Review: British Music Experience Liverpool

It’s just a matter of days before Britain’s only dedicated museum of popular music opens in Liverpool.

The British Music Experience (BME), which arrives at its new permanent home on Liverpool’s waterfront after five years at London’s O2, charts the rise of popular music from 1945 up to the present day with over 600 rare music heritage items on display.

As the finishing touches are applied at the Cunard Building, Your Move headed down to explore the new museum before it opens to the public on Thursday (9 March).

Liverpool’s tuneful tourist attraction was originally meant to open in time for Easter 2016 but was pushed back several times, with the BME team apparently keen to ensure the exhibition was finished to the highest standard.

Time to find out whether it was worth the wait…

What first hit me upon arrival at the Grade II*-listed Cunard Building was the sheer splendour of the place.

When BME chair Harvey Goldsmith was scouting for a new location for his museum I doubt many spaces would have come close to one of Liverpool’s Three Graces.

The former first class departure lounge which houses the bulk of the museum is a vast, cavernous hall and manages to give the exhibition plenty of space to breathe without overwhelming the displays.

After taking a moment to take in my surroundings, my attention was pricked by the unmistakable opening bars of Culture Club’s ‘Karma Chameleon’. There, on stage in front of me, was an incredibly lifelike hologram of Boy George belting out his 1983 hit.

The New Wave star is the first in a number of artists lined up to be digitally recreated for the BME stage, which will also host masterclasses, Q&A’s and live concerts.

On to the museum proper and the musical voyage began way back in 1945 with jazz and skiffle music, before moving through the likes of rock ‘n’ roll, the British Invasion, glam rock, punk, heavy metal, Brit Pop, 90s’ girl power – right up to the hits of today.

Each mark on the timeline is afforded its own giant interactive screen which gives visitors the ability to delve deeper into each sound in greater detail.

As you’d expect from a popular music museum in Liverpool, The Beatles are well represented, afforded their own section which instead of getting too serious, focuses on some of the more curious Beatlemania memorabilia including an ‘Authentic Beatles Wig’.

Last year BME CEO Tim Husbands told us to expect “something for everyone” at the exhibition and he’s definitely kept to his word.

Out of the hundreds of items on display, which range from gig posters to guitars, handwritten lyrics to iconic outfits, even the most casual fan is sure to find something that stirs a happy musical memory.

Some of the most high-profile artefacts on display include costumes worn by David Bowie, Cilla Black, Keith Moon and the Spice Girls to name but a few.

A particular highlight for me was an eye-popping outfit worn by Bowie on the night he ‘killed’ the Ziggy Stardust character – I’m still not quite sure how he managed to squeeze into it.

Anyway, guitar nuts like myself will be near salivating over some of the incredible axes on show including a rare Brian May creation and Noel Gallagher’s iconic Union Jack Epiphone.

The interactive dance booth where visitors can learn the popular dance crazes of yesteryear and attempt to recreate them is sure to be a hit with all ages.

While if you’re more baritone than breakdancer then the voice coach booth might be more to your thing, where with the help of a virtual expert, you can lay down your own vocal track.

The best was saved for last however with the Gibson Interactive Studio, a state-of-the-art studio space where visitors can pick up (or sit down) and play electric and acoustic guitars, drums and keyboards.

Would-be rock gods have the chance to put together their own mix and play along with some of British pop music’s most well known tunes, learning as they go with step-by-step video tuition.

The BME is a welcome addition to Liverpool’s already substantial museum offering with a wide range of genuinely fascinating items that casual music fans and rock snobs alike will enjoy.