Wednesday, February 16, 2022

The Beatles: Get Back – the Rooftop Concert (2022)

Peter Jackson: The Beatles: Get Back – The Rooftop Concert (GB 2022) with George Harrison (lead guitar, vocals), John Lennon (rhythm guitar, vocals), Ringo Starr (drums), Paul McCartney (bass, vocals).

Peter Jackson: The Beatles: Get Back – The Rooftop Concert (GB 2022) with Ringo Starr (drums), Paul McCartney (bass, vocals), John Lennon (rhythm guitar, vocals), George Harrison (lead guitar, vocals).

Peter Jackson: The Beatles: Get Back – The Rooftop Concert (GB 2022). On their Apple Corps headquarters rooftop at 3 Savile Row, their final live concert, 30 Jan 1969.

The Beatles: the lunchtime rooftop concert, 30 Jan 1969. Paul McCartney (bass, vocals), John Lennon (rhythm guitar, vocals), Ringo Starr (drums), in the background Billy Preston at the keyboards.

GB © 2022 Apple Corps Limited. PC: WingNut Films / Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.
    A concert documentary film.
    D: Peter Jackson. ED: Jabez Olssen. Digitally remastered and re-edited. Released on DCP in IMAX theatres sound remixed in Dolby Atmos.
    ORIGINAL FOOTAGE 1969: D: Michael Lindsay-Hogg. P: Neil Aspinall. DP: Anthony B. Richmond – 16 mm – Eastman 100T 7254 – 1,37:1 – colour – camera: Arriflex 16 BL. S: Peter Sutton.
John Lennon – lead and backing vocals, rhythm guitar; lead guitar on "Get Back"
Paul McCartney – lead and backing vocals, bass guitar
George Harrison – backing vocals, lead guitar; rhythm guitar on "Get Back"
Ringo Starr – drums
Billy Preston – electric piano
    GUESTS INCLUDING: Yoko Ono, Linda McCartney, Maureen Starkey.
0. "Get Back" (Trial Run)
1. "Get Back" (Take 1)    4:43
2. "Get Back" (Take 2)    3:24
3. "Don't Let Me Down" (Take 1) 3:22
4. "I've Got a Feeling" (Take 1) 4:44
5. "One After 909" 3:09
6. "Dig a Pony" 5:52
7. "I've Got a Feeling" (Take 2) 5:35
8. "Don't Let Me Down" (Take 2) 3:30
9. "Get Back" (Take 3) 3:47
    SOUNDTRACK: Dozens of tracks sampled in the opening and ending montage medleys, "Let It Be" the last one heard.
    65 min
    US premiere: 30 Jan 2022
    Finnish premiere: 13 Feb 2022 released by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures at Finnkino Itis IMAX as event cinema only, without Finnish or Swedish titles, but there are captions in English.
    Corona precaution: maximum capacity, hand hygiene, face masks.
    Viewed at Finnkino Itis IMAX, 16 Feb 2022

The vintage footage was shot for: Let It Be (GB 1969), D: Michael Lindsay-Hogg.
    [NB. Get Back (GB/US 1991), D: Richard Lester, is a concert documentary of Paul McCartney's 1989–1990 World Tour.]
    Based on Michael Lindsay-Hogg's vintage 1969 footage, Peter Jackson created an eight hour documentary series The Beatles: Get Back 1–3 (GB/NZ/US 2021) for Disney+ and Disney Platform Distribution.
    The Beatles: Get Back – the Rooftop Concert is included in Part 3: Days 17–22 of the series.

AA: I have a distant memory from more than 50 years ago of Michael Lindsay-Hogg's documentary film Let It Be (1969), covering the making of the Beatles album. I remember it as loose, rambling and unpretentious, sympathetic but not something I have been looking forward to revisit.

From the same footage Peter Jackson discovered a treasure trove. Last year he created one of the most acclaimed music documentaries ever, The Beatles: Get Back 1–3. That documentary I am looking forward to see, but during the corona pandemic I have grown totally fed up with home viewing.

Thus I was excited about the possibility to see in the cinema the rooftop concert at least. It was excerpted in the 1969 Let It Be documentary, but Peter Jackson lets us see it in extenso.

It makes a difference. The concert has an organic growth, a consistent flow, and a living, breathing unity. We hear "Get Back" four times, and both "Don't Let Me Down" and "I've Got a Feeling" twice, but it makes sense, because each take is different, and we become increasingly deeply immersed in the development of the musical performance.

The book of the year in 2021 for me was Oliver Sacks's Musicophilia, for many reasons, the most important of which was the revelation of neurogamy ("the marriage of nervous systems"), a phenomenon acutely missed in the pandemic era of social distancing. We miss the communal live experience of music and other performing arts. Even cinema is diminished without the presence of a live audience.

But Sacks's book is also a tour of exploration to the mysterious inner sanctum of music, and further, to what is beyond music. We can have brilliant melody, rhythm and harmony, the best instruments and mastery in performance and personal interpretation. Yet there is still something more, something hard or impossible to define, something that we feel and recognize but fail to express in words. A heartbeat, an oceanic tide, a mysterious but confident surge. A sense of urgency, a sense of a compelling joy of life, or a sense of cosmic agony. Unique for any artist, yet able to engage something in the innermost core of the listener.

The Beatles: Get Back – the Rooftop Concert, unlike the 1969 Let It Be documentary, is all about this. Paul's "Let It Be" is a display of the pure joy of life. John's "Don't Let Me Down" is a revelation of agony, a confession of love as a matter of "to be or not to be", a cry from the bottom of the heart. "I've Got a Feeling" is a synthesis of both extremes. "One After 909" is a flashback to the origins of The Beatles. "Dig a Pony" is a display of John's Dadaist / nonsense / absurdist stream of consciousness, an experimental passage before the return to the final takes of the three key tracks.

What impressed me most was the growing assurance and sophistication in the sonority of the rooftop performance. This is real ensemble work, a final celebration of a legendary team spirit. Even in the rooftop concert it is evident that Paul has taken the role of the band leader, and he carries the responsibility in an exemplary way, always full of energy and inspiration.

George, who was at his creative best at this very time, chose not to have a single song in this set, and he even lets John play the lead guitar on the title track.

A special hero is Billy Preston, a friend of The Beatles since the 1962 days in Hamburg, at the electric piano, prominent in "Get Back" and particularly shimmering in the haunting piano passages of "Don't Let Me Down". He became the only non-Beatle credited on a The Beatles record cover title: on the "Get Back" / "Don't Let Me Down" single.

Although neither rooftop film was directed by Richard Lester, there is an unintended element of slapstick comedy due to the part played by the policemen who try to stop the concert. I feel sorry for the policemen (credited in the IMDb in the Let It Be cast list) who thus gain unwanted fame as latterday followers to the Keystone Kops.

I am not convinced about the wisdom of producing IMAX event cinema from footage shot on 16 mm film (meant originally for a television documentary), but the split screen editing is perfect, sometimes in double, triple, quadruple or six-screen views.

It is a mighty gratifying experience to hear this complete concert in Dolby Atmos. The soundscape is full and deep, the harmony is wonderful, the sonority is rich and vigorous, the surge is irresistible, and these familiar songs have never sounded better.

Finally, I was particularly impressed by "Don't Let Me Down", this time evoking the anguish of "Suspicion" by Elvis Presley and the oceanic flow of "Albatross" by Fleetwood Mac / Peter Green. And "Dig a Pony", tonic, inspiring and lateral.

Figuratively and literally speaking, the band ended their performing career at the top.