Taken a bit by the reality, I said to Jeff, "Imagine so many Beatles fans together in one hall!" He was willing to fain being a fan for me. The place was packed up higher than I'd ever seen. Not as many children as on other occasions. Better behaved than the Zeppelin audience but still not as refined as the Floyd fans who were overwhelmingly male, if that means anything.
For each number I recalled whatever backstory I happened to have heard or read about the song over the years. The first being "Back In the U.S.S.R" in mocking imitation of The Beach Boys. "Dear Prudence" was so wonderful I didn't even think of Mia Farrow's sister. "Glass Onion" started strong and good but, maybe like Lennon live?, the singer miffed the verse that mentions the fool on the hill. The difference is that on the album (and CD, I suppose), the songs run one into the next. I was content to let them carry on without pausing for applause. But, well, of course, the rest of the audience was determined to applaud. And it soon became clear that the band frankly needed a little breather.
Whenever I have listened to the album, I'm serious about it, first of all. But I discovered tonight that this is a fun album! Playful. And that is consistent with what I've heard, that songs had been written for their children, like "Good Night." I got the idea that nothing like this could be made today. Wiki says the album was written in India. The personal directions that they are each taking with their music - they are already breaking up - cannot be ignored in this album. Clapton's guitar sound is very distinguishable on "While My Guitar Gently Weeps." Do listeners mistake it for Harrison? "Happiness is a Warm Gun," coming as it does after "While My Guitar Gently Weeps," struck me as pure ego: a boasting Lennon says, "Look what I can do! I can do this and it will sell! Listening, so deeply intent on their voices and words that I've somehow missed the music? Hard to believe but it's true. This concert of not-quite-identical voices helped me hear the music, especially the guitars and drums, without the distraction of over-the-top personalities.
After the first two sides, there was an intermission. The lady behind me - she sounded blonde - asked of her companions:
What's the theme of this album, anyway?!"Sexy Sadie" is so biting! I had a stuffed raccoon named "Rocky" when I was young. You'd never find anything like that today; the song just isn't known. "Julia" was nice, performed with two voices necessarily, as a tribute to Lennon's mother. I couldn't help but compare it with what Roger Waters has done in regards to his father. I thought of that video of Lennon at the bed inn with Al Capp. Lennon is angry but still a pussycat. And Derek Taylor is fuming like a gentleman.
Often the audience failed to allow for the "fade-out/return" effect, that "false ending," which characterizes so many of the album's Lennon/McCartney compositions. But then I got stumped myself on "Helter Skelter"1 and clapped too early. That song was bloody loud with the constant drone like T2 or Contact. I had thought I heard the comeback before I really had but, in fact, the sound level goes all the way down to 0. And, of course, it isn't the whole comeback without "I got blisters on my fingers!" The most ironic thing about that song is the constant background of "Ahhhhh" by Lennon, as if it's some silly love song.
The band wasn't a tribute group and so didn't wear costumes. It was all about the music. It was certainly the first time I'd heard a faithful live performance of "The White Album," cover to cover. So many Beatlemania experiences "all those years ago" attempted to make up in impersonations what they lacked in musicianship.
1 George Martin can be seen rocking out @ about 3:26.