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Review: Let It Be at Liverpool Empire ****

Let It Be has arrived in Liverpool hot on the heels of an International Beatleweek which this year boasted visiting Fab Four bands from across the universe.

But if the opening night audience was anything to go by, it seems the city that gave birth to the greatest group in pop history still has a healthy appetite for more John, Paul, George and Ringo.

Not so much a jukebox musical as a jukebox concert, this polished stage tribute to the Beatles’ music has a new twist for 2018 – a second half ‘concert that never was’ that imagines the band members reforming for a live show on Lennon’s 40th (and last) birthday.

It means the journey through the Beatles’ back catalogue is mostly confined to the first hour of the night, slimming down the previous incarnation’s 40 Fab numbers to a more manageable 18/19, and starting – rather than in the Cavern years – at the Royal Variety Performance of November 1963.

Jewellery rattling is optional.

Emanuele Angeletti (Paul) and John Brosnan (George) in Let It Be. Photos: Anthony Robling

The set changes take in odd years – Prince of Wales Theatre in ’63, Shea Stadium ’65, Sgt Pepper in the Summer of Love, and 1969’s Abbey Road – with a helter skelter of songs that cascade from She Loves You to The End.

The programme notes suggest the show should start with I Saw Her Standing There, a mysterious omission from the evening, and a shame because the it could do with getting off to a more energetic start. Personally, I’d move Twist and Shout up front to set out my musical stall.

The Let It Be band showcases great musicianship and attention to detail – every vocal inflection, bend of knee and wag of head of the real Beatles has been carefully noted and copied, along with delivering some deliciously smooth vocal harmonies throughout a packed two-and-a-half hour show.

The cast of Let It Be in Mathew Street

While the burgeoning back catalogue has been thinned out, there’s still room for a storming Help! (performed against the disquieting cacophony of a screaming Shea Stadium), and a jaunty Penny Lane and trippy Strawberry Fields, along with Sgt Pepper, Get Back, a rip-roaring, exhilarating guitar-driven Revolution and the symphonic A Day in the Life.

The second half sees the ‘Fabs’ in 1980s civvies and mixes Beatle numbers with solo hits, finally giving John Brosnan’s George a clutch of lead vocals that are missing ahead of the interval, including Here Comes the Sun and While My Guitar Gently Weeps.

Meanwhile Band on the Run, Watching the Wheels, Starting Over and Live and Let Die become joint performance ventures which is a fascinating prospect. Imagine indeed.

This is music that carries you along on a wave of both melody and memory, so the audience really doesn’t need the regular and rather annoying exhortations to clap, stand up and dance, or join in (the filigree beauty of Blackbird certainly doesn’t need the help of 2,000 amateur vocalists).

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