Buddy great show!

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Buddy Holly and the Cricketers, Alnwick Playhouse, Saturday

ROCKING legend Buddy Holly died in a plane crash on February 3, 1959, alongside two other pioneers of ’50s rock ’n’ roll, Ritchie Valens and JP ‘The Big Bopper’ Richardson.

They had hired a plane from Clear Lake, Iowa, to Moorhead, Minnesota, as the harsh winter weather and a punishing schedule was taking its toll on their tour bus. But the aircraft came down shortly after take-off in a blizzard.

Don Maclean called it The Day The Music Died in his song American Pie.

It was poignant then that the Buddy Holly and The Cricketers charabanc rolled into Alnwick on February 4, 2012, in the worst snow storm of the winter so far.

The real Buddy was a recording artist for less than two years, producing just three albums, but his influence on the rock ’n’ roll movement was immense.

So although this lively show churned out the Holly hits, they were interspersed with great songs by the likes of Elvis Presley, Everly Brothers, Chuck Berry, The Beatles and Jerry Lee Lewis, giving other members of the band a chance to shine vocally.

Purists may have demanded more from their idol but for a mixed audience, the combination worked.

Our Buddy, the versatile Dean Elliott, was pretty authentic – he looked, moved and sounded like the original star, right down to his Texan drawl.

He was charismatic, funny and knew how to hold an audience in the palm of his hand, as well as being an extremely good guitarist, amazingly playing the instrument behind his head at one point and handling Holly’s rockabilly style with aplomb.

Dean has played the title role in the West End hit musical Buddy and his theatrical presence gave the band’s performance a warmth that could have melted the snow outside.

He is a singer-songwriter in his own right and has just released a new EP of his material.

It is difficult to imagine a better Buddy.

Dean was matched in the charisma stakes by drummer Leon Camfield, who was often more like Animal from The Muppets with his comedy sticks antics. But he really got feet tapping and hands clapping as he took over on the more rocky numbers.

The rest of the band – Ben Kypreos (bass and guitar), Kevin Oliver-Jones (guitar) and Martin Riley (keyboards) – were first-class musicians, if lacking spark alongside their more energetic compatriots.

All the hits were covered – including Heartbeat, It Doesn’t Matter Anymore, Everyday, Not Fade Away, Raining in My Heart, True Love Ways and, of course, Peggy Sue – perfectly illustrating how Holly bridged the gap between ’50s crooner and ’60s rock ’n’ roller.

I counted more than 30 songs, helped by the fact that most tracks of the day were no more than two minutes long.

The show built up slowly to a crescendo in the middle of the second half and from Ritchie Valens’ big hit La Bamba (merged with Twist and Shout) onwards, the Playhouse was rocking.

Holly’s own Rave On and Oh Boy! gave way to a cracking medley of classic rock ’n’ roll tunes for an encore, as everyone was urged to dance the night away.

A standing ovation, accompanied by American-style whoops of delight, told its own story and everyone headed off into the snow with a happy heart beating to rhythms of rockabilly.

I wondered what impression the music, which was first recorded 40 years before they were even born, would have on my offspring. That my daughter asked for the music to learn to play on the piano, says a lot about the enduring nature of the Holly songs.

Tribute bands aren’t everyone’s cup of tea but this was easily one of the better ones.

Buddy Holly fans should approve and general rock ’n’ rollers will lap it up.

PAUL LARKIN