I´m from Liverpool so if I´m ever anywhere that isn´t Liverpool people will always ask me about The Beatles. I conform nicely to the stereotype because I love football and I love The Beatles but I didn´t get into the group until I was about 10 years old when I saw a documentary at school in Oman. The doc was called The Compleat Beatles (yep, that spelling) and told the story that anyone who knows anything about the band is familiar with. But it hit home and hooked me and ever since I´ve been a Beatlehead. So there was never any doubt that I wouldn´t go and see the new Ron Howard documentary about the Beatles´ touring years.
And it´s not a bad film. It retells the story we all know. It has new interviews from a doddery Paul and a still youthful-ish Ringo, but there´s not a lot they can add that we haven´t seen or known before. It´s interesting to see the story told from a mainly American angle and nice to see The Beatles standing against segregation, but there´s too much fluff here for me. Eddie Izzard as a talking head doesn´t do much for me. The narrative works well until they decide to stop touring, and while we´ve been given a rundown of each album, stats etc, suddenly that all gets rushed along when John and co. decide “That´s it!” after Candlestick Park in ´66. The film ends abruptly and, for me, isn´t satisfying. It feels half-cooked and unbalanced, interesting as it is to hear the story.
However, once the credits roll we get a restored full-on version of the Shea Stadium show in August, 1965. At the time this was the biggest pop show ever staged and what we hear this year – 50 years after the concert – sounds nothing like The Beatles or anyone else in the stadium heard. Back then it was piped through the tinny PA, but now we get great booming sound and mostly crystal-clear images. And it fricken rocks.
The set-list is a joke in itself: they open with Twist and Shout, laughing and joking and generally having a ball. Lennon later said he saw the top of the mountain that evening and you can see them all thinking, “we really have made it to the toppermost of the poppermost here, la”. We get I Feel Fine, Dizzy Miss Lizzy, Ticket to Ride, Can´t Buy Me Love – piss-takingly introduced by Lennon – “er, I think this is on – what album is this on? Beatles six or something?” – but all well played. You get the charm, you get the character and you get the beat. You get what all the screaming was about: how they gave the world joy.
Baby´s In Black – “a waltz, remember that?”, A Hard Day´s Night, Act Naturally and Help! lead up to a manic Hamburgy finale of I´m Down with Paul going full-on Little Richard and John on the keyboards giving sweeps with his elbow and trying to make George crack up as he´s doing his backing vocals. It´s just brilliant fun and a relief, after the stodge before it, to get to see the animals in their natural habitat.
End of: well worth going, The Beatles are ace, stick around for the concert, even if you think you´re not going to into it after almost two hours of the doc. You will.