Hey Jude is the name of a Brazilian Beatles cover band and on Thursday evening Maria and I went to see them play a show at the Bradesco Theatre in São Paulo in which they were celebrating 50 years of Abbey Road. They would be playing with an orchestra and covering three main eras from the Beatles’ lives – the early years, the psychedelic years and finally Abbey Road.
Hey Jude are a Beatles tribute band for whom historical authenticity is everything. Not only do they attempt to be as accurate as possible on looks, style and personal mannerisms, their vision is to achieve a sound which is as close as humanly possible to the original live concerts. They have built up a hugely impressive collection of vintage guitars which are the exact ones that the band played in each era. And to complement these, they also play through the original VOX amplifiers which the Beatles used.
Oh, and to really create an immersively authentic experience, not only do they sing with accents as close as possible to John, Paul, George and Ringo, all on-stage banter is also in Liverpudlian English.
So the question is – could Cesar Kiles (Paul McCartney), Thomas Arques (George Harrison), Renato Almeida (Ringo Starr) and Thiago Gentil (John Lennon) pull this off?
I think most of you can actually guess that I would not be spending time writing this article if the answer was not a resounding yes! Their show was so mind-blowingly good that I really wanted to share some reflections as to just how good it was and why.
By way of background, Hey Jude have already receive much international critical acclaim. The band has played and recorded at the Abbey Road, the studio where the Beatles recorded almost their entire repertoire and they have performed six times at the Cavern Club (where they were congratulated by the Beatles’ first manager Alan Williams and Dave Jones, owner of the Cavern Club). They have played at the official closing of the Annual Beatles Convention (Beatle Week) in Liverpool, England, for over 100,000 people and they have also met Astrid Kirchherr, a photographer from the band’s early period during their stay in Hamburg, who created the Beatles’ famous haircut.
Their show took place at the Bradesco Theatre in São Paulo and this was one of the most important contributing factors to the show’s success. There are a number of live music venues I have been to in the city where the music has been somewhat muddy, especially in the bass range. This theatre however has excellent accoustics with walls designed to cancel out any echoing, with the resulting sound crystal clear.
In total Hey Jude have seventeen vintage guitars, including a Rickenbacker 360/12 and Gretsch Tennessee Rose seen above, two of the iconic guitars played by George Harrison. I play a little guitar, and have an Epiphone Sheraton hollow body, a guitar which can get me a little close to both the jangles and rock of the Beatles as well as getting me a more modern British indie sound. For this reason I was really keen to hear just what the overall sound would be like.
I have to say, again it was just an absolutely incredible experience, especially hearing the Gretsch through both the Vox amp and also in a theatre with such good accoustics. Maria and I were sitting half way back (having bought our tickets at the last minute) but the main speakers really seemed to not overtake the on-stage amps, meaning that the sound from the stage was insanely pure.
So how about the show as a whole? In addition to the quartet, Anselmo Ubiratan accompanies the band playing the role of George Martin, the Beatles’ producer (seen in this photo at the piano on the right), and there is also an eleven-piece orchestra who also play the original orchestrations.
The band have more than done their homework and as they say on their website, no detail is too small to be included. In terms of singing, at times Maria and I closed our eyes to see if we could really hear their accents, and definitely they really managed to capture the differences in each of the quartet’s voices which as Brazilians is an absolutely huge feat to have achieved. I think Cesar Kiles should receive special accolade as he managed to achieve the entire vocal range of Paul MaCartney, even when bellowing out the ending of Oh! Darling.
The playing simply cannot be faulted and many of George Harrison’s solos rang out in a way in which I have never heard them before. The clarity of sound also extended to the orchestra who really entered into the spirit of the playing too.
In terms of costume changes, the band covered three main eras – The Ed Sullivan Show, Sgt. Pepper and the recording of Abbey Road. As this was a celebration of 50 years since the release of Abbey Road, we were treated to the album in its entirety. With the show lasting over two hours, the psychedelic era was the shorter of the three phases, and although obviously choices had to be made and songs not sung, Tomorrow Never Knows was included, one of my favourite songs from this era.
I think the band need to be commended on their bravery due to the fact that while there are many Beatles fans around the world, not every person who loves the Beatles knows all of their songs, especially when it comes to the later albums.
The one song that really stood out for me in this particular show therefore was I Want You (She’s So Heavy). Given that this was as historically accurate as possible, Hey Jude played alls and 7 minute 44 seconds of it in a way in which was just unbelievably true to the original. This is one of The Beatles’ heavier songs and the band really managed to capture and express this emotional essence with both power and nuance when needed.
One aspect of the show which I had not been expecting was the way in which the band managed to take us into the Abbey Road recording sessions. For three or four of the first songs from the album, the band played sitting down, giving us a real sense of what it would have been like to be with the Beatles as they recorded the songs. The level of authenticity was so high that they began with George showing the band litterly just a few chords he had been playing with, and then John asking Paul if he had come up with anything.
The band began to play Something, but within less than a minute Paul asked the band to stop and start again as he had messed up. I didn’t really hear anything wrong, and it was at this point that the penny had dropped and I realised that they had studied the Anthology recordings and were reproducing the banter that you actually hear during these recoding sessions.
If you are someone who is not fanatical but who enjoys The Beatles, then this show is of course one of the best I am aware of.
But if you are a bit of a Beatles’ geek, and also British listening to Brazilians who claim to be historically accurate in every single detail, then not only was it a real treat and huge opportunity, it was inspirational, uplifting and yes, absolutely amazing to have the opportunity to hear the songs in their original form as possible. I really want to congratulate the band and all those taking part for managing to bring this together and with such obvious love for everthing the Beatles did and all that they represented and stood up for.