Saturday 29 June 2019

Review: Let It Be with new "reunion" - Norwich

Theatre Royal, Norwich
Monday 17th June 2019
Review by Dan Fowler

I was fortunate enough to be in Norwich, home of Tony Sheridan, Pablo Fanque (and more recently BBFC chairman Pete Nash) for the first night of the revamped LET IT BE show at the Theatre Royal.
I had previously seen the London show back in 2012 when it was advertised as a West End musical (with ticket prices to match!) and, although the standard of musicianship was good, I didn't rate the experience as any better than a number of Beatles tribute bands who were around at that time playing in pubs for a fraction of the price.

This time around though, the publicity promised a twist; "the Beatles reunion you never saw" -  with the entire second half of the show where the idea was to "imagine" what a John, Paul, George and Ringo reunion concert in 1980 could have been like. At the very least, that made a change from seeing the standard two hours of non-stop Beatles hits (enjoyable though that is!)
All four musicians, Richard Jordan (John), Emanuele Angeletti (Paul), John Brosnan (George) and Ben Cullingworth (Ringo) played their parts brilliantly, with believable mannerisms and a stack of original instruments and equipment. Emanuele Angeletti as "Paul" probably looked the most like his original (the more recent original if you believe the Paul Is Dead rumours) and mimicked Macca's stage persona very well. He had also learnt to play bass left-handed which is always impressive.

In the first half of the new show, the band flew through the Beatles career from 'She Loves You' to 'The End' via Shea Stadium and the Sgt Pepper era. My personal favourite songs from this section were 'Strawberry Fields Forever' (with full fade-in outro) and 'A Day In The Life' (complete with Ringo holding up an alarm clock). Both songs showed what a great drummer Ringo was for the band originally, and how his counterpart in the show did a fine job of matching him. 

The second half of the show, the reunion set, opened with the harmonies of 'Because'  straight into 'Jet' so right away the audience was given something different from the average Beatles tribute. The band then alternated John Paul George and Ringo solo songs, but stopped at George the second time around meaning Ringo's sole contribution was 'It Don't Come Easy'. Surely one of his other 70s classics like 'Photograph', 'Back Off Boogaloo' or even 'You're Sixteen', all huge and well-known hits, could have made the cut for a show like this. Instead, the band fell back on better known later Beatles songs towards the end of the concert, probably to keep a more general audience interested. Also, the inclusion of 'Blackbird' in the solo set was a bit out of place, especially as Paul's biggest hit 'Mull Of Kintyre' was omitted?

John's contributions were a rare chance to hear '(Just Like) Starting Over' which sounded brilliant live, 'Imagine' (strangely with George playing piano) and 'Watching The Wheels' - undoubtedly a classic but a slightly odd choice for a live show where a more upbeat number such as 'Instant Karma' or a better known song like 'Woman' might have appealed more to the audience. The last song before the encore was a real highlight; 'While My Guitar Gently Weeps' with some fantastic solos from George. The final performance of the night was of course 'Hey Jude' (which I believe is now legally required to be the last song at any "Beatles" gig or national event, complete with "now all the boys/girls sing" copyrighted by Macca).

Overall, whilst we could all pick different sets based on our personal favourite songs, particularly from the solo years, the show gets a solid 8 out of 10 from me, as it was great entertainment and the performers are certainly very talented musicians, with "Paul" "John" and "George" all alternating between bass, lead guitars and piano effortlessly. I also enjoyed the "in" jokes like Paul's 'heart-attack' reaction after 'Live And Let Die' and Ringo waving a large Union flag to reference the real Ringo's support for democracy and his banging-the-drum for Brexit.
I am not sure for how long or where next the LET IT BE show may tour next, but I certainly recommend seeing it if it comes near your town soon.

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