Our house is Beatle infested. No, it’s not the misspelled word for the insect I’m referring to, but the music. The Beatles. And not as in a ‘call-for-help, fixation’ sort of way. However there is plenty of talk about their music, interviews, and history. Enough for me to zone out when yet another Beatles song comes on the radio.
Living with a music man does that. I don’t just listen to music. There is behind the scene information on band members, going way back. The past, the controversy, how such and such song came to be. What does it mean. The Beatles are a good band to study, I suppose. They burst onto the music scene as young lads, and reinvented themselves with each new album until they morphed into a whole new group. Long-haired, bearded rockers, students of transcendental meditation. Their sound changed from pop and rock to something a lot more experimental. But to understand a band, or anyone for that matter, it helps to start from the beginning.
One production company took on the task of going way back, to a place The Beatles spent a great amount of time, mastering their art, playing eight-hour periods almost daily. Hamburg, Germany. Back when they didn’t have Ringo as drummer, but good looking Pete Best, plus a fifth member, the artsy Stu.
Quite a feat to accomplish, a live show on the origin of a band — mind you, it’s based on a movie — but that’s what BackBeat claimed to be about, so we went to see the show at the Ahmanson Theater in Los Angeles.
Does the show have an authentic feel? My husband says yes. Sets are moving fast, it’s hard to say with certainty, but for stretches of time the atmosphere of a dive in Hamburg feel almost real. It’s where they were ‘discovered,’ as the story goes.
Astrid is the girl who later becomes Stu’s girlfriend. But she has another boyfriend before Stu. And it is him, who, while walking down the street hears this unusual sound. This loud rock and roll music. He loves it, and tells Astrid she must go see this band. She does, and takes her bohemian friends along. The place becomes popular, and so do The Beatles, graduating to a club. The owner of the dive is livid. They can’t leave, take his business away. He divulges George’s secret. He is not eighteen yet, shouldn’t be playing music in bars. Young George is put on a train to England. The history is very detailed throughout the show.
We watched them work out the tempo of Twist and Shout. Watched them do My Bonnie and Johnny Be Good. Little Richard songs. Church music. Constantly mixing and matching sounds.
The director asseambled actors who are also proficient musicians. The acting is good, although the thick Liverpool accent makes it difficult to understand what they say at times, but for me, the greatest part is the music. Loud, live, and rock and roll. Yeah, during the musical parts, it is easy to imagine watching those other young guys, the real ones, performing their songs in a Hamburg bar.
So, it’s a long story, but I enjoyed it. In a show about a band, there’s nothing like live music.