Tuesday 12 December 2017

The Beatles tribute act that can buy my love

Rock: The Sessions, 3Arena

George Martin
George Martin
Ed Power

Ed Power

Silly wigs and comedy Merseyside accents were in mercifully meagre supply as the hoary institution that is the Beatles tribute concert received a glittering 21st century makeover.

The conceit behind The Sessions is that the audience is peering over the shoulder of producer George Martin as he and the Beatles crafted some of the most enduring hits in pop. The result was nostalgia-fest meets VH1's Behind The Music, infused with the gilded spirit of Cirque du Soleil. The sacred interior of Abbey Road studio was recreated brick by brick while biographical snippets were beamed onto hanging screens utilising video technology pioneered by U2 on their recent tour.

There was singing, but also "banter", much of it from the original studio tapings. So when John and George rowed over the correct way to kick off Ticket To Ride we were supposedly bearing witness to the actual growing pains of the song.

On paper, this sounds like a fan-milking contrivance. In reality it worked wonderfully. There was a sense of artistic progression as John, Paul, George and Ringo - or at least the rotating cast of eight actor/musicians filling their shoes - stepped from the jangling simplicities of I Want To Hold Your Hand to dense, ambitious pop of Yesterday and Hey Jude.

The Sessions is a passion project of producer Stig Edgren, who stage-managed the 2015 visit to America by Pope Francis.

"It's a way to present the Beatles in a serious light," he has stated. "We've gone past just four old guys in wigs and costume changes playing cover versions."

George Martin was our narrator, the death of the real life producer last month adding a pathos that did not necessarily sit easily. And this, ultimately, was just a tribute show. All the gimmickry in the world could not conceal the fact that you were watching lookalikes bash out covers.

Yet top-rank production and a genuine appreciation for what made The Beatles special - and why they continue to matter - ensured this was a nostalgia trip worth taking.

Irish Independent

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