Being ubiquitous has its downside. The ridiculous and unprecedented success of The Beatles means we take them for granted, treat their music as something we’ve grown up with and don’t have to pay attention to. Not that it’s all good, mind – Yellow Submarine and Maxwell’s Silver Hammer are great examples of Beatles gone bad. But the good stuff is often sublime, and Let It Be is a celebration of that fact, a covers show that takes in musically convincing recreations of classic songs, perfect geeky details about clothes and instruments for the devoted, audience singalongs, and more besides.
The first half of the show is a chronological tour through many of the group’s hits, starting with their loveable moptop days and going through their evolution from cocky covers band to impossibly accomplished songwriters and ambassadors for psychedelia. It’s an unprecedented accomplishment, not least because most of this growth happened on a global stage. Sure, there was a management and marketing machine involved too, but the core of it was four young men doing their thing and becoming improbably good at it.
Let It Be’s performers are very convincing stand-ins for John, Paul, George, and Ringo. They’re skilful musicians who in all kinds of subtle ways give pointers in their interaction about the personalities of those they portray, and the way they felt about each other. A keyboardist provides the extra sounds necessary to recreate the varied textures of their more ambitious material.
Second half has the interesting conceit of being set at an imagined 1980 reunion for John Lennon’s 40th birthday. I went with a friend who is more of a Beatles fan than I, and also a musician, and he noted the telling detail that George Harrison now had a microphone of his own rather than having to share one with Paul or John. The supposed year also presented the opportunity for them to play some of the solo material generated post-Beatles, a reminder of how magnificently bonkers Live And Let Die is.
I’m not much of a fan of enforced audience jollity, and it did get a bit Butlins at times with invitations to clap, stand, and wave phones about. But, you know – Eleanor Rigby, A Day In The Life, Penny Lane, Blackbird, Hey Jude. You know you want to, so just go.
Let It Be is at Royal Concert Hall September 11 to September 15 2018.