Beatles film successfully evokes thrill of an era

When I hied myself to Proctors GE Theater for the last showing of Ron Howard’s “The Beatles: Eight D
Ron Howard's new documentary focuses on the early years of the Beatles.
Ron Howard's new documentary focuses on the early years of the Beatles.

Categories: Entertainment

When I hied myself to Proctors GE Theater for the last showing of Ron Howard’s “The Beatles: Eight Days a Week — The Touring Years” last week, I didn’t know what to expect.

Filmmaker Howard’s cumbersome title underlines the difficulties of re-telling a tale every boomer knows in our bones by claiming a chapter for a fresh cultural vision. I also knew it would be popular: A friend from the Berkshires was turned away as it sold out. So I went early and found myself in a GE Theatre packed mainly with age peers, and some of their children.

Howard mainly succeeded in sketching a portrait of the Beatles as singular pop figures; a charming, cheeky collective; an unprecedented popular explosion of work-honed talent galvanizing an audience in unanimous joy and an exciting, unarguably great live band.

All that may seem, inevitably, too much to cram into one movie; but the pieces fit. With live concert segments including amateur content, interviews by and about the Beatles, the highlights are very high, indeed. Fans’ photos and movies offer early glimpses of previously undocumented gigs. And if much of this feels familiar, interviews with two black women (one of them Whoopi Goldberg) offer fresh insights into the Beatles as social pioneers. They refused to play to segregated audiences: They invited everyone into their music. The film evokes the thrilling power of that invitation, and it quickens the pulse even after all this time.

“The Beatles: Eight Days a Week — The Touring Years” is now playing at Bowtie Cinemas in Saratoga Springs.

In April, ace New York Beatles tribute band the Fab Faux presents “Psychedelic Summer of Love” at The Egg. Led by bassist Will Lee and guitarist Jimmy Vivino, the Fab Faux will play songs from the Beatles’ revolutionary 1967 albums “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” and “Magical Mystery Tour,” plus other faves, accompanied by the Hogshead Horns and the Crème Tangerine Strings.

RIP

Last week we lost Buckwheat Zydeco, John D. Loudermilk and Bill Nunn.

Stanley “Buckwheat Zydeco” Dural died last week at just 68. Dural was the most important figure between pioneer Clifton Chenier and current top artist Terrance Simien in popularizing what Buckwheat called Creole dance music. His accordion and keyboard skills were so great, his vibe so upbeat and his band so tight that his shows were always a good, good time.

Loudermilk, 82, was country music’s secret weapon; a versatile songwriter who crafted hits for many other artists: “Tobacco Road” for the Nashville Teens, “Indian Reservation” for Paul Revere & the Raiders, “Ebony Eyes” for the Everly Brothers, “Norman” for Sue Thompson, “Waterloo” for Stonewall Jackson and “Abilene” for George Hamilton IV, among many others. Loudermilk wrote more kinds of songs, with more different feels, than almost anyone.

Nunn, 63, portrayed Radio Raheem in Spike Lee’s first (1989) film “Do the Right Thing.” He personified hip-hop with his hulking frame, fiercely assertive persona and blaring boom-box masking his gentleness.

Caffe Lena Collaboration

Monologist David Greenberger teams up with singer-songwriter Peter Mulvey on Friday at Caffe Lena (The Grove at Neumann, 233 Lake Ave., Saratoga Springs). Each is prolific and inventive: Mulvey on 19 albums since his 1993 self-named debut, Greenberger on nearly 30 albums or DVDs including collaborations in all directions, framing his monologs of elders’ recollections and opinions in all manner of music.

His latest, the ingenious “Take Me Where I Don’t Know I Am,” features composer Keith Spring and multi-instrumentalists Dinty Child and Keichi Hashimoto. On Friday, Mulvey will accompany Greenberger to open, then play his own songs.

“Knowing and respecting each other’s work and having a deep familiarity with each other’s sounds, I know we’ll make something rich of it,” says Greenberger. 7 p.m. $16, advance; $18 door, $9 children and students. 583-0022 www.caffelena.org

Reach Gazette Columnist Michael Hochanadel at [email protected]

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