The Hollies Review: The British group return to the stage with a refreshed format for 2018 with A HIGHWAY OF HITS

The Hollies A HIGHWAY OF HITS Tour 2018

The Hollies return to the stage with a refreshed format for their 2018 show A HIGHWAY OF HITS

This review was originally written for The Reviews Hub.

With over 60 singles and 26 albums to their name, you’ll be hard-pressed to find someone who hasn’t heard of The Hollies. Best known for their distinctive three-part vocal harmony style, The Hollies were one of the leading British groups of the 1960s and 70s, with major hits on both sides of the Atlantic.

Formed in 1962 by Allan Clarke and Graham Nash, The Hollies first shot to fame in 1964 when their cover of Maurice Williams and the Zodiacs’ STAY reached No.8 in the UK singles chart. Since then, the group has had over 30 UK charting singles including LONG COOL WOMAN (IN A BLACK DRESS), THE AIR THAT I BREATHE, BUS STOP, I’M ALIVE, CARRIE ANNE and HE AIN’T HEAVY, HE’S MY BROTHER.

Their 2018 tour sees some welcome changes to setlist and usual format of the two-hour show. Opening with a short video charting the band’s rise to fame, The Hollies bound onto stage with a mash-up of 60s hits including KING MIDAS IN REVERSE, I CAN’T LET GO, SORRY SUZANNE and JENNIFER ECCLES, before ticking off back-to-back hits like CARRIE ANNE, JUST ONE LOOK and WE’RE THROUGH.

While lead vocalist Peter Howarth takes centre stage for most of the show, a section in the first half which sees original group member Tony Hicks join fellow guitarists Ray Stiles and Steve Lauri for GASOLINE ALLEY BRED and LISTEN TO ME stands out as a highlight. It is here, as well as on re-worked classics ON A CAROUSEL and LOOK THROUGH ANY WINDOW, that The Hollies’ unique vocal harmonies shine through, with the group – and the material – sounding as fresh and tight as ever.

Shame then that the stories and jokes also haven’t been refreshed in line with the setlist changes. Fans who have seen The Hollies both in 2015 and 2016 will no doubt recognise the story behind the 1969 hit STOP, STOP, STOP, as well as drummer Bobby Elliott’s story of his drinking session with Bruce Springsteen, which eventually leads to an acoustic version of SANDY.

That said, the material never gets old, with the audience on their feet for the 1969 hit HE AIN’T HEAVY, HE’S MY BROTHER, as well as the soul-stirring British number 1 THE AIR THAT I BREATHE and LONG COOL WOMAN (IN A BLACK DRESS). Despite more than five decades on the road, it is also clear to see that The Hollies still enjoy performing, which is pretty impressive for a group that has never disbanded.

4 out of 5 stars

The Hollies performed at The Lowry on 18 March and are on tour nationally until 29 April 2018. 

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