Bootleg Beatles at Dubai Opera: The Concert That Took Me Back To The 1960s

They say that there’s one Beatles song for every one of your moods. When you’re feeling lonely? Eleanor Rigby. When you’re feeling nostalgic? In My Life. When you’re feeling mega-high on life? Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds. When you’re desperate to ace Mrs. VP’s math test? Help! When you end up acing the math test? Twist and Shout. When a cute boy winks at you? I Want to Hold Your Hand. When you feel like giving up? Hey Jude. When you’re feeling a bit sun-dazed? Here Comes the Sun. And when you need to calm down? Let it Be.


Who doesn’t like them anyway? The right question here is when did I start liking this boy band.

It all started when I was around 16 or 17 when I discovered that none of the songs listed in the Top 10 Hits during that certain time really beguiled my taste buds in music. So on top of the long list of vintage accounts that I was following in Tumblr, I found myself re-blogging soundtracks from 60s bands like The Kinks, Creedence Clearwater Revival, The Who, The Four Seasons, The Velvet Underground, The Lovin’ Spoonful, The Zombies, and I fricking swear, many more. Of course, most of the soundtracks that I was raping the replay button with were from The Beatles.

It was the phase of my teenage years where I always listen to Dion and the Belmonts’ ‘Teenager In Love’ every day on my commute to university. Because you see, I always wished I was rather a teenager in the 60s than in 2010s.

Although I wasn’t musically inclined as a kid, still am for all honesty, I know deep inside that my Peace & Love attitude towards life says it all on how I choose the songs I listen too well. And they dominated the hit charts at least 3 decades before I was born.


Since then, my love for The Beatles grew each day. I watched many documentaries and films made for them. I made an extensive and intensive research on each boys in between my French class and a couple of case studies back in college. And with all the pain of my lonely heart, until now I cry a little over John Lennon and George Harrison’s death – striking and causing me a familiar heartache that I will never ever gonna see them perform live. My only hopes are Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney.

But just in time when I was still living in Dubai last year, I saw an ad that The Bootleg Beatles are gonna be performing in the Dubai Opera. And so I told myself, there’s no way I’m gonna miss that for my life!


Based on the details found from Wikipedia, The Bootleg Beatles are a Beatles tribute band. They were formed from the London cast of the Broadway musical Beatlemania. It is said that their first performance was at a small student gathering in Tiverton, Devon, England – following more low-profile gigs. In February 1984, they were invited to perform in the United States to commemorate The Beatles’ initial US tour 20 years earlier. Their success continued to prove elusive years after that until the very present day. Their current members are Tyson Kelly, Steve White, Stephen Hill, and Gordon Elsmore.


First of all, I have to say I wanted to thank two friends who sponsored this event for me to see this act live. To Paige, for making this come true even though I only joked when I said I wanted the ticket as my reward because I was sending my health stats (number of steps per day) to help her win a little game that was happening in her company. I was running 10KM a day during the fantastic weather of November in UAE so I was happy to do it! And to my best friend, Mayella, for chipping in extra cash for me to not sit very far from the stage and for giving it to me as an early birthday gift! I love you both and I will never forget this good, should I say the best deed, that you gave me until I’m 64 when I’m gonna be telling this fantastic time to my grandkids on my knee: Vera, Chuck, and Dave. And one day when all went out pretty good for me, I will pay it back.

Anyway, so after finding out that The Bootleg Beatles are gonna be performing on 21st of November 2019 at the Dubai Opera, which was just a 30-minutes bike on a chill pace from where I was living, I was so determined to buy a ticket. Even though I know I was going alone because my friends in Dubai weren’t really up to my music taste.

And so I went and bought myself a ticket.


On the day of the concert, I left the villa that I was staying in hours before because I was THAT excited. I dressed up extra nicely, formally, and I actually blow-dried and combed back my long wavy hair because there was no way I’d be goddamned to let my hair’s awkward stage ruin my night.

