“I can see this going on for another century or something,” said Yoko Ono with a smile, speaking to Rolling Stone on the age-defying popularity of the Beatles. She was among the band’s extended family gathered in Las Vegas on Thursday to mark the 10th anniversary of Love, the ambitious Fab Four-themed production of sound, psychedelia and acrobatics by Cirque du Soleil. “The Beatles’ music is growing, which is really nice.”
The show unfurled on a specially designed stage at the Mirage Hotel and Casino and maintained much of the sophisticated staging of the acclaimed original 2006 production, but with several meaningful adjustments in performance, design and effects. The music has also been remixed and re-edited by musical director Giles Martin, son of the late Beatles producer George Martin. Father and son collaborated on the music for the original Love.
Despite excited reviews for that first production, for Dominic Champagne, the show’s writer and director, it only represented to him about “40 percent of the potential,” he said. “I remember Paul and Ringo feeling that ‘We were quite a good band, don’t you think?’ They felt like that 10 years ago on the opening night. We wanted to reach that level. Now I have a feeling this is the best achievement I can probably do. Now I have a certain level of satisfaction.”
When McCartney and Starr arrived at the show Thursday, they spent only a brief time on the red carpet. Starr responded to a lightning storm of camera flashes by joking with the photographers: “Everybody send me copies!”
Fans inside the Beatles gift shop scored a great vantage point, pressing against the windows as the surviving Beatles walked past. Also on the carpet was director Ron Howard, whose new documentary on the band’s touring years, The Beatles: Eight Days a Week, is out this fall.
The project gave Howard a new appreciation for the band’s “journey and what it meant to culture and what it meant for these guys to live through it.”
The anniversary performance was dedicated “with great respect and adulation” to the memory of Beatles producer George Martin, who died this year at age 90. A tramp-like ringmaster in bowler hat also alluded to the night’s violence unfolding across the globe in Nice, France, saying, “In light of recent events, we have a message: In the world that we live in today, we are thankful to share the peace and love that the Beatles continue to bring to the world at large.”
The lights went down and the sound of Beatles chatter filled the room. “We’re on the air, folks,” said John Lennon’s voice. “Ready, honey bunch?” McCartney’s voice asked. These soundbites were immediately followed by the spectral a cappella vocals from “Because,” the harmonies pure and soulful, as male acrobats slowly climbed ropes toward the ceiling.
Then there was the opening clang from “A Hard Day’s Night” mashed together with Starr’s drum solo from “The End” and McCartney’s voice singing “Get Back” on a stage made to look like an old rooftop, with red brick chimneys. Within moments, the chimneys blew up, evoking the British experience of World War II – the birth years of the the individual Beatles – to the strings of “Eleanor Rigby.”
It was a vibrant opening to two hours of Beatles music accompanied by images of the Fab Four, Day-Glo dancers, the Eggman and cops with Blue Meanie smiles.
The anniversary show meant that this week was also a reunion of the larger Beatles circle, which included Sean Lennon and Dhani Harrison, Starr in-law Joe Walsh and others who gathered for dinner the night before. “We have fun now,” said George Harrison’s widow, Olivia Harrison. “It’s more of a family thing now than it’s ever been. All of them are the most loving, generous people. They’re really supportive. When they hug you, you’ve been hugged. It’s a beautiful thing.”
The changes to Love have been in place since March, with the subsequent months of previews leading to the official unveiling this week. George Martin was aware of that changes were being made to the show, but was too ill to participate.”There’s a huge poignancy because of the loss of my dad,” Giles said.”The most beautiful thing for me is the music remains, and will remain.”
At the end, as the show’s many acrobats and performers returned to the stage to wave their goodbyes for a standing ovation, McCartney and Starr joined them. “Thanks for coming,” Starr told the audience. “Without you, these guys would be lonely.”
McCartney thanked the performers. “I can do all that acrobatic stuff. I just don’t want to show you up,” he said, then repeated the timeless message of the night and of his former band. “We love you. Love is all you need.”