Studios in central London.

The truncated concert — which was recorded on multiple cameras and is included in its entirety within director Peter Jackson’s new and monumental three-part, eight-plus hour documentary “Get Back” — was shut down by London bobbies responding to noise complaints.

Organizers of “The Long and Winding Road — From the Rooftop Into History,” a musical tribute to the Beatles in celebration of the anniversary of the concert, hope for a better conclusion to their version of the Beatles’ rooftop concert. The tribute, which features a roster of well known local and regional musicians from central Illinois, will be held on Sunday, Jan. 30, at the newly renovated Scottish Rite Theater in Peoria.

Show organizer Craig Moore, a musician and avid music collector who owns Younger Than Yesterday, an eclectic music boutique in Peoria, put together the show out of his love for the Beatles, along with the “British Invasion” movement of the 1960s that spawned groups like the Yardbirds, Dave Clark Five and John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers. Moore is relying on his experience promoting and performing in Beatles tributes in past years, along with his vast personal database of musicians-friends, to help present the all-ages concert.

“Five of us did a special ‘Let It Be…and more' set in my shop in 2013, but it was a small-scale affair-- just a band doing a long set with added material. I then organized a massive 50th Anniversary show at the (now defunct) Limelight (Entertainment Center) in 2014 that included more than a dozen bands and more than five hours of live music with video clips,” Moore told WCBU.

“We had at least 900 people at that show. With the brand new film and numerous expanded versions of the ‘Let It Be’ album we just felt that the timing was right to give that landmark project a major presentation. It's not as massive as that 50th Anniversary show but it’s very involved beyond just the ‘Let It Be’ album.”

Musicians expected to perform at “The Long and Winding Road” tribute concert include The Matthew Curry Band, the Nikbeats, Ready Steady Go, Kool Ray & the Polaroidz, The Bogart Jones Band, Johnny Quest, and others. In all, around 15 musicians and a vocal choir are expected to perform Beatles classics, based around a core six-piece band.

“We will perform the entire ‘Let It Be’ album to begin with, followed by a much longer set made up of other latter-day Beatles material, album tracks and singles circa 1968-1969, and a lot of early solo material from John, Paul George and Ringo,” Moore promises.

Curry, a well known vocalist, guitarist and recording artist from Bloomington who now resides near Nashville, Tennessee, represents a younger generation of Beatles fans. Curry will be returning to Peoria with his band, which includes bassist Tim Brickner of East Peoria and percussionist Francis Valentino (who last played in Peoria in February 2020 as part of David Lee Roth’s band), to help Moore honor the Beatles legacy.

“I’m really looking forward to doing a tribute to the greatest rock and roll band of all time, and the musical companionship of all of my central Illinois friends,” said Curry, whose latest album of original music, “Open Road,” is now available as an independent release. “The Beatles are the first band I can ever recall latching onto as a child. My parents played Beatles records in the house, and my brother and I immediately latched onto every song. Their influence on my writing and playing probably goes deeper than I can even explain or understand. When I listen to a Beatles album, I still hear new things that I never heard before, and I find ways to draw inspiration from that.”

As is the case with Curry, Josh Bradshaw, guitarist and vocalist for Jonny Quest, said the Beatles were among his earliest and most profound musical influences. “For me, the show is an opportunity to play the music that first hooked me on wanting to play guitar,” Bradshaw said. “And this group of musicians are my favorites-- a mix of local musical heroes and the people I most respect and enjoy playing music with.

“It’s a dream come true for me, and it’s a perfect storm of songs we all love played by people who have much love and admiration for each other. Craig (Moore) puts together these projects that no one else would dare try to tackle, and he makes it work like only Craig could. I feel that anyone who grabs a seat in the Scotty that night won’t soon forget the experience. The Beatles gave us the gift of their (musical) catalog, and what better way to honor it than to recreate it in the same spirit that drove them to create it.”

A special addition to the show will be a 10-12 piece choir composed of both youth and adults. The choir is led by Chris Delbridge, a Bradley University graduate who is director of choral activities for Princeville High School. Delbridge’s choir will provide background vocals and harmonies for a number of selections, and will own the spotlight for at least one acapella number.

Delbridge said that listening to the Beatles’ vocal harmonies on eight-track tapes as a youth helped compel him towards his future occupation as a choral educator.

“I remember being completely hooked the first time I heard them. I was mesmerized by the harmonies, and that’s been one of the greatest impacts for me. I always joke that I learned to sing harmonies with Buck Owens and the Beatles,” he said.

According to Moore, it’s not really that difficult to comprehend the universal, long-lasting appeal of the Beatles as new generations of fans are exposed to Jackson’s critically acclaimed “Get Back” docuseries. It’s how long the world’s love affair with the Liverpool “mop tops” will continue that may be harder to quantify.

“John Lennon said it best decades ago when asked about the 'oldies' the Beatles covered. He said, 'A good song is always a good song,' and he was right,” Moore said. “Modern music business is all about disposable everything. Even my own grandkids and certainly my great grandkids have no real connection to anything that has gone before. What percent of the future audience they represent I have no idea. But as long as present and future generations are exposed to things like the ‘Get Back’ documentary and the actual music that the Beatles made as a band, there is still a great deal of magic for them to discover, and once discovered it cannot be ignored or forgotten. A good song is and will always be a good song.”

For ticket information, visit the Scottish Rite website.

Tim Alexander is a correspondent for WCBU. He joined the station in 2022.