I took the train and hopped off one station away from Business Bay and walked the longest air-conditioned metro link bridge full of walkalators to Dubai Mall. From that mall, I walked some more in the garden outside while occasionally looking up to admire not only the Arabian night skies but the magical tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa. And guess what I was streaming in Spotify during that long walk? Of course, Abbey Road album.

I arrived at Dubai Opera an hour before the show starts and after finding out that the bar was open already, I was deliberating with myself whether or not to get a glass of champagne. Or at least a bottle of beer. But then I was just a broke expat boy so I went outside to what’s billed as the most prestigious square kilometre in the world, which is downtown Dubai, to admire the view and watch the people enjoying the country’s early nights of winter while enjoying a stick of cigarette.

Inside the theater, I was astounded how magnificent it is as a masterpiece of contemporary design. It was hella stylish and classy from all the lefts and rights.

Before the show starts, I asked the usher near me if it’s OK to take photos and videos during the act and she politely told me that it is not, but only if they allow it in the middle of the show. I thanked her and put my phone into silent mode and tried to just be at the moment. People, mostly middle-aged audiences piled up inside the theatre. I thought I was the only 25-year-old boy inside but no. There were even kids, millennials and Gen Z people! And it was a relieving thought to think that the legendary music that has been made by The Beatles is still relevant and popular among the present generation.


I couldn’t even remember the first song The Bootleg Beatles played because I was totally standing up with the crowd and crying my heart out while singing and waving my hands in the hair. I think it was a cross between Please, Please, Me, She Loves You, Twist And Shout, and All My Loving. I completely forgot. All I knew was both my hands were sore for clapping so damn hard and my throat, for straining my vocal cords excessively as I shout and cheer every time a song ends.

AND THEY ALL LOOK LIKE JOHN, PAUL, GEORGE, AND RINGO! I swear they were jaw dropping!

For a moment there, I completely understood why they didn’t allow mobile phones. Because back in the day when people attend concerts, everybody was just enjoying it and was not bothering to hand out a video-capturing-device like cellphones to record the moment – they recorded it with their hearts. So I looked from left to right and I see the crowd singing and dancing around – feeling every bit of the moment. They took us back to 1965 at Shea Stadium and for once, I felt like a teenager going head over heels to what was happening in front of me.

After the half-time break, somehow they allowed us to use our mobile phones – which as a millennial, I mostly did to get myself some photos and videos. Of all the bits of that concert which were all clear blessings to me, All You Need Is Love at the end was my favorite. And I was crying every damn time.


There’s nothing else I could say but, Bootleg Beatles, you guys, thanks for making my dreams come true. You still leave me speechless even up to this day. THANK YOU!

Some of the phenomenal photos are grabbed from The Bootleg Beatles website itself.


  1. pinaymama@sg

    Yay, a fellow Beatles fan! 🙂 It’s amazing how prolific they were — you’re absolutely right. There’s a song for every mood.

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      Marron Santillan

      I heard so much about the Beat Generation, Tito, and it must have been liberating to be a youngster and join such a phenomenal movement! And I agree, music these days suck! I only have a few lowkey/indie songs that I like.

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  2. Karen :)

    I saw a similar group, “1964” about 15 years ago. They were incredible, too. Interesting to learn how many people have been touched by The Beatles’ music! Thanks for your story and perspective.

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  3. seankfletcher

    Great post! We have seen both Ringo and Paul McCartney live. Both were awesome. To hear the songs as the Beatles played them was beyond fabulous. Paul shared so many stories about John and George – it was magical.

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      Marron Santillan

      Oh really? Damn, now I’m jealous! You’re so lucky to see Ringo and Paul perform live. I’d probably breakdown and cry if I do.

      1. seankfletcher

        It was hard not to cry at both concerts. With Ringo, he was sitting on a low front low wall out the front. We said hello on the way through – imagine that. Then, as we were in the front row, when he sang With A Little Help From My Friends, he sang directly to my wife (what would you do if I sang out of tune) with the spotlight happening and everything – it was a great, wonderful, magical moment!

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