This live re-staging of The Beatles at Abbey Road Studios is a monumentally ambitious endeavor and musically, it achieves magnificently.
The visual impact of this show was extraordinary, with the real star being Studio 2, Abbey Road itself.
Attempting to create a perfect “sound-a-like” experience of the recording process at the iconic Studios, the show documents the entire musical journey of the “fab four” from the Beatlemania of 1963, through the experimental years, to the bittersweet close down of Hey Jude.
The most surprising aspect of the night was that this big-ticket production, based on the most over examined band in history, could possibly be one of the most original contributions to the nostalgia genre. In an effort to define such a show, Stig Edgren's term “Musical Docudrama” comes to mind, although it is difficult to pin it down. It's mostly a whistle stop concert, belting out the hits in chronological order, and linking the songs with micro segments of narration and dramatic representation.
Sadly, these representations don't match the musical standards of the show and are at times a distinct irritation. The late George Martin is played by Jack Baldwin and does embody a fatherly dominance over proceedings but simply doesn't have the lines to provide any narrative structure. There ought to have been a lot more authenticity in the exchanges between him and the band members, as some of the dialogue was based on direct quotes from Geoff Emerick's memoirs 'Here, There and Everywhere: My life recording the music of The Beatles'.
On this occasion the quotes simply didn’t translate well and what could have been a treat turned out to be just rushed and confusing. Emerick was the Beatles’ sound engineer for almost all of their albums, a legend in the industry and is creative consultant for The Sessions. It is undoubtedly his hand that has guided and helped deliver what matters most in this show and it was a mistake to have deviated from this.
Then it comes to the sound. The full, technically breathtaking, sound of the Beatles in their workshop, as faithfully replicated as can feasibly be. This is as close as possible a millennial can get to experience the band that defined the sixties and, controversially perhaps, a good deal better than being there to see them live.
They famously stopped touring in '66, disillusioned with their inability to recreate the sound they wanted to live on stage and unable to amplify enough to be heard over the screaming mania of their fans. With this show, Emerick has enabled the sound they wanted to be heard, to be heard, live. It just took a while.
The comforting excellence of the vocal harmonies are first introduced in She Loves You and only continue to delight; yet, the introductory dramatisation of Ticket to Ride is slightly self-indulgent as “Paul” reminds the boys what they should sound like.
There were a couple of unfortunate mistakes, an earlier segment was marred by some quite horrendous feedback; unforgivable for this level of set up but happily forgettable as it didn't continue.
The visual impact of this show was extraordinary, with the real star being Studio 2, Abbey Road itself. The studio is beautifully recreated by Stufish Entertainment and cloaked in transparent screens displaying a constant multimedia projection by Luke Halls.
From the beautiful Pop Art graphics accompanying Help, through the black and white video reels and images of original ticket stubs to the stunning iconography for Taxman, they absolutely transformed the performance into a show, rather than just a gig.
It's easy to forget the sheer scale and quality of the catalogue available here and just when you think you have heard the “big ones”, along comes Eleanor Rigby or something else to remind you of just how enormous their musical output was. Be prepared, sixty Beatles songs take a lot of stamina even at breakneck speed; it's a long concert but thoroughly worthwhile.