Love in Las Vegas

Well, actually, Vegas is not exactly my cup o’tea, but the Cirque Du Soleil show made it all worthwhile. It really is as brilliant as advertised – and superbly realized on a number of levels. (If you’ve just joined us, this story by Flo Rogers from KNPR in LV is a nice explainer about the George Martin/Giles Martin “mashup” of Beatles classics, commentary, and rarities that forms the soundtrack for the Vegas production.) Yes, the same George Martin who not incidentally is featured in the “History of Audio” mini-exhibit I mentioned the other day – producing the innovative (and long-forgotten) Marblehead Messenger LP by the early-70s fusion group Seatrain.

But I digress. I’ve heard some extended bits of the “Love” CD thanks to the radio, but I’ve held off on buying the disc until I had the chance to see the show live. I’m so glad I did, for as smart and creative as the Martin pere-et-fils mashup is as an audio track, it is simply breathtaking as part of the overall Cirque du Soleil show, which is both a thrilling sensory overload – and surprisingly thought-provoking. The show treats a lot of the tunes as historical allegories, such as the scenes from “Eleanor Rigby” unfolding amidst the rubble and devastation of a bombed-out London of World War II – answering the question of just where all those lonely children came from. (This scored a lot of points with the UK contingent in the RoeDeo crowd, who maintain that it’s impossible to minimize the impact the war had on the ensuing British culture of the 50s and 60s.) There are also recurring characters, such as Father MacKenzie of “Rigby” fame. Hard to say much more than that without, as it were, giving away the plot, other than to observe:

a) the George Harrison songs (“Something,” “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” “Within You, Without You,” “The Inner Light,” and most especially, “Here Comes the Sun”) are visual and musical stunners. Poignantly and movingly so. There’s a clue in the NPR story as to why:

Giles [Martin] and his father had free reign to use everything and anything ever committed to tape. That freedom came from the fact that the show grew out of George Harrison’s friendship with the founder of Cirque du Soleil, Guy Laliberte. The always protective, and sometimes litigious, Beatles’ company Apple Corp. was fully behind the project.

I daresay Guy did George proud.

b) Listening the score makes you appreciate George Martin’s musical sensibilities (a/k/a “the Fifth Beatle”) all over again, particularly his adept use of strings and tasteful (and downright innovative) orchestration and other instrumentation choices. I was really struck by how symphonic the weight and feel of the show is – you don’t hear a lot of early stuff, but you do get a lot of Martin’s most complex arrangements. And they really work.

Small wonder, then, to see what’s at the top of Sir George’s Website:

The Legendary Producer of the Beatles, Sir George Martin, shares his passion, Classical Music. Through warmly intimate, previously unreleased, video and liner notes, Sir George reveals his love of the sounds, as well as stunning details about the composers, and yes, even stories about his four famous “friends.” Sir George Martin has chosen vibrant recordings of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and assembled them into SIX enhanced CDs of essential collectible materials.

c) Finally, a car-geek observation: there are a couple of guest appearances by some vintage (albeit tricked-out) VW Beetles in the show – and they’re both right-hand drive! Not a lot of those running around in Vegas – or in Montreal, for that matter!

bottom line: Love. Worth a trip to Vegas. More than once.

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