Like triggers broom with its 26 new heads and 14 new handles, The Drifters have had more members than a World War 2 Paris brothel but that doesn't seem to deter the die hard fans of this successful and long lived franchise.
Appearing at Bournemouth's fine pavillion on the latest leg of their Optimum tour the latest incarnation features at the last count members 62-65, Michael Williams, Ryan King, Damion Charles and Daniel Bowen-Smith.
Fans of the chaps had travelled from far and wide pretty much filling the 1500 seat Pavillion theatre with a surprisingly wide age range audience for a group that first had hits in the 1950s.
Starting off with a blacked out stage and backlit projection onto linen screens from the first it was clear that we were to get a professional and highly polished performance.
There was a lot of love in the room and the guys made full use of this by providing an engaging set and keeping their avid fans clapping and cheering from the very first song.
The second half started with a somewhat discordant 007 medley, most of which was sung by members of the backing band. To be fair if you'd paid for a ticket you'd probably expect to see the headliners doing the heavy lifting. Another part of the show that didn't quite work for me was the projection of images onto the linen drapes above the performers. At times they appeared to resemble a random stream of conciousness with handy facts about Microsoft and Jennifer Lopez but bearing no relation to either the song being sung ot the era in which it was a hit. I found this part of the night really rather distracting.
As the evening wore on and the guys got into the meat of the back catalogue it became clear that they not only feel more comfortable singing these songs but also that the crowd really appreciated the chance to have a damned good mass karaoke session. The chaps also included some of their new material from the 2013 album and this was also very well received.
Not to put too fine a point on it some members of the congregation were of more senior years but The Drifters managed to keep almost the entire audience on their feet, singing and dancing throughout the entire second half. As I looked around the crowd I could see fans of all ages having a whale of a time.
Indeed the hits came thick and fast with the enthusiastic church of the Drifters all happily singing along with the chaps. It was clear that this was to become a three handed performance as the backing musicians joined in with the Drifters and the crowd by giving some reasonable renditions of a few well known songs. Maybe I was the only person in the room to notice the irony of the latest Drifters singing Ben E Kings' 'Stand by me'.
The second half came to a close and I was left to reflect on a performance that was of excellent quality, but not really what it said on the tin. How could it be? The original members of The Drifters were fired after about a year and this perhaps gives a clue to the phenomenon that is The Drifters. Their management makes a virtue of the fact that they've had so many members and a 'legacy'.
The second clue came in the interval as I spoke with the lovely Mary and Ian MacLaghlan. These die hard fans spent their 36th wedding anniversary on an eleven and a half hour coach journey all the way from Glasgow in a trek to see their heroes. Mary explained that she expects that by the time she see the guys in Belfast at the end of the year she'll have seen them 34 times.
As Mary described the times she'd seen the guys over the years it became clear to me that it's more of a shared community event rather than a following for a group. Looking around I could see people saying hello to fellow followers that they may have seen in Southend or Manchester or wherever.
As I left the auditorium I listened to the happy chatter of my fellow attendees and realised that, whilst the music of the 50s and 60s might actually be a bit old hat for some people, there's a big place for this kind of top quality, professional show in the town.
The Drifters give a superlative performance of the very best of their back catalogue and their newer material. If you are fan of their soulful music then you'll really enjoy this show.
Take along your dancing shoes though.
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