The Let it Be audience had a Ticket to Ride for the best musical journey in town when this exuberant celebration of the musical magic of the Beatles came to Manchester’s Opera House this week.
The wheels started rolling and the momentum of this scintillating journey built slowly, with timeless early Beatles tunes played against a minimalist set to reflect the black and white imagery of the early sixties, before technicolour broke out for the Beatles (and society in general) in the Shea Stadium era, and then total colour saturation and full-blown psychedelia for Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.
The Beatles stopped touring in 1966 and seeing and hearing Let it Be felt like taking a fantasy trip to an alternative reality where the Beatles kept gigging as a band and played their late sixties masterpieces from Sgt Pepper, the White Album, and Abbey Road albums live on stage.
Some of the Beatles songs were re-imagined here as sit-down acoustic set numbers, with Here Comes the Sun played to great effect.
And it was spellbinding to see the remarkably Lennon-like Reuven Gershon sitting at a piano in his yellow Sgt Pepper uniform singing A Day in the Life and hearing the band belting out Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.
The While My Guitar Gently Weeps guitar solo electrified the audience as it sliced through the air and, as well as the surprise of actually hearing it played live, I think audience members would have had to fight hard not to have a visceral response as the heavy sound of Come Together broke out in the electric guitar workout part of the show.
A word of praise must go to Michael Bramwell, their very own George Martin, who provided the backing sounds, brass and keyboard, including a fine solo on In My Life. Behind the scenes, he was a one-man orchestra – giving songs like A Day in the Life the orchestral power that George Martin created on the track by blending the Beatles genius with a 40-piece orchestra. Lighting Designer Humphrey McDermot and his team deserve credit too for using lighting to ramp up the excitement towards the finale.
At the end the crowd were on their feet to give the band a standing ovation after two encores and the audience didn’t want to let them go even after the musicians had put down their instruments and taken their final bow, as if the band had been channelling the Beatles for everyone and they didn’t want the magic to end.
And, in the ultimate compliment to the hard work of all concerned, it seemed the Let it Be musicians had also won the audience over on their own behalf, with their good humour, versatile musicianship, and thrillingly accurate vocal evocations of the Beatles classics live on stage.
Let it Be is on that the Opera House in Manchester until Saturday 6th March. There are two performances, at 4pm and 8pm, this Saturday. Ticket prices start from £24.90 and the student concession is £16.90. To book tickets contact the Box Office on: 0844 871 3038 or book tickets online at www.atgtickets.com.