All You Need Is Love, Portsmouth Guildhall, REVIEW: 'A great introduction to some of the forgotten gems in a remarkable back catalogue'

All You Need Is Love were at the Portsmouth Guildhall last night.
All You Need Is Love were at the Portsmouth Guildhall last night.
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So here’s a question – just how DO you improve the greatest songs written by the greatest band the world has ever known?

Simple, you take many of the Beatles’ timeless classics – and a few lesser known ones as well – and give them an orchestral touch-up.

And not just any orchestra as well – the 15-piece National Philharmonic Concert Orchestra no less.

Add four musicians who are no strangers to playing the Fab Four on stage, and you have the All You Need Is Love concert which is currently in its first year of touring the UK. 

The men playing John, Paul, George and Ringo have appeared in the West End musical Let It Be – a highly-acclaimed version of which appeared at the Kings Theatre back in April.

Though unsurprisingly similar to the Southsea concert, in key ways this was a different evening of Beatles nostalgia.

And not just because the orchestra added their own beautiful depth to the tunes all music lovers are familiar with.

For me, this was a great introduction to some of the ‘forgotten’ gems in a remarkable back catalogue.

Though I’d seen Beatles tribute acts before, never had I heard Being For The Benefit of Mr Kite, Norwegian Wood, Across The Universe and Blackbird – this was a setlist obviously chosen with the orchestra in mind.

It was certainly a setlist for the Beatles connoisseur – one where A Day In The Life and While My Guitar Gently Weeps sit comfortably beside the sheer majesty of Here Comes The Sun, Yesterday, Strawberry Fields Forever and Eleanor Rigby.

Oh, and the simply wonderful I Am The Walrus – the surrealist masterpiece Oasis introduced to a new generation of music lovers three decades later. ‘Elementary penguin singing Hare Krishna’ wins my vote as one of the greatest lyrics ever, for sure.

A video screen backdrop wasn’t strictly necessary, given the number of people on the stage and the numerous costume changes, but it did add to the enjoyment.

And there was a lot to enjoy. Paul Canning was a superb John – visually, vocally (an encore of Imagine was a lovely addition to the evening’s entertainment) and cheekily – while Luke Roberts as Ringo was delighted to sing crowd favourites With A Little Help From My Friends and Yellow Submarine.

Simon Blight as Paul and John Brosnan as George (a role he played at the Kings back in April) delivered numerous great vocals, while the highly experienced conductor Martin Hermann – ‘our George Martin’ – oversaw a wonderfully talented orchestra which breathed fresh life into songs now over half a century old.

As we know, though, the Beatles’ music is timeless – and it was great to see many teenagers enjoying their evening in what was, to be honest, a low attendance.

There were only a few hundred at the Guildhall, all sat in front of the stage, and that was disappointing for those stood on it. For their efforts deserved a far bigger audience to sway to the closing bars of (inevitable) show closer Hey Jude before the lights came on.

But ticket prices are not cheap – over £20 for an adult – and as mentioned Let It Be visited the city only six months ago. Tribute acts and shows are big business these days, but people don’t have bottomless pockets.

Portsmouth is lucky to have so many places offering great concerts, but is there a need for cross-venue discussions to avoid a concertina effect of similar shows – however good they might be?

And I repeat, All You Need Is Love was very good.