Wednesday, 23 November 2016

THE BEATLES: EIGHT DAYS A WEEK - THE TOURING YEARS review

Money may not be able to buy you love, but it can buy you this lovely new exploration of the Beatles's touring years to watch at home, as loud as you can get it. Out now on DVD and blu-ray, Ron Howard's latest documentary follows the Fab Four during their formative years on the road and on their way to mega stardom, allowing you to be part of the mania.

If you're of a certain age like me, you'll not have been able to experience the Beatles in their heyday, only experiencing them through short clips on television that are used to celebrate their cultural importance. Part of the joy of this documentary is the chance to go long with their performances, soaking in all the atmosphere of their concerts and almost as entertainingly, their interviews with journalists, completely sideswiped by these cocky young men from Liverpool. Showing what brilliant musicians they were, playing to a packed crowd at Shea Stadium (through the crackly PA system, not that you could hear the band over the screams of fans anyway), they remain ever the showmen carrying on through the din, and in sync.

This is not a documentary about life in the Beatles as a whole, plagued with infighting, musical differences and, gulp, wives and girlfriends. This is a very specific snapshot about a very specific period in the bands existence in the 1960s when they were bigger than... well, you know who. As one of the most important and documented bands of the 20th Century, it's surprising to see how much new footage is presented here, making this a nostalgia binge for lifelong Beatles fans and an eye opener for people who under-estimate how much of a worldwide phenomenon they were.

It does place the band in the wider context of what was going on in the world, for example, the band's refusal to play to segregated audiences in America was a bold move that the band haven't been given enough credit for. Among the people able to offer some fascinating insights is Whoopi Goldberg, expressing her heartfelt reasons for loving The Beatles and what they stood for and stood up against.

Being on the road for such an extended period of time of course had a huge impact on their personal lives, but it's only their musical experimentation that's explored here. There's no John and Yoko, no Paul and Linda. Just John, Paul, George and Ringo and the connection and camaraderie between them has never been more clear. Yes, they make fun of each other, but it's out of brotherhood borne out of their rarest of situations. This documentary shows them becoming grown ups on the world stage, the band (in particular John) learning the hard way that there were scores of people waiting for them to put a foot wrong, ready to admonish them.

The Beatles: Eight Days A Week - The Touring Years may be cumbersomely titled and quite US-centric, but there's absolutely no contest that this is Ron Howard's best film of the year. The choice to limit its scope to these years pays dividends, although a follow up chapter would be most welcome. A lovingly crafted documentary that, although it may not be able to offer too many revelations, is still a must see for any Beatles fans. It's fantastic and infectious; in short, it's fab.
 
Verdict
5/5

Extra Features

Available in a few different formats, the 2 disc Collector's Edition features a whole disc of extras including a 64 page booklet with photos from The Beatles' private archive and an essay from music writer Jon Savage; a short documentary about the band's approach to songwriting with new interviews with Paul and Ringo; another short doc looking at the band's pre-fame existence in Liverpool; and the jewel of the extras is The Beatles in Concert, with live performances of some of their most iconic hits at one of the loudest locations you'll ever see.

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