Monday, 3 October 2016

the beatles: eight days a week - the touring years

On Saturday 1st October I went to see The Beatles: Eight Days A Week - The Touring Years, which is a rather unwieldy title. I saw it in an afternoon showing at the Picturehouse Central, which is the former Trocadero cinema near Piccadilly Circus, having been bought and given an overhaul. The ground and first floor are completely revamped (in fact there didn't used to be a ground floor), with cafes, bars and a new entrance to the street, but once you get to the escalators up to the cinemas you are in familiar territory.

It was quite a well-attended showing for 1.30pm a couple of weeks after opening, but it's not on that many places and, surprisingly enough, it was cheap for central London, as Picturehouse Central charge £8 for documentaries (in the daytime, at least).

I wanted to see it in the cinema, rather than watching or half-watching it on telly, to get a better experience of the concert footage in particular on a big screen and with a cinema sound system.

I'm glad I went, and it was a fascinating film in many ways; they also showed after it a 30-minute recording of a 1965 performance at Shea Stadium, which was an added bonus. The Shea Stadium concert footage showed ten of the twelve songs they performed; Dizzy Miss Lizzy made me appreciate their version of it more, seeing why it was worth it, since the version on the album (like a lot of their rock and roll covers, in my view) is a bit lacklustre and pointless. The most striking thing to me was that the big finish of their set was I'm Down - a non-album b-side. Also striking was that in most bands these days the rhythm section are pegged together in an onstage relationship, but Ringo interacts a lot more with George, who hangs back a lot of the time; indeed George's solo contributions are so discreetly performed that he was often not the focus of the camera work at that moment. The most striking images were of John and Paul singing together in tight close up on a couple of the songs (I wondered if they were that tight, on their heads, in the original or if they'd been zoomed in on digitally for this version). It was also clear, as has often been remarked, that Paul was the one most mindful of the crowd and giving them attention and pleasing them.

I'd seen a lot of the photos, and extracts from the footage, before, of course, and knew most of the facts. I could have done with a bit more on explaining or analysing a) to what extent, and how, they were a more dynamic and electrifying live act that their contemporaries, and b) exactly why so many people were just screaming all the time (it would have been interested to hear what they might have said at the time, and what they might have said looking back).