Saturday, June 9, 2012


Art is about interpretation. With art we view the world through the eyes of the artist. The perspective is often revealing, and, as we add our personal experience to the artist’s view, we arrive at the ultimate object of art. Art lets us see life differently. It is this new view that is the goal. Through the eyes (and ears) of the artist our world and our view of the world is enriched.

Much art is visual. Here, in this desert oasis, art has arisen like a mirage. There is fine art here. Monet at the Bellagio, Georgia O’Keeffe too. Expressionism and the painting with light. That is classical fine art.

There is the architecture. Like some Disney dream gone wild there is the New York skyline reproduced in a hotel form. There’s Paris, Las Vegas and Caesar's Rome with Egyptian pyramids and the far east of Mandalay all reproduced with electric light and giant video screens. There are statues and fountains and all the wonders one expects of a Europe, but done here on the sun baked desert in a scale not seen anywhere else.

The desert has bloomed art with the sole intent of separating people from their money. Can Las Vegas be considered an artist’s town? Yes, that is the question.

But on to more art. It is not all visual. The art of my generation and those generations that followed is music. Stronger than the classics from previous centuries, our music fills our lives from boom boxes to massive subwoofers hidden in car trunks to portable music constantly providing a sound track for our lives through tiny buds in our ears.

There are certain musicians who have shaped the consciousness of generations and whose stories are told and retold in our conscious and subconscious minds. Melodies and tunes that are always there just below the surface.

Few musicians have had the power and influence of the quartet from Liverpool. Their music has played throughout my life. It’s been interpreted and reinterpreted and simplified and orchestrated and has become background elevator music. Their skill and talent has been recognized by musicians and listeners all over the world.

Their music is especially cherished by those of us who grew up with it as it was revealed. I associate with most Beatles songs an event in my life that occurred with the latest hit as a background. Whether it was Eight Days a Week, our theme song for the state basketball tournaments, or Sgt. Peppers that I first heard while living in Libby, Montana with friends working in the saw mill. Or The Letter while I was in boot camp. (All right, that was the Boxtops, not the Beatles.) Or the White Album that came out while I was stationed at Lowry Air Force Base. Then the final Beatle’s songs as they struggled with their own artistic strife that eventually broke them apart.

These are songs I’ve heard and listened and felt so many times. They are as much a part of me as my blood and my bones … maybe not as much as my hair. (Inside joke.)

Now I’ve experienced the Beatles reinterpreted in dance and light show and acrobatics as only Cirque du Soleil can do. The Cirque is no stranger to Vegas. There must be at least five different circuses here, including an Elvis interpretation. But none of the others touch me at my core like the Beatles.

Some of the theme I didn’t like … they portrayed post war Britain as if this was Tommy or The Wall. I never heard that in the Beatles. But as they moved to the psychedelic generation, their vision meshed with my deep held memories.

I never cried with a Beatles song before (okay, maybe a few times — Norwegian Wood), but by the end I had tears in my eyes. What a wonderful way to finalize the concert.

But before I describe that, let me explain my journey. I mentioned the Sgt. Peppers album. Well I first heard it when a close friend bought it back in ’67, and we played it in our little trailer in Libby. I expected something special since Rubber Soul and Revolver showed how much the Beatles were changing. Just as Brian Wilson was blown away by Strawberry Fields, I recognized something different, something special, something that had not happened before in the changing Beatles’ perspective.

But Sgt. P, that was an experience. Was this even rock and roll? Or was this just skiffle music taken to the ultimate. Other rockers were exploring the blues, but the Beatles were on another planet. These were stories. How many times have we heard these songs since used to fill a story line and provide a background to a video. These songs played in the head … way back in the drive-in movie part of the brain.

So it is no surprise that some forty years later I again was introduced to something new and Beatle by that same friend when he sent me a CD of “Love.” For those that don’t know … and shame on you … George Martin and his son went back to the studio to remix the Beatles’ catalog. With the permission of the surviving Beatles and the Beatle heirs and the sponsorship of Cirque du Soleil, they created a remix and mash-up of the Beatles’ creations that was, at once, new and fresh, yet nostalgic and tied to the original.

For we hard-core Beatles fans it was like a new Beatles record, but also our old friends and memories in there too. We would point and exclaim, “Look how they’ve put that together!”

From that moment I knew I had to see the thing. Ron beat me to it, visiting the desert a few weeks back and he “enjoyed the show.” With that prelude I arrived here in the desert with one goal in mind. I had tickets in the front row … well, the front section anyway … and I was ready for some Beatles magic.

Cirque did not disappoint. I can’t put it in words. Hell, Hemingway couldn’t put it in words, and I’m no Hemingway. (On that I get complete agreement.)

I started to describe the perfect ending … the last three songs. I don’t think I'm giving away the plot or anything … it is so obvious.

First (or nearly last) they played Day in the Life. The epic half John Lennon and half Paul McCartney song. It’s not just one song … it’s several. D. A. Pennebaker in his “History of Rock and Roll” declared Day in the Life the number one all time rock and roll song. That was in the 70’s, but I’m here to tell you it has kept the crown. No other song embodies the great depth and hight that rock songs can obtain. We’re not talking a couple of guitars and a set of drums. This is orchestra for the mind.

So, naturally it starts the final set. Then into Sargent Peppers. That song provides the drama and theatrics for any Beatles recreation (along with some images of yellow subs).

These natural codas from the greatest album of all time are an appropriate conclusion. The lights go out. The audience is on its feet. The applause is deafening.

But what rock show doesn’t have an encore. The applause continues. The actors return to the stage. Now for the real final song. Well, of course (sound of hand slapping forehead) it is All We Need is Love. The whole thing is called “Love.” It’s a no-brainer.

A little rock and roll. Some travel back to where it all started (She Loves You — yeah, yeah), and mental visuals of all the world singing for peace. Could music truly end the war? That was the question, but no-one waited around for the answer.

Lucky the theater was dark and no-one could see my tears. Thanks for taking me back. Thanks George and Giles. And thanks Ron.

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