THE last time The Beatles appeared in concert, apart from their well-publicised show on top of the Apple building a year before they finally split up, was at Wembley in May 1966, before many of their most famous songs had been written or recorded, let alone performed live. The beauty of a show such as Let It Be, rather like seeing the Australian Pink Floyd, is that an audience can hear such famous, much-loved, pieces of music performed live, and what a treat it was to hear so many of the Fab Four’s hits played and sung with such sensitivity, accuracy, and raw talent this evening at Bath.
This show unashamedly celebrates the music of The Beatles, for the first half chronologically, so by the time the interval arrives we have started at The Cavern, eavesdropped on the famous “rattle their jewellery” Royal Variety Show, travelled with them to take over America, including a wonderful set in Shea Stadium, complete with projected, screaming crowds, and their Ed Sullivan appearance, before a final section of songs that nobody has ever seen The actual Beatles sing and play – from surely one of the greatest albums of all time, Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, at which point the four fabulous actor-musicians, each one already at the peak of his musical talent, are joined by a keyboard wizard in the shape of Michael Bramwell. From this point on Bramwell single-handedly recreates strings, brass, and other effects, bringing a haunting reality to the later material with famous riffs and runs.
Lighting, projection and sound all help recreate the psychedelic feeling of the album, and these all carry through into the second half of the show, when, just as we might feel the show has little further to go, the pattern changes and we see more of the talent of the four performers.
The music is raw, but completely accurate, mixed live and with exquisite guitar work throughout by Paul Mannion’s George, tight drumming from Stuart Wilkinson’s Ringo, and beautiful vocals from Emanuele Angeletti’s Paul and Reuven Gershon’s John, each also playing bass, guitar and piano as well. All four sing in some of the songs, and early in part two the cast sit on stools in an acoustic set which would these days probably be called The Beatles Unplugged: Paul sings Blackbird on his own before George joins him to take the lead on Here Comes The Sun, with John arriving in time for a third harmony part before it ends, a song led by him, and then one for Ringo in what becomes an intimate setting after the big set-piece numbers.
We are later treated to songs which are highly produced and spliced together on albums, such as Strawberry Fields Forever, Golden Slumbers and A Day in the Life, performed as big production numbers, seamlessly and with an energy that has most of the capacity audience on its feet for much of the show. It is almost like a real gig, but not quite, and sometimes the performers reminded me of more modern artists – there was something of the Paul Weller or even Noel Gallagher about Mannion, and Gershon reminded me a lot of Guy Garvey from Elbow, particularly when taking the lead on his songs – but this should not take anything away from the task that these four actors plus keyboard player achieve – they become an iconic band for a few hours, enabling some of the audience to revisit their memories of local halls and theatres some fifty years ago, and others of us to taste what that experience may have been like.
A magical night out, and for just a few hours – I was truly transported back in time.
Images by David Munn Photography