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Live Review: The Sessions

Flashback to the Fab Four in their world-conquering prime.

The Sessions at the Royal Albert Hall

Now we know how many Beatles impersonators it takes to fill the Albert Hall. No fewer than 45 actors and musicians share a full-sized replica of Abbey Road’s fabled Studio Two during this dazzling in-the-round display.

A three-hour, 60-song experiment in detailed musical reconstruction, The Sessions is a pet project for LA-based producer Stig Edgren, who has previously staged large-scale live events for Popes and US Presidents. It features two Johns, two Pauls, two Georges, three Ringos and a 20-piece orchestra.

The show’s lightly dramatised documentary elements are drawn from Abbey Road studio engineer Geoff Emerick’s memoirs. His first-hand observations feature between songs, including Lennon’s eccentric request before recording Tomorrow Never Knows: “I want to sound like the Dalai Lama sitting on a mountain top 25 miles away.” Both Emerick and George Martin are played onstage by actors, with Martin serving as narrator.

It’s spine-tingling to hear these immortal songs in high-def detail, from Please Please Me and She Loves You to the final rousing Hey Jude. But the real star is the stage design, which boxes in the Abbey Road set behind huge transparent video walls. As biographical drama, The Sessions inevitably feels sketchy and simplistic. But as audiovisual spectacle, this may be the greatest Beatles jukebox musical ever staged.

Stephen Dalton has been writing about all things rock for more than 30 years, starting in the late Eighties at the New Musical Express (RIP) when it was still an annoyingly pompous analogue weekly paper printed on dead trees and sold in actual physical shops. For the last decade or so he has been a regular contributor to Classic Rock magazine. He has also written about music and film for Uncut, Vox, Prog, The Quietus, Electronic Sound, Rolling Stone, The Times, The London Evening Standard, Wallpaper, The Film Verdict, Sight and Sound, The Hollywood Reporter and others, including some even more disreputable publications.