The Beatles’ last official live concert was in San Francisco in 1966. They also did one last impromptu appearance on the rooftop of Apple in 1969 to bemused onlookers. This means that many of the band’s more experimental and expansive songs from their studio years have only been performed by tribute acts. The All You Need Is Love concert took a leaf out of this book with an epic set of classics. The night was an amazing journey and nostalgic romp through the Beatles post-1965 playbook.
This concert series celebrated five years of ringing in the New Year at the Opera House. Many of the musicians in the band had also celebrated the ten year anniversary of The White Album concert in 2018. It is obvious that so many decades on, there are people who still want to hear from their beloved Beatles. This large live group of Aussies – including 35 musicians and singers – came together to form the Strawberry Fields Rock Orchestra. They played faithful and infectious renditions in a tribute that was fitting to the Fab Four.
The Sydney Lyric Orchestra gave a full and robust sound to the grandiose songs and the proceedings overall. An early highlight was “Eleanor Rigby” with its striking and visceral strings. Singer, Jackson Thomas (The Voice) has a good range but he was a little eclipsed by the music in this behemoth. The Beatles’ shoes after all, are massive ones to fill. Jack Jones did better with “Strawberry Fields” where he took us down to the sight of that colourful, swirling soundscape.
Ciaran Gribbin (INXS) created some mischievous fun in “I Am The Walrus” and donned a Sgt. Peppers top for that rocking song about another famous group. “Fool On The Hill” is a more obscure tune but when it was sung by Thirsty Merc’s Rai Thistlewayte it positively glowed and not just because of the gorgeous flute. This joyous feeling was repeated for much of the show but was especially apparent during “Hello, Goodbye.”
The second set included some softer tunes and more of The Beatles’ ballads. On “Norwegian Wood” the group’s guitarist and glue, Rex Goh, did a stellar job of playing the electric sitar. This was a little drowned out by Tony Mitchell (Sherbet) on bass. Songs like “Something” and “Yesterday” were gorgeous and profound little gifts. It was the complete opposite feeling to the rollicking goodness that was “Lady Madonna” and the Jones-led bluesy gravel of “I Want You (She’s So Heavy).”
Rob Woolf joined the band on keys for this show. He replaced the late Paul Gray (Wa Wa Nee) who passed away in 2018. The boys paid tribute to Gray in “For No One.” Hamish Stewart meanwhile played some excellent drums while Paul Barton offered vibrant guitar solos (when old mate Rex wasn’t giving them a bash). The night concluded with “All You Need Is Love” and everyone singing along to the “Na nana nas” of “Hey Jude.”
The All You Need Is Love show was a rich and atmospheric one boasting bona fide hits, much-lauded classics and beloved obscurities. There was a little something for everyone in this nuanced and satisfying ode to the Fab Four’s artistry and mind-boggling creativity. The Beatle’s songs haven’t aged at all; they still sound exciting and fresh after so many listens and all those intervening years. In the accomplished hands of these passionate Beatle fans the tracks soared to the toppermost of the poppermost of the Opera House’s tall sails. Magnifique!
All You Need Is Love’s Sydney set list:
1. Getting Better
2. Got To Get You Into My Life
3. Eleanor Rigby
4. I Am The Walrus
5. Strawberry Fields
6. Fool On The Hill
7. Penny Lane
8. Hello, Goodbye
9. Across The Universe
10. The Long & Winding Road
11. Good Morning Good Morning
12. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
13. With A Little Help From My Friends
14. Golden Slumbers
15. Carry That Weight
16. The End
17. Magical Mystery Tour
18. Norwegian Wood
20. Wild Honey Pie
21. Martha My Dear
22. Lady Madonna
23. I Want You (She’s So Heavy)
24. For No One
25. A Day In The Life
27. Let It Be
28. Yellow Submarine
29. Good Night
30. All You Need Is Love
31. Hey Jude
Review score: four stars (out of five).
The reviewer attended the performance on January 1.
All You Need Is Love plays dates at the Sydney Opera House and Melbourne’s Hamer Hall during January and February 2019. For more information and tickets please visit: thebeatleslive.com.au.