Let It Be
Paul Johnson | 27 Jan 2016 01:52am
Let It Be – Shea Stadium. Photo: David Munn Photography
After opening in the West End four years ago, on Broadway a year later, plus sell-out tours in Germany and Japan, The Beatles musical, Let It Be, now kicks off a major 25-venue tour of the UK and Ireland seeing it right through to the Summer… and if the Churchill Theatre Bromley’s national press night was anything to go by on Monday then this production could be set to run and run.
I say ‘musical’… but the show is really more of a theatrical concert which features the Fab Four performing at eight significant stages throughout the band’s extraordinary nine-year lifespan. The Beatles stopped playing live in 1966 (not counting their one-off performance in 1969 on the rooftop of the Apple headquarters) so today’s audiences actually get to finally see the concert The Beatles never gave – a showcase spanning the entire 1960s. And it’s only when you take this journey that you come to realise how pioneering and legendary this group actually was.
With two giant black and white television sets suspended high above the stage showing nostalgic news reels and adverts from back in the day, the show opens in Liverpool’s Cavern Club in 1962 where four young lads were forging a name for themselves playing rock ‘n’ roll. Cue I Saw Her Standing There… and we’re off. From there we journey through the years enjoying sets from the group’s famous Royal Variety Show performance (where John Lennon invites everyone NOT in the cheap seats to ‘rattle your jewellery’), followed by A Hard Day’s Night and then 1965’s record-breaking Shea Stadium concert in New York.
The subsequent sets, namely Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and The Magical Mystery Tour, were never toured live by The Beatles. But today we get to hear them arguably as good as the genuine article. This is followed up with a superb ‘unplugged’ section which features, among others, George Harrison’s brilliant Here Comes the Sun. The show predictably finishes with the four dressed exactly as they were when they walked over the famous zebra crossing at the Abbey Road Studios (including Paul McCartney in bare feet). And with the whole auditorium up on its feet, the crowd lap up the show’s title song Let It Be, Get Back and, of course, the only song to end any Beatles tribute – Hey Jude.
While the hot and sweaty confines of those first never-to-be-repeated gigs in Liverpool’s Cavern Club will forever be etched on the memories of those lucky few who saw them live in 1961-2, the production values of the 2016 Let It Be show arguably offer a far superior ‘gig’ compared to the technology available in the early sixties. And when you add these values to the four astonishingly well-delivered performances of the all-important quartet then you’re in for one hell of an evening.
Let It Be’s compact performing company of nine apparently shuffles the cast each night to produce a virtually different line-up for every day of the week. In the second half there’s also a fifth Beatle (no, not Pete Best or Epstein) performing to the rear of the stage adding extra strings and brass when called upon – and they certainly were called upon in the group’s latter studio years. The press night line up of Paul Canning (John), Iain Hornal (Paul), John Brosnan (George) and Luke Roberts (Ringo) was not only world class but completely and authentically spot on, right down to the band’s personalities, humour, accents and fooling around.
It’s universally agreed that no-one will ever do what The Beatles did back in the 1960s, and it’s also important to be aware that so many of today’s music makers owe their very existence in the public eye to the music of the iconic band. Therefore it’s completely right that we should honour such a legendary period of our music history in the form of a tribute such as this. The fact that it has been done so brilliantly is a real bonus.
Let It Be – Sergeant Pepper. Photo: David Munn Photography
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- : 25/01/2016