The Beatles’ Festival ‘Let It Be Strings’ concert (27 Aug, Anglican Cathedral Well) sounded fantastic on paper: ‘chilled out lounge vibes’ from international artisits in the stunning setting of the Anglican cathedral. Well, the cathedral was certainly beautiful as ever, but some of the music certainly didn’t live up to the setting or the songs themselves.
Chatting to the barman at Parr Street studios before moseying up to the concert, he talked up Victoria Sharpe, the host and pianist (pic). And he wasn’t wrong. She performed rich, soulful covers of classic tunes like ‘Blackbird’ and kept the gig flowing along nicely, despite inviting a guest singer from the crowd to do a blues song part way through the first half.
But her interludes quickly became respite from the rest of the music. Alexandra Hill, a young violinist led instrumental covers that were proficient, but somewhat flat and lacking in emotional depth. The Swiss trio led by Marco Zappa forced classic Beatles songs into music that sounded like the theme from a children’s programme. Their accents were strong – no fault of theirs, of course – but very noticeable on their rendition of ‘A Long and Winding Road’, which overall contributed to their set sounding a bit like a comedy band on a cruise ship. The crowd did seem to be nodding their heads, tapping their feet and generally getting into it though. Were they hearing what I was hearing?
Italian group The Penny Ladies and guitarist Parlo Sorano injected a fun, Mediterranean vibe – their accents somehow easier on the ear, but still a bit jarring on tracks as recognisable as The Beatles’. The Swedish string quartet were easily the best of the night however, interpreting the band’s songs in a soft and confident way that made the best of the cathedral setting and acoustics.
As I left feeling relieved to be heading into town, I decided that instrumental Beatles can work if done properly, but sometimes European accented covers works for comedy effect only. Let’s face it, Ringo’s accent these days is hilarious enough.