This very watchable music documentary reveals the saucy pluckiness of Liverpool's Fab Four before their latter 'creative' years which included 'The White Album' and 'Abbey Road.' Before their indelible appearance in early 1964 on The Ed Sullivan Show.
Ron Howard's The Beatles Eight Days A Week: The Touring Years chronicles the mania over 200 performances that exponentially enhanced the celebrity of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr through a Stateside lens.
Howard, maker of Rush, In The Heart Of The Sea, as well as the upcoming Inferno (from Dan Brown's book starring Tom Hanks again), isn't really known for his documentarian prowess. Though he did earn some plaudits for his lesser known Made In America which featured hip-hop superstar and entrepreneur Jay-Z as well as other notable acts, even if he's really that into music outside of his professional endeavors in show business.
Nevertheless, a fresh ebullience is evident in this fly-on-the-wall presentation with the traditional archival footage and less conventional talking heads after the aging McCartney (who knew Harrison from school) and Starr (who replaced Pete Best and with all the screaming fans had to follow certain movements of his band mates to know where he was in the song). From Eddie Izzard to Whoopi Goldberg and even Sigourney Weaver the influence is felt, but the journey of the experience as people and artists was intensely transformative, while the touring conditions were far from ideal.
It's hard having two surviving legends together in the same room and Lennon and Harrison (who was part of an incisive Martin Scorsese documentary in 2011 Living In The Material World) not being there is more than a tad disheartening. Yet, the filmmaking has them in the old clips sounding better than ever and the young lads from northwest England having fun clashing in conversation with reporters.
Howard knew certain things about the band who would have a much deeper impact than expected and offers insight to millennial folks as well as the diehard fans who would be able to nitpick about idiosyncrasies and galvanizing patterns long before imitators would make a living off of them.
Lennon wasn't a favorite with religious conservatives who compared the rise of the iconic group to a holier than thou presence for millions. And, the stance of the quartet who related to the sign of the times on racial segregation is an eye-opener, even for the award-winning director, as many of their friends and idols were African-American. They opened up for artists like Little Richard back in the day.
While this showcase isn't really a dynamic original, the conceit of obtaining footage through social media allows for some interesting tidbits of the rich camaraderie and dedication to their supporters if you consider a final performance in Candlestick Park in 1966. The Touring Years is hardly a long and winding road for anyone encouraged or subsumed by a quartet who accomplished so much in just eight years together. The title is definitely an accurate one as in some venues Howard tacks on a half-hour from a famous Shea Stadium show.
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