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Aref Omar travelled sonically back to the 1960s for a symphonic Beatles concert
IT was the F1 fever with K-pop sensation Girls’ Generation entertaining an army of screaming youngsters during the outdoor concert at KLCC.
But inside KLCC, the Dewan Filharmonik Petronas (DFP) became a time capsule of potent nostalgia as the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra (MPO) performed the evergreen songs of The Beatles.
Simply titled A Tribute To The Beatles, this was a homage to one of the most popular and influential groups in music history.
It was 50 years ago that the Fab Four made a splash in the British music scene with its first single, Love Me Do.
John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr quickly became the “it” boys, who were responsible for the Beatlemania phenomenon of the Swinging 60s.
In the DFP, their musical legacy was given a symphonic spin by the MPO, with conductor Mark Fitz-Gerald at the helm.
It was a groovy affair from the get go as Fitz-Gerald appeared onstage in a striking purple ensemble with Lennon-style round, thin-rimmed shades (the psychedelic visuals would continue post interval when he emerged clad in a blue Sgt. Pepper-era uniform).
This was thankfully an informal concert where he animatedly got the crowd clapping, whistling and singing along to 22 perennial favourites that included She Loves You, Can’t Buy Me Love, All You Need Is Love and Yellow Submarine.
Invitations to get up and dance were not taken up by the mostly conservative crowd in the packed hall although this was well compensated by copious amounts of foot-tapping, head-bobbing and swaying.
Some adventurous audience members added further atmosphere to the splendid event by dressing in Beatles-themed regalia.
One in particular had a Mod look with a necklace of Fab Four figures, while his girlfriend was garbed in a 60s-styled paisley dress. Right on.
The MPO also featured a four-piece band that comprised a drummer, electric bass guitarist and two guitarists, which included local six-string boy wonder Az Samad.
This was rock ‘n’ roll after all (with a pop aesthetic of course) although prominence was understandably given to the symphonic ensemble, with the band taking a more restraint approach. It was a joy to hear the songs movingly rendered by the string, brass and woodwind sections.
Slower tunes like Yesterday and Let It Be as well as songs with original strings in them like Eleanor Rigby benefited the most from the MPO’s deft touch.
One of The Beatles’ most moving songs, Hey Jude, was among the concert’s highlights. Its soaring sing-a-long coda ending was simply hair-raising and much appreciated.
The upbeat pieces like A Hard Day’s Night and Help were a little hit-and-miss although it was by no means the fault of the MPO or Fitz-Gerald’s endearing direction.
Rather, it was a technical problem with the sound levels relating to the band. The guitars were hardly audible throughout the concert, especially during Az’s few guitar solos and features. It didn’t help that the lights were a tad slow to highlight him as well.
Thankfully these were minor distractions that didn’t affect the overall enjoyment of the concert.
At times I felt a bittersweet sensation as the stirring music was accompanied by various pictures of the Liverpool Legends, in posed and candid shots from their humble beginnings to their stratospheric ascendance, projected on a screen.
Being an insanely creative and prodigious band, having released more than 50 successful singles between 1963 and 1970, it was inevitable that many of their other hits were not showcased during the 2-hour concert.
Free As A Bird, Paperback Writer, Ticket To Ride, I Want To Hold Your Hand, Love Me Do, the list goes on. Heck, it would have been great to hear the MPO’s rendition of I Am The Walrus just for kicks.
I kind of wished there wasn’t an interval just so the 20-minute duration could be substituted with more songs.
Time flies when you’re having fun and by the end of the show, the audience showed their appreciation with a rapturous applause and a standing ovation.
Cries for more resulted in encore performances of Norwegian Wood, Twist & Shout and, after even more shouts, a reprise of Yellow Submarine.
We don’t all live in a Yellow Submarine but I’m sure there was at least a bit of The Beatles in all who came for the tribute.
Long live The Beatles!