Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Let It Be: Not Quite The Beatles



Hi there! Welcome to I'm So Glad My Suffering Amuses You, the blog that asks how many holes does it take to fill the Albert Hall. I'm Dave-El and I answer that question with "It takes ONE hole but it's very large and has to be the right size."  

This past Saturday, my wife Andrea and I went to see a performance of "Let It Be: A Celebration of the Music of the Beatles" at a local outdoor venue, the White Oak Amphitheatre. Our daughter elected not to join us because she's been having some really bad problems with her allergies and did not see the appeal of hanging around outdoors on a spring evening for 2+ hours. So she elected to hang out with her grandfather instead. 

Where she wound up mowing his back yard. So much for avoiding the outdoors. Well, she made $20 and he has better food at his house so it all works out. 

Back to the show which features four musicians who perform as the Beatles. Well, sort of. I never heard them refer to themselves as the Beatles or as Paul, John, George and Ringo. As I write this up, I will use those names just to keep things straight.  

The first act is divided over 4 sections. The first shows the Beatles in black suits and ties as they appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show and later at the Hollywood Bowl. A change of costume has the 4 lads done tan Nehru jackets of the type they wore at their Shea Stadium concert. Then it's time for Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and the four guys are dressed in the day-glo colors of the marching band uniforms the Beatles sported for that album's cover. Finally, the boys take a more stripped down and unmatched attire as they emulate the Beatles during their famous impromptu rooftop concert in London just before their break up.  

The second act takes the form of a concert that never was. Centered around John Lennon's 40th birthday in October 1980, the Beatles reunite for a special concert, a collection of classic Beatles tunes as well as the band running through solo works from their post-break up period.  

The musicians sing and perform live. The guy performing as "Paul" captured Paul's exuberance and raw energy on numbers like Hey Jude and Live and Let Die. The men playing George and Ringo were really in sync with their real life counterparts, especially on My Sweet Lord and It Don't Come Easy. Musically, the dude playing as John was dead on but during onstage banter, he seemed to rely on that exaggerated affectation people employ to do a John Lennon impression. "John" did have a particularly good line; when introducing the first of their solo songs in the second half, "John" referred to them as some tunes they had done "since we left the Rolling Stones".  

There are points in the show, particularly during the Sgt. Pepper's portion that the band was playing to a backing track. Or so I thought. Turns out there was a guy in the back working keyboards that I could not see from my position on the lawn. Paul later introduces him as Daniel Wise during the 2nd half of the show. 

From Sgt. Pepper's and onward until the end, the Beatles did prefer to create music in the studio instead of performing in concerts. And given the complexity of the music that the Beatles were creating with their producer, George Martin, it's hard to imagine how they would've taken that show on the road. The Let It Be gang on stage in 2016 has a dude in the back with electronic keyboards to replicate all the sound effects. Back in the 1960s the Beatles would not have had that luxury, meaning either dragging around an orchestra or re-working the music for a more stripped down sound.  I was of two minds if Let It Be should've gone with more 
verisimilitude by not relying on Daniel Wise but at the risk of not providing the instantly recognizable classics they were there to deliver.   

The 2nd half of the show provides the cast a bit more freedom as they are presenting a show not taken from history but from imagination. Sadly the Beatles never did reunite while all four were alive. In fact, 1 month after John's 40th birthday, in November 1980, John was shot and killed outside of his brownstone apartment in New York City.  

The fact of that knowledge could hang a pall over the proceedings being conceptualized on stage. It is a testament to the skill and energy of Let It Be that it does not. We forget the losses of history, of John's murder, of George's death from cancer nearly 20 years later. No, the audience is drawn deeply into an alternate universe where 4 men found friendship and camaraderie among them once more and got together to put on one hell of a show.  

Andrea and I brought an oversized picnic blanket and rented a couple of lawn chairs. The blanket would come in handy later as it got quite cool after the sun went down. Still, despite the chill in the air, the venue was warm with the shared love of an awesome body of music, warm with the nostalgia of what was and what could've been. 

As a full moon rose over a stand of pine trees at the edge of amphitheatre and an audience took to their feet to chant "la la la la la" to "Hey Jude", the Beatles lived again.   

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Tomorrow, not one but two (yes, TWO!) blog posts. Since it is Wednesday, they will be comic book themed. 

Another installment of Oddball Super Heroes as we continue our look at the very strange creations Joe Simon came up with for DC Comics in the early 1970s. 

And a wrap up look at Supergirl's first season as a CBS TV show. 

Until then, remember to be good to one another. 

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