WHEN Steve White joined a Beatles act, as ‘Paul McCartney’, there was something crucial he had to learn - how to play guitar left-handed.

“I was in a 60s covers band, we were invited to do a Beatles show for a 60th birthday party,” says Steve. “We soon became a Beatles act, I played rhythm guitar, the ‘Lennon role’. Then the bass player and I decided to swap and I had a go at playing left-handed. It was horrendous at first; I messed up on stage and afterwards I said ‘That’s it’ and drowned my sorrows at the bar. But someone came up and said, ‘I thought you were great’ so I gave it another go. Next night we played in a casino and because there was background noise I wasn’t so self-conscious. I got the hang of it and became an ambidextrous guitarist! That’s something I’ve got over the real Paul McCartney - he can’t play right-handed!”

Steve later joined the Bootleg Beatles, the world-famous tribute act, as Paul. Originally formed from the cast of West End show Beatlemania, the band re-create the sounds and styles of the Fab Four, from mop tops onwards, and their Liverpudlian banter.”It’s not scripted, we study each character and try to capture their spirit,” says Steve. “As their appearance changes, their body language changes - 1962 Paul was different from 1969 Paul. By the end they all had different personalities. John was cocky on stage at first, but if you watch him in their last performance, the Apple rooftop performance, he looks quite vulnerable.”

This year the Bootleg Beatles performed Sergeant Pepper 50th anniversary shows, including one at the Royal Albert Hall with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra which earned them a five-star review from The Times. They also performed - twice - at this year's Glastonbury Festival.

"It was very enjoyable to do a whole album in its entirety, on stage with a 70-piece orchestra," says Steve. "The average Bootleg Beatles show caters for the masses, but we also chuck in some more obscure tracks for the diehard fans."

Any tribute band faces the scrutiny of diehard fans, and Beatles fans are notoriously protective. But, as Steve says, the aim is to strike a balance between paying respect to the Beatles and their music, and having fun. “We’re giving the audience a Beatles experience, but you always get fans who pick holes. I’m pretty knowledgeable when it comes to the Beatles, but the detail some fans go into is incredible. They can practically tell you what Paul or John had for breakfast on any given day!” laughs Steve.

He discovered the Beatles in his dad’s record collection, aged nine. “On the inner sleeve of one album was a collage of pictures of them in the letters spelling ‘Beatles’, all from various points of their career, from the no-collar suits to the long hair and beards. That transition fascinated me,” he says. "Dad was into country music, I got into it reluctantly at first, but it got me into harmonies. A lot of 60s groups were harmony groups so it was a natural progression to do 60s covers."

Now Steve travels the world with the Bootlegs. “Every so often re-mastered versions of Beatles songs are released, which attracts new fans, so we’re getting younger audiences as well as older fans. We played a market square in Mongolia, with 25,000 people singing Beatles songs. It’s time like that when you know there’s nothing quite like the songs that came from those four Liverpool lads.”

* The Bootleg Beatles are at the Alhambra on Wednesday, December 6. Call (01274) 432000.