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If I had to choose a single rock 'n' roll performance that could be labeled as the most iconic rock 'n' roