The Beatles were nothing if not ambitious, and it seems that every time someone looks to shed new light on the Fab Four’s history, the result is equally ambitious. You wind up with massive tomes like The Beatles: Recording Sessions or documentaries like the band’s own 8-hour Beatles Anthology. All of them, of course, are attempts to show how the group caught lightning in a bottle over and over and over again. But for many audio pros and fans (and those who are both), the ultimate way to see that would be to simply watch John, Paul, George and Ringo at work in the studio. Now legendary producer/engineer Geoff Emerick—who was on hand for the recording of many of the band's hits—is aiming to show the world exactly that, as part of the creative team behind a new arena production, The Sessions.
Subtitled “A Live Re-Staging of The Beatles at Abbey Road Studios,” the in-the-round production will tour arenas of the UK and Europe throughout April and May, 2016, as 39 musicians and eight singers perform inside a stage set rendition of Studio Two in Abbey Road Studios. Over the course of the evening, the ensemble will progressively roll through tracks from the start of the band’s recording career in 1962 to its demise in 1969.
The show’s creative team says it will be a “sound-alike” show rather than an impersonation show. Still, there will be at least some mimicking going on, as there’ll be a certain amount of re-staging in terms of the studio gear, with sound baffles, boom mics, specific instruments and more employed to recreate the sound of songs known the world over. In fact, the press materials go so far as to say audiences will see “the performance virtually becoming a ‘technical ballet,’ changing from scene-to-scene, with a constant flow of movement, all beautifully choreographed to position instruments and equipment for each segment—all replicating the original studio layout plans. We even have our techs in EMI Lab Coats to change the equipment.”
Note-perfect Beatle emulations are nothing new—The Fab Faux, famously led by Will Lee of The Late Show with David Letterman, have been knocking out meticulous sets for years—and high-end theatrical presentations of the Beatles’ music go all the way back to the 1970s Broadway show, Beatlemania. Still, fair or not, if you say ‘Beatles Tribute Band’ to people these days, it usually brings to mind guys in their Fifties donning mop-top wigs and ill-fitting collarless suits in a futile effort to look 18 again.
Stepping into that pop culture arena, The Sessions will have to work hard to not come across as another Beatle tribute using the studio angle as a new gimmick to present the same old thing. But to wit, having Emerick involved as a consultant on the production already gives the show an added patina of authenticity. I doubt audiences will see much studio trickery being recreated—somehow it’s hard to imagine an arena enthralled watching random bits of organ music getting spliced together to create the end of “For The Benefit of Mr. Kite.” Still, if there’s no way to go back in time and become a proverbial ‘fly on the wall,’ The Sessions may prove to be the next best thing.
What do you think? Could this be a new way to get inside the Fab Four’s music, or just the same old tribute show with a new coat of paint? Share your thoughts in the comments section.