Magnificent, brilliant, sensational and of course fabulous were some of the adjectives used to describe The Beatles and their new form of popular music. They acquired the nickname "the Fab Four" as Beatlemania grew, and by early 1964 they had become international stars. It was in that same year that the Fab Four first visited us here in New Zealand where they spread the phenomenon that is Beatlemania. And now, just over a half century later, Beatlemania is back playing at Auckland's illustrious Civic Theatre. But this time as a stage show... Let It Be.
A gigantic image of the Union Jack dominates the centre of the Civic stage reminding us all that the Beatles are English. There are also two large 60's styled t.v screens to the left and right of the stage. They feature nostalgic moments from the 60's, and 70's including popular ads of the day and Beatlemania moments before, during and in between sets throughout the evening which keep the audience suitably entertained.
The house lights fade to black and the curtain opens. The crowds quieten as they eagerly anticipate the moment that has been fifty years in the making. There they are; Paul (Neil Candelora), John (Tyson Kelly),George (JT Curtis) and Ringo (Chris McBurney). The Fab Four as I live and breathe. The stage is set out like the Cavern Theatre of Liverpool, the early days, and they start the show with about as classic as you can get Beatles song, I Saw Her Standing There. Wow!! These guys are good. Not only do they play and sound like the Beatles but they look a heck of a lot like them too. My natural instinct is to jump to my feet and dance as you would a concert. I am reminded that is a show by the crowds who remain quiet and seated. Ah yes, a show not a concert. I Saw Her Standing There is followed by ‘Please Please Me' and then ‘It Won't be Long'. Yeah okay, I know this is a show but these songs are good and I have now realised that this isn't a typical Broadway show that has a backing band hidden away back stage playing while actors pretend to play instruments. These four actors are also musicians and they are not bad. In fact they are pretty dam good. I should also mention that there is a fifth member, Daniel A Weiss that is filling in all of the other backing instruments like the strings and horns etc. to complete the Beatle sound.
From Liverpool we journey to the USA where we relive one of the most remembered concerts of Beatlemania television, the Ed Sullivan Show where the lads perform more classic hits like, ‘I Wanna Hold Your Hand' and ‘All My Loving'. There's a lady in the stalls that can no longer contain her excitement. She leaps to her feet and breaks into dance as ‘A Hard Day's Night' plays. The next sets includes other famous highlights from their American tours including that very historical moment in pop history, the concert at the Shea Stadium where the screaming crowds were so loud the music could hardly be heard.
As well as the musical gems, hit after hit, there are the elaborate set and costume changes which help us the audience stay in tune with what's unfolding; a musical and visual anthem of the 1960's phenomenon. Oh and if you're worried that this all about getting the look right and no so much musical integrity? You'll be happy to know that the instruments also follow the journey. Each era of the Beatle phases include appropriate instrument changes. Yes the Gretschs and the Les Pauls and the Vox amplifiers were all there at the right times. Ringo had his Ludwig drum kit that was fitted with only a single raised tom and floor tom in the early days then later with the full kit during the seventies. John and Paul shared the guitars, bass and piano. We were treated to an amazingly true version of, ‘The Long and Winding Road' with Paul on piano. He also played‘Yesterday' as a solo which was a major treat to what I was believing to be the new converts to this very talented quintet. 'Blackbird' was another stellar moment which was not wasted on anyone. Loud applauses and shouts were now the common ground of response to everything this group was performing, and they weren't wrong. But it gets better. The quiet Beatle, George (JT Curtis) is given the lead and he introduces one of my personal Beatle favourites, ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps'. Just quietly my favourite Beatle songs have always been George's stuff. Well if we weren't sure about the musical ability before... there would be no doubting now. It's time for one of the most recognisable guitar lead breaks and George comes right to the front of the stage to unleash it onto the spell-bound audience, and wow, this cat can play!! Stuff it! Is what I say to myself? I can sit no longer. This isn't a mere show anymore, this is a rock concert and I'm standing to my feet. I am not alone in my passion as I see that many other spontaneous Beatlemania maniacs including the first lady of dance are also on their feet.
I can't remember another concert that I have ever attended where I have known just about all of the lyrics, and there were a lot of songs which was very pleasing. Okay maybe I know a lot of the Stones songs. Oh am I allowed to be a Stones fan as well as a Beatles fan? Well after this show there is no doubt in my mind. I love them both and after seeing this concert I am clearly reminded of that fact. I was asked by a friend that didn't go, if I thought two hours was too long? Naaaa man! It was perfect! Not a single moment of distraction for me and many, many others. Let It Be was a night I will remember for a long time. Firstly for the fond memories of yester-year's hay days and secondly, for being horse from so much singing, shouting and screaming. It must have been an amazing time back in 1964 and after this concert, I kind of feel like I know something about it. Almost like I was a small part of it.
Let It Be is running at the Civic Theatre in Auckland from Thursday 26 March - Sunday 5 April
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