2 Apr 2023

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Come Together: The Beatles @ Kiri Te Kanawa Theatre, Auckland - 12/11/2022

13 Nov 2022 // A review by Roger Bowie

The Beatles wrote much of their ninth album, their first double, on a Transcendental Meditation course in India with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, in early 1968. They called it simply “The Beatles”, but, in contrast to the previous album cover for Sergeant Pepper, extreme in colour and pageantry, this album was just……. white. Hence the rather mundane name by which the album became known, which also tended to obscure the eclectic mix of songs and styles spread across 30 songs, such that no-one at the time could get it. Just a ho-hum moment to bridge the magnificence of Sergeant Pepper and the brilliance of their finale, Abbey Road. Ho hum indeed, as I fired up the vinyl on Friday night to listen to the entire four sides, non-stop, for the first time in living memory, and, yes, I was predisposed, but the full impact of what is now commonly regarded as The Beatles magnum opus hit me full in the eardrum. I remember as a 14-year-old trying to understand why Revolution 9 existed, a mess of unstructured noise, both music and voice, in the style of Stockhausen. It went for more than 8 minutes and seemed to subtract rather than add any substance to the overall collection. A spoiler. And if you wanted to concentrate and maybe play it backwards, then all sorts of subliminal messaging could emerge, the main one being the chanting of “Paul is dead”, a rumour that went on until Paul crossing Abbey Road in bare feet and out of step only served as confirmation. I hardly ever played side 4, because of that bloody track. But play it I did on Friday night, and the overall feeling which remained, referring now to the entire album, was “How on earth are these guys going to pull this off?’

There were no electric guitars in India, so the Beatles wrote 40 odd songs with acoustic guitars, mainly, of course coming from Paul and John, slyly collaborating this time, but songs which emerged as clearly led by one or the other. George wrote his best song ever. Ringo chipped in. And then the romance and mystique of their retreat retreated amongst dodgy tummies and boredom and suspicion and one by one, they left, regrouping in the summer to commence recording, sometimes in harmony, but egos are egos, and Yoko was Yoko, and many of the songs ended up being recorded without the full band’s participation. Ringo left the band for a few weeks. George Martin went on holiday. Not a happy time. But of course, the dysfunction of the band and the lack of consistent theme, has succeeded in producing an eclectic mix of songs which touch almost every genre of popular music and come together because they just do. The music doesn’t stop, so it must come together. Which only adds credence to my concern: How the fuck are these guys and gals going to pull this one off?

It's a little déjà vu as the all-star line-up for tonight’s coming together file on stage. Just two years ago there they all were, with a focus on Abbey Road but a liberal sprinkling of White Album tracks during the first half of that show.

Jol Mulholland is the show’s Musical Director and plays guitar, Brett Adams on lead guitar, Mathias Jordan on keyboards, Nick Atkinson and Finn Scholes on horns and all sorts of percussion, Mike Hall on bass, Alastair Deverick on drums and on lead and backing vocals: Jon Toogood, Sam Scott, Dianne Swann, James Milne (Lawrence Arabia) and, for the first time in this format, Julia Deans, keeping us guessing with her new blond look. And Your Bird Can Sing (Beatles song)

The sheer audacity of it all. But pull it off they do. Magnificently. And coming together with an intensity and passion and sheer joy which underpins this format but which we see in spades tonight.

Everybody sings. Julia, Dianne, Jon, Sam and James get 5 or 6 songs each, but Brett, Jol, Matthias and Mike feature as well, and of course only Alistair could sing Don’t Pass Me By. But a whole bunch of songs has everybody involved as well, it’s a night of big choruses, and funky choreography as the backing groups go vaudeville and entertain us from afar. Brett plays George and Eric on While My Guitar Gently Weeps and exchanges vocals with Jol. Mike Hall joins Dianne on So Tired, James nails Blackbird with Brett and Jol on acoustics. Jon goes Shihad up and down and across the stage and into the audience.  Julia does Vera Lynn on Goodnight. Helter Skelter makes us wonder, did The Beatles invent metal?  Jon asks why monkeys in India do it in the road. People come and go as the song dictates, but this band is having fun, their enthusiasm and antics are infectious. And no, the performance is not perfect, some of these songs are complex and hard, and The Beatles had studio time to repeat and finesse, but they never played these songs live. Not like our lot. So, we forgive the slightest of off notes, the range not quite reached, the occasional omission of a riff or a scale or an exclamation hard wired into our memories over 50 years. Especially the animal farm intro to Piggies. We forgive and forget because this time around we have a visual spectacle to add to the audio, we see the songs as well as hear them. I think they’re nailing it; they are pulling it off, they are embracing the fact that The Beatles are the greatest rock band of all time (I’ve said that before) and have maintained relevance in the face of today’s onslaught of instant pop which sometimes makes music taste like Maggi soup.

And they give us Revolution 9, a delightfully short version which is almost cute in comparison to that conundrum of 1968. And Paul isn’t dead, it was just fake news, and who would have thought he would still be performing Back in the USSR?

30 songs, but time for a few more. People are shouting out songs. Norwegian Wood becomes a sub-theme, ends up that Norwegian wouldn’t.  But give the band their due. How about side two off Abbey Road as extras? Played as they sound on the record, seamlessly, without interruption, and flawlessly as well. Make it 40 songs (some quite short), and still an encore. The greatest Beatle song of all time, of which there are several, is now played twice, firstly represented by A Day in the Life, and finally by All You Need is Love. Indeed. What a band (this time I don’t mean The Beatles)!!

But how so, cries Nicole with compelling logic, surely all we need is Come Together?

We have, Nicole, we have.

Set List

1. Back in the USSR (Jon) 
Dear Prudence (Julia)
Glass Onion (Jon) 
Ob La Di, Ob La Da (Everyone)
Wild Honey Pie (Sam)
The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill (James)
While My Guitar Gently Weeps (Brett and Jol)
Happiness is a Warm Gun (Julia)
Martha My Dear (Julia)
I’m So Tired (Mike and Dianne)
Blackbird (James)
Piggies (James)
Rocky Racoon (Sam)
Don’t Pass Me By (Alastair)
Why Don’t We Do It In The Road (Jon)
I Will (Dianne)
Julia (James)
Birthday (Sam)
19. Yer Blues (Jon)
Mother Nature’s Son (Dianne)
Everybody’s Got Something to Hide Except For Me and My Monkey (Jon)
Sexy Sadie (James)
Helter Skelter (Julia)
Long, Long, Long (Dianne)
Revolution 1 (Dianne)
Honey Pie (Matthias)
Savoy Truffle (Sam)
Cry Baby Cry (Sam)
Revolution 9
Good Night (Julia)
31. Because (James)
You Never Give Me Your Money (Sam)
Sun King (James)
Mean Mr Mustard (Jol)
Polythene Pam (Brett)
She Came In Through The Bathroom Window (Jon)
Golden Slumbers (Julia)
38. Carry That Weight (Everyone)
The End (Everyone)
Her Majesty (Sam)
41. A Day In The Life
All You Need Is Love

Photo Credit: Chris Zwaagdyk / Zed Pics
View the full gallery here


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