Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Not the Beatles, But an Incredible Simulation Without the Soul

Sunday night I watched the show marking the 50th anniversary of the Beatles' first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show. I went into it half-heartedly, figuring that it'd be something to have on while I was going through albums, figuring out what to sell and what to throw in the Goodwill pile. Also, it was clear before the show even started that there would be a bunch of modern musicians "interpreting" Beatles songs. But still I thought a good portion of it would be devoted to Sir Paul and Richie (I feel like the time has come to start calling him by his proper name again) reminiscing about that monumental event. And yes - I did want to see them play together again, I will freely admit.

All those preconceptions aside, it came as a surprise that when I turned on the telly at about 8:02, I was not seeing the opening scene of the lads playing "All My Loving" on Ed's stage, but in fact some average looking joes doing it. Turns out it was Maroon 5, who did a passable version of the song - editing out the guitar solo and the repeated version, probably for the sake of timing - which had all the personality of a bar band. It was bland. And much of what followed was a bunch of homages - some touching and passionate, others by-the-numbers - performed in a glitzy, room full of beautiful-people getting off on being part of a show that they thought was supposed to be as historical as the event that they were remembering.

Don't youuuuuu beeeeeeeeeeelieve it.

Of course the show rebounded by having Stevie Wonder follow Maroon 5, dusting off his clavinet for a funky version of "We Can Work It Out." Jeff Lynne did an admirable version of "Something" with Joe Walsh (who got all the leads down, although I've seen rumblings online that claimed he was syncing) and Dhani Harrison, the son of the man who wrote it. Dave Grohl tore up "Hey Bulldog," a nice deep cut choice, which he sent out to his mum and his daughter.

But I turned down the sound when Katy Perry did "Yesterday" and Imagine Dragons (a band I never even heard of until two weeks ago) doing "Revolution." Actually "Revolution 1," if you want to get technical. You'd think that if Eurythmics was reuniting just for this show, they'd pick a better song that "The Fool on the Hill."

As far as reflections on that fateful day in 1964, it was cool that they tracked down some of the women in the audience who were teenagers at the time and were caught on film screaming. One of them still has a strong Bronx accent that only added to her talk of "Pole." They also had some of the production crew from the Sullivan show talking about work on the show. More of that would've been a lot more interesting than Brad Paisley and Pharell Williams do "Here Comes the Sun" or John Mayer and Keith Urban doing "Don't Let Me Down."

Then of course, they kept teasing us before the commercial breaks about Paulie and Ring playing together! Oooooo! Like we haven't seen it already in all the previews and the teasers. When it finally happened, after each of them sang some songs with just the backing band, Paul sang "Sgt. Pepper" and it segued into "With a Little Help From My Friends" which brought up his companion. The show ended with "Hey Jude," which brought everybody back onstage to sing the coda.

I suppose it was a historic moment since the Beatles never played either song in front of an audience. But the warmth wasn't there. I wanted to get verklempt and feel like I was witnessing something historic, the closest that we'd ever get to seeing the Fab Four all together again - which was a dream I held for a couple years in grade school. Instead it felt like a slick show, complete with dancers from Cirque du Soleil. As if the music wasn't enough.

Then I just read a moment ago about how long it's been since Ringo and Paul performed together. A whopping...... four years ago, when the bassist crashed his ex-bandmate's birthday party. (No prizes for guessing what song he played that night.) Maybe that reunion was a little different, like when Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis were reunited on the Labor Day Telethon: in front of all those people, you're not going to be the shlub who tells your ex-partner to go to hell and storm off. You'll roll with it and be charming.

And that's what disappointed me about the show. I was hoping that these two would step down from the entertainer roles and just be two blokes for a brief moment, who might have been as blown away by the frenzy as the rest of the world was.

Nah. That'd never sell.

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