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The Beatles – Live at the Hollywood Bowl

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“Can you hear me?” screams Paul McCartney from the stage of the Hollywood Bowl during The Beatles’ 1965 American tour. The jet engine response from the crowd would indicate yes.

During The Beatles’ touring years, only their two August Hollywood Bowl shows from 1964 and 1965 were professionally recorded. In 1977 producer George Martin prepared an LP from the two shows. The Beatles at the Hollywood Bowl was a huge treat for Beatle fans and furthered the notion that The Beatles kicked ass on stage. Yes there was a lot of crowd noise but the nature of playing an actual music venue, as opposed to Atlanta Stadium, helped.

Thirty-nine years later we are once again treated to The Beatles at the Hollywood Bowl, plus four new songs. Giles Martin takes over for his late father and the results are tremendous. The Beatles created such beautiful music and were able to recreate it onstage for the assembled fans, and hearing these tunes live adds to their legend. They really cooked.

Although McCartney and John Lennon sing all but three songs here, no one is featured more than the others. George Harrison and Lennon’s guitars chime so clearly that solos jump, and riffs help create an aural picture that previously was only found in the studio. Harrison’s solo on “She’s a Woman” is clear and his Chuck Berry and Carl Perkins imitations are spot on. Lennon’s rhythm makes the set and even though his lead on “Long Tall Sally” is drowned out, its intent is pure and that does come through. Ringo Starr’s right foot, his rolls and his swishy high-hats help propel the music into the warm California night.

The highlight of the original set may be McCartney’s “Things We Said Today,” with its mellow minor key verses and high-octane middle eights. It is the quietest of the songs and the crowd actually mellows out, until A minor turns into A major and the hinges fall off. Harrison’s backup vocals, previously not as obvious as they are now, sweeten the sound just right. The bonus tracks are key and Harrison’s Rickenbacker 12-string, previously only featured on “A Hard Day’s Night,” double stops on “You Can’t Do That.”

Much has been written about The Beatles but the speed at which they ascended the ladder of the live band is never more obvious then when Lennon introduces a song by saying, “The next song we’re going to sing is an oldie, some of you older people might remember. It’s from last year and it’s called ‘She Loves You.’” The song was only 11 months old! It’s hard to imagine any other band ever moving so quickly.

The one drawback on the new release is the artwork. A worse photo of The Beatles would be hard to find and considering the classy ticket stub/Hollywood Bowl cover of the 1977 release, this airbrushed crap cheapens the product and seems to act as a shill for the new movie. At least Giles Martin did not change the running order of the CD, an idea he actually considered!

For those of us who never saw The Beatles, or those who did but couldn’t hear them, Live at the Hollywood Bowl allows us to scream back at McCartney, “Yes, we hear you! It’s 51 years later but we hear you!”

The Beatles
Live at the Hollywood Bowl
[Apple/Capitol]