“Knock up your daughters!” shrieks the none-too-subtle (and none-too-PC) poster for The Counterfeit Stones’ current tour. It’s a tag-line that sums up the unashamedly brash tone of this show – part tribute concert, part spoof – that zips through Rolling Stones hits with raucous glee, and features gags that veer cheerfully from the corny (“a Mars a day helps you work rest and lay”) to the crass (a running joke about Brian Jones’s death crosses the line into tastelessness).
Alongside the Bootleg Beatles, The Counterfeit Stones are counted among the most successful tribute bands on the circuit; they’ve been on the scene since the 1990s, and have developed quite a substantial following in that time, judging by the amount of fans enthusiastically braving the cold for Saturday night’s gig at Richmond Theatre. Fittingly, the tone of the evening is quite different to that of The Beatles tribute show, Let It Be, which is currently (and, in the opinion of this reviewer, undeservedly) doing very good business in the West End. A tackier and livelier proposition, The Counterfeit Stones present themselves openly as “a cartoon version” of rock’s best bad boys, an approach that’s evident even in the choice of names, the current line-up comprising Steve Elson as (yup) Nick Dagger, Bill Lennon as Keef Rickard, John Prynn as Charlie Mott, Alan Mian as Bill Hymen, by Holger Skepeneit as Nicky Popkiss and the very versatile David Birnie tripling up as Byron Jones, Mick Taylor-Made and Ronnie B Goode.
It’s quickly apparent that The Counterfeit Stones certainly aren’t afraid of silliness, then. But what redeems the evening from being an unadulterated exercise in kitsch and camp is the fact that the group are actually accomplished musicians capable of performing a wide range of Stones material with verve and panache. Highlights of the set include a crisp “Not Fade Away,” a jangling, percussive “Out of Time,” a punchy, cutting “Paint it Black,” a surprisingly emotive “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” a dynamic “Sympathy For The Devil,” and a blistering “Gimme Shelter.”
The endlessly preening, prancing and pouting Elson has the moves like Jagger, all right, and pulls off the singing, the outfits and the cheeky banter with equal aplomb. Album cover parodies and pastiche film footage clips – including a memorably surreal appearance on The Sooty and Sweep Show that ends with Nick and Keef crooning “As Tears Go By” as the puppets get stoned – add to the fun, while the Richmond audience reveled in some well-judged local refs, including an inevitable Jerry Hall mention.
With the Rolling Stones still very much on the touring circuit, The Counterfeit Stones offer a very pleasing evening for those disinclined – or simply unable – to stump up the inflated ticket prices demanded by Mick and co these days, making this irreverent yet accomplished act a good-value and entertaining alternative to the real thing. You get what you need.
Tour dates and details here.