On Feb 9, 1964, a group known as The Beatles made an appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show. Their triumphant American debut not only forever altered the course of American music, but triggered an event known as The British Invasion as a slew of English bands would find their way to our shores to dominate the pop charts. Last night at the Wilson Performing Arts Center in Red Oak, IA, people got a chance to either relive that era or experience it for the first time with Billy McGuigan’s latest show, The British Invasion.
Like the Beatles, Billy McGuigan continues to churn out hit after hit and his latest show is certainly no exception. With his one of a kind energy and ability, Billy and his band, the Downliners, took the audience on a blitzkrieg tour of the British Invasion as they snapped out a wide arrangement of songs from a variety of bands such as The Who, Gerry and the Pacemakers, Petula Clark, The Dave Clark 5, Herman’s Hermits, Cream, Them, The Rolling Stones, and, of course, The Beatles.
Billy McGuigan was in especially good voice last night and set the tone for the night with his opening number of The Who’s “Pinball Wizard” complete with some pinwheel guitar playing ala Pete Townshend. From there, he gave his rich tenor quite the hefty workout. Whether he was belting out hard rocking numbers such as “Under My Thumb” and “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction” from the Rolling Stones complete with Mick Jaggeresque dancing and strutting to singing lighter rock numbers such as Herman’s Hermits’ “Something Tells Me I’m Into Something Good” to gently emoting tender tunes like Peter and Gordon’s “I Go to Pieces”, McGuigan could simply do no wrong.
McGuigan also proved his remarkable versatility by tackling The Animals’ “House of the Rising Sun” with a take that would make Eric Burdon proud. And he actually made me like a Van Morrison song (my favorite number of the night, actually) with his interpretation of Them’s “Here Comes the Night”.
Billy McGuigan was powerfully supported by his multitalented band, the Downliners, including his brothers, Ryan and Matthew McGuigan, on percussion, bass, and backing vocals who shined in their own numbers. Matthew worked some magic with The Kinks’ “Tired of Waiting of You” while Ryan was in full John Lennon mode with The Beatles’ “Twist and Shout” before the two joined forces on the awesome “Revolution”. Tara Vaughan tickled the ivories as only she can and was featured in several numbers as her, oh so gorgeous, alto attacked Dusty Springfield’s “Son of a Preacher Man” and Petula Clark’s “Downtown”. Omaha’s answer to Pete Townshend, Max Meyer, dazzled the audience with skillful lead guitar playing and solos while Adam Stoltenberg’s drumming was the unbreakable foundation for these numbers.
Early in the night, Billy told the audience that for a fraction of the cost of a Rolling Stones ticket we were actually hearing the same songs complete with lyrics and sung in tune. Well, the ticket may have been a fraction of the cost, but the talent is absolutely priceless as Billy and the Downliners make these classic songs their own and you should certainly get a ticket the next time you hear that Billy McGuigan and The British Invasion is coming your way.
Locally, Billy McGuigan will be back in action on March 30,2019 when he teams up with the Omaha Symphony at the Holland Performing Arts Center in Omaha, NE with yet another new show, America Rocks the 60s. Ticket prices start at $19 and can be purchased at Ticket Omaha.
This summer, Billy’s keyboardist, Tara Vaughan, formally debuts her own show, She Rocks!, over at the Omaha Community Playhouse. This production features the legendary hits of female singers and songwriters and will run for 3 weeks beginning on June 13, 2019. Tickets begin at $30 and can also be purchased at Ticket Omaha.