The Traveling Wilburys excel with their glimpse into what could have been

The Travelling Wilburys Hexagon
The Travelling Wilburys tribute band performed at The Hexagon

The Traveling Wilburys
The Hexagon, Reading
Friday, July 26

THEY WERE hailed at the greatest group that never toured. But now you can see what you’ve been missing all these years.

The Traveling Wilburys – fabulous musicians in their own right – had a combined sound was something to behold.

They released just two albums in 1988 and 1990, winning a Grammy in the process and they had intended to take to the road but sadly the death of Roy Orbison put paid to that. Had they done so, the line-up would also have included Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Jeff Lynne and Tom Petty.

So the Roy Orbison and the Traveling Wilburys Experience is going to be the next best thing.

The group, spearheaded by look and soundalike Paul Hopkins, work through the group’s best tunes plus some of Roy’s greatest hits.

They recently appeared at The Hexagon in Reading to let us slip into that alternate reality where the boys went on tour.

Fused with some gentle humour and introductions to the songs, the show’s two hours flew by.

The five-piece band are all consummate musicians, but together they are something special. Each gets their own moment in the spotlight, showcasing the range of the individual artist they are representing.

It is a tight performance – it’s clear that intense rehearsals have taken place to master the songs.

While George Harrison (Mark Pearson) almost steals the show with his songs, but there are also generous moments for Bob Dylan (Aubrey Robinson), Tom Petty (Buddy Baker) and Jeff Lynne (Red Litchfield).

Songs such as End of the Line, Handle With Care and A Love So Beautiful are superbly staged.

However, the show belongs to Roy Orbison (Paul Hopkins).

As frontman, he acts as compere and go-between from audience to band. He has a fair degree of wit and an impressive musical knowledge – it is his voice that excels. Close your eyes and you could be listening to the real Roy. Given the range that Roy’s voice has, this is hugely impressive: he is not an easy man to emulate, but Paul does so with aplomb, especially through hits such as Pretty Woman and You Got It.

Some of the video’ed backdrops could do with a bit of a professional polish, but it hardly matters as it is the music that does the talking: strong, spectacular and with heart, this is a show that get you up and dancing, air guitaring and leaving the theatre with a grin on your face.

The band are the first Traveling Wilburys tribute on the road, and they are superb. If you get the chance to see them do.

Their next local date is Sunday, October 27, at the Theatre Royal in Windsor, and they will be at South Hill Park on Friday, May 8, next year.

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