In the words of vocalist Jack Jones, “All You Need Is Love is a Tribute to the Beatles, not a tribute band of the Beatles” and it was just that as the concert played no fewer than 30 Beatles classics with a six-piece band, four lead singers and the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra (APO) in tow at the Aotea Centre in Auckland last night.
I was initially thinking, to get through that number of songs, the show might be more like speed dating. You know what I mean: spotlighting the highlights of each track and moving quickly to the next introduction.
The gig kicked off at 7.30pm sharp to a packed Aotea Centre, with punters who clearly had been playing the first pressings of the Beatles albums since they came out decades ago. The APO flowed onto the stage and started performing a little medley of Beatles songs, including Eleanor Rigby and Yesterday, as the six other band members picked up their guitars or took their positions in front of their piano and drum kit. Oh dear, maybe my fears were about to be realised.
How wrong I was. Ciaran Gribbin (ex Leya and INXS) jumped into Got To Get You Into My Life off Revolver with the orchestra in full force behind him. The mixture of the band and the APO worked incredibly well, in part, because a number of their songs had classical instruments and even orchestras at times to create the perfect fusion of rock and the classics.
It became apparent the four lead singers would share the singing duties and it was a double shot from Revolver with Eleanor Rigby following this time. Jackson Thomas (The Voice) hardly gave the Orchestra time to catch their breath before turning the next sheet of music, much to the delight of the punters.
Ciaran came back with I Am The Walrus, a personal favourite of mine, and then it was Jack Jones (Southern Sons) with the delicate Strawberry Fields Forever to slow things down a little.
I was lucky enough to interview Jack Jones a few weeks before the gig. Have a listen to the interview at radio13.co.nz/articles/radio-13-interview-with-jack-jones. As he told me then, the show is about celebrating the music of the Beatles and as it went on you couldn’t help thinking what an amazing period it must have been to grow up in, eagerly awaiting their next 45 or LP to come out and blow your mind.
Rai Thistlethwayte (Thirsty Merc) was the last singer to show off his wares and he kicked off with perhaps the lesser well known The Fool On The Hill, which was included in the Magical Mystery Tour EP way back in 1967.
Once all the lead singers had a crack we were treated to an incredible whirlwind tour of Beatles classics. From riding through Penny Lane to a trip Across the Universe and driving down the Long Winding Road, which, for me and others I knew at the gig, was a complete standout.
Before we knew it a short interval was almost upon us with Golden Slumbers and Carry That Weight, both from Abbey Road, taking us to the end of the first half. It was also the first time the audience appeared to get over their early dinner drowsiness and began nodding along and waving the odd arm to another highlight of the night.
An ice cream and drink later we were back in our seats. Clearly, there had been a half time huddle with the band and singers agreeing there needed to be a call of action from the team to the spectators. The conductor drew the short straw, walked onto the stage and politely said “you are allowed to enjoy yourselves and please feel free to let your hair down just a little” or words to that effect. It must have been a little hard for these veteran singers to experience the well-known reservedness of their Kiwi cousins, appreciating each song as it ended with polite claps and the odd muted woo hoo.
Still, they soldiered on and the tempo of the show lifted with some crackers including Magical Mystery Tour, Honey Pie (which finally got some audience participation), Lady Madonna, and Yellow Submarine to mention a few.
Then it was all but over with the aptly name Goodnight (Sleep Tight) closing the show. At last, the crowd joined the party and found their voices, clapping and yelling for more as the show really hit its straps, with everyone now on their feet singing All You Need Is Love. And how could they not finish with my favourite Beatles song of all time Hey Jude, which was the song of the night for me. It seems the audience shared my passion, singing every na na na nana na na hey Jude they possibly could before everyone said their goodbyes.
All You Need Is Love was exactly what the label on the tin said: a celebration of the Beatles. There are not many gigs you go to where they play 30 songs, all of them well-known and all of the punters leaving with smiles on their faces, reigniting memories of the past that were brought to life before their eyes.