The first thing I did once I booked my room in Vegas was to then book my tickets for The Beatles Love show performed by Cirque du Soleil. I have been a Beatles fan longer than I can remember. My first memories are of me pushing the Sgt. Pepper’s 8-track into my parents Viking stereo. Since I know I am never going to see The Beatles in concert I figure this is the next best thing since the project was initiated by George Harrison before he died, and had the blessing of the two surviving Beatles. Also the soundtrack to the show was put together by Sir George Martin’s son Giles, with his father’s approval.
I was a big fan of the album even though not all Beatles fans approved, like some members of Oasis, for instance, who wondered what the point was. Well, the point is this show – obviously – and I think people have to see the show before they pass judgement on the album. The differences between the original songs and the Cirque du Soleil versions is that The Beatles are essentially being mashed up with the Beatles. Using pro-tools, Giles Harrison was able to isolate different elements of songs, slow them down or mix them up with other songs creating a unique soundscape for this show – which is essentially a visual and sonic reworking of the legendary band.
We stayed across the street from The Mirage where the show is playing. Along the length of the top of the hotel was a massive sign for the show. The posters and signs for the show tower above everyone on the strip. I am not much of a gambler and after paying the amount of money I did for these tickets I knew this would be it for theatre-going in Vegas.
In the afternoon we picked up our tickets and spent some dough at the Gift Shop. I bought a notebook with images of Yellow Submarine on it to write stand-up in. We decided to have dinner in The Mirage so we would be nearby. Jamillah told me to choose whatever restaurant I wanted and so I chose the diner called BLT Burger which is a dressed up diner. It was so decadent. We had alcoholic milkshakes that were so sweet I honestly didn’t taste any alcohol. I had a kobe beef burger. I noticed that they kept playing Canadian rock. First they played BTO, followed by Trooper and then Nickelback. I thought that was odd. Even though I am Canadian I can’t pretend to be a fan of Canadian rock generally. Afterwards, we were incapable of doing anything except watching the show we were so bloated.
We sat down in the large theatre-in-the-round which has two massive wide screens near the ceiling and four very large floor-to-ceiling see-through screens intersecting in the middle of the stage, which retract during certain parts of the show. I was a bit nervous when the couple beside me started talking as the show was beginning. I soon learned they thought that this was a sing-along-off-key show. I decided to not let it bother me. The music is so fun to sing a long to I can’t fault them for enjoying it. After all, there isn’t really a story and there is very little dialogue.
The opening number is Because with just the Beatles voices and the music removed. It is a quiet beginning but it then excitedly morphs into Get Back with giant silhouettes of what appear to be The Beatles doing their final roof top performance for the film Let It Be. At the end of this song the widescreens start showing the end of WW2 and this becomes the setting for all the clowns and acrobats within the show as they move through the rubble of bombed out buildings. They slowly rebuild England, metaphorically rebuilding the legend of The Beatles throughout the show. The loose storyline generally follows key moments in world history from that point on through the hippie movement and onwards to space travel. The Beatles themselves intersect with many of the historical events and the show links the burning of Beatles albums by the Christian American right with the Civil Rights movements.
This is Cirque du Soleil so they do not dwell on serious docudrama moments for very long. It’s a circus entertainers show and it must be pointed out that the performers are phenomenal. The most astounding acrobats were the ones that occur during the what I believe to be the best mixture of Beatles songs on the album. This is the mix of Being For the Benefit of Mr. Kite with the epic end of I Want You (She’s So Heavy) which itself is mixed with Helter Skelter. During this segment of the show four performers roller skate up and down and over and around two large curved roller skating walls. One inch in the wrong direction and they would seriously injure each other, and yet they do it with the greatest of ease. When I was a child and I listened to Being For the Benefit of Mr. Kite I always imagined myself watching a magnificent circus – and now here I was actually seeing it. Sometimes I just had the feeling I was inside of the album Sgt. Pepper’s Heart Club Band.
I also think special care was taken with the George Harrison numbers. His greatest Beatles songs are all here: Here Comes the Sun, Something, Within You Without You and While My Guitar Gently Weeps. The latter is the only song with newly recorded music. The version used is the unplugged version from The Beatle’s Anthology with just George and his guitar, except Sir George Martin has added an orchestra. Of course, Sir George Martin is really the fifth Beatle. His orchestrations really took The Beatles music to a level beyond most rock bands of that time era. When Strawberry Fields Forever is used, it starts off with the basic version from the Anthology and progressively it changes into the version we all know now. In this way the show and its revision of the music help us deconstruct and then reconstruct the music we all know so well.
The show boldly succeeds at representing the surreality, absurdity and comedy of The Beatles as well. Many off the cuff statements made by The Beatles when they were recording are used throughout the show to show how funny they could be. The audience is treated to many special effects and we were warned at the beginning of the show that an effect would be brought out into the audience and to please not touch it because it could endanger the performers. SPOILER ALERT: The effect is a huge parachute which resembles a giant cloud as performers appear to float on top. Several performers are in the aisles holding the parachute up in the air above the heads of the audience, and OF COURSE, people touched it because people are MORONS!
By the time the show ended I felt blown away. It is hard to believe that so much good music came out of one band. Hearing the music that loud and in that new setting really reminded me how much I love The Beatles and how I will probably love them for my entire life. They are so positive and fun and no one should ever forget the most underrated Beatle of all is Ringo. Remember they are The “BEAT”les. The beat is extremely important in these songs. And when you hear it that loud you can really feel in your heart how important he was to the band.
So if you like The Beatles and you feel you can handle Vegas, I would urge you to go see this. It is such a complex show I can’t imagine how it could ever go on tour. The theatre is so specifically designed for this show. It is definitely worth the trip to Vegas just to see this multimedia extravaganza.