Review: Let It Be, Grand Opera House

Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club band, aka The Beatles, aka the Let It Be cast. Photographs: Paul Coltas
7 Apr 2016 @ 3.33 pm
| News

Let It Be

Grand Opera House, York

Until Sat Apri 9

£23.90 – £36.40

More details & book

I spent the whole of my teenage years in the Seventies sulking, because I had been born too late to be a teenager in the Sixties. By the time I was old enough to go to see bands live, the Beatles had long gone, and I was left with Slade and the Bay City Rollers.

It wasn’t quite the same.

If you recognise this sad state of affairs, I have some very good news. Get down to the Grand Opera House this week, and you can experience at least some of the exuberance and excitement of the Beatles with Let It Be: A Celebration of the Music of the Beatles.

You’ll sing, you’ll whoop, you’ll wave your mobile in the air, and you’ll probably end up hugging total strangers. It’s quite a night.

The first half takes us from the Cavern to the end of Sergeant Pepper, and the second half covers everything from the Magical Mystery Tour to the final gig on the roof of the Apple building on Thursday, January 30, 1969.

Music spot on

The boys recreate the Shea Stadium gig
The boys recreate the Shea Stadium gig
From the first notes of I Saw Her Standing There to the last notes of Hey Jude, the sound is absolutely right. Yes, there were odd moments when perhaps the balance wasn’t quite what it should be, or someone hit a bum note – but anyone who would complain about these is really missing the point of the show.

This is live music, performed by real musicians who are actually playing their instruments, and singing, not lip-synching. The phrasing, the pronunciations, everything was spot on to the original recordings.

To all intents and purposes, we were hearing the Beatles live.

Facially, they may not always resemble the original Beatles, but their voices and, crucially, the way they move – a really difficult thing to get right – show the amount of work they must have put in to making their performances as authentic as possible. Their rapport with the audience is excellent, and they genuinely seem to be enjoying themselves.

The costumes have been meticulously reproduced, not to mention the many varying hairlines, sideburns and moustaches. I was quite surprised not to see ‘Wig Wrangler’ listed in the programme.

Ingenious lighting, back projections and animations are very effective in establishing the different moods of each new direction in the music. The amplification gets subtly louder throughout the evening, as it would have done over the years the Beatles played together.

Dedicated to George Martin

An acoustic interval
An acoustic interval

There is one particularly moving section in the second half, where they perform on miked-up acoustic guitars, seated simply on stools at the front of the stage.

Paul begins solo, with Blackbird. George joins him for Here Comes The Sun, then John appears for In My Life. He dedicates this song in particular, and the whole show, to the late George Martin. Ringo completes the line up with tambourine and maracas.

Other highlights include the faultless performance of A Day In The Life, one of the most complex of all Beatles songs, and While My Guitar Gently Weeps.

The original guitarist on this was, famously, Eric Clapton. George tackles this with huge skill and expertise – he may not be Old Slow Hand himself, but he turns in a solid performance for which he should be thoroughly congratulated.

‘I’ve gone deaf’

Imagine this were John Lennon (it’s easy if you try)
Imagine this were John Lennon (it’s easy if you try)

Part of the reason for my referring to the performers by their character names is that the programme lists more than one musician for each role. At the end of the second encore, the players are introduced by their real names, and take their bows as themselves – but there was so much cheering that I’m sorry to admit I didn’t catch all of them!

Paul was definitely played by Emanuele Angeletti, and Ringo by Luke Roberts. John was either Paul Canning or Reuven Gershon, and George either John Brosnan or Paul Mannion. The additional keyboard player was Michael Bramwell.

As for me – well, my throat hurts. I’ve gone slightly deaf. My hands are hurting. My arms are aching. My neck and shoulders are starting to complain really quite loudly.

But it was so worth it. To misquote a famous Sixties advert – these lads look good; they sound good; and by golly, they are good…