Who ever would have thought that three guitars and a tiny drum-kit, together with some vocally infectious harmonies and some clever lyrics, would have entertained a world-wide audience for quite so many years? And lead a change in the way that popular music was heard around the globe?
Of course, The Beatles were themselves more than that — four humorists, four revolutionaries, four voices of the people....
So how do you put that onstage in just two and a quarter hours? Well, many have tried, from Willy Russell’s John, Paul, George, Ringo and Bert to, notably, The Bootleg Beatles who performed together longer than their original Liverpudlian counterparts.
I have to confess I am fan of tonight’s producer, Flying Music, as they have employed so many artistes in their wildly successful touring shows and have proven to have had the Midas touch with their previous compilation shows such as Thriller and The Rat Pack, and I am sure they will have another great success with their latest show, All You Need Is Love (Cadogan Hall and UK Tour).
Obviously to die-hard Beatles fans, the Merseyside sound is crucial.
And whoever is designing the sound for All You Need Is Love (not credited) would need to spend hours studying just how this specific sound was created in the 1960s. It should be a part of his or her DNA. The sound is everything.
On tonight’s hearing, it’s not quite there yet, as the sound tonight was played more as a rock concert than a pop concert, with the drum-kit (especially the bass / kick drum) continually drowning out the new clever orchestrations and arrangements by Martin Herman; and rendering the famous McCartney bass line non-existent. Ringo was always in the background playing a much-admired and deceptively simple beat. Look at footage of the day and see just how few microphones were used to amplify his kit when The Beatles played live.
So the songs that worked best for me were the simple ones arranged for string quartet and synth. harp, and with some good versions of George Martin’s orchestrations, accompanying a solo voice – Yesterday, She’s Leaving Home and While My Guitar Gently Weeps were all winners.
Early on, we were told that the idea of All You Need is Love was to play live the studio arrangements recorded in Abbey Road studios. This is a brave concept, as just what The Beatles and George Martin created in the mid 1960s was completely revolutionary, as many TV programmes have subsequently explained. It was especially brave to attempt a live performance of a few of the songs from the Sgt Pepper album. But the new orchestrations played by The National Philharmonic Concert Orchestra conducted by Martin Herman, are clever and with a better sound balance, this section may well become a highlight of the show.
There were a few costume changes to denote the passage of time – but otherwise there was little attempt at re-creating the four extra-ordinary characters. I think this was wise. The John Lennon (Paul Canning) attempted John Lennon’s devastating acerbic humour but the other three actors, Emanuele Angeletti, John Brosnan and Luke Roberts – all good musicians – remained resolutely in mufti. How can you accurately re-create such devastatingly original, historical, figures?
The mainly senior audience had a ball. They loved this show. But I was mesmerised by a young couple in their very early twenties bopping away in the balcony and who sang along to every single word for the entire 2¼ hour concert. They were having the time of their lives. But how and why did they know the lyrics so well? Even to the most obscure songs…? Such is the eclectic magnetism of The Beatles – for all ages.
Once the sound and lighting is on-side, I am sure All You Need Is Love will be another winner for Flying Music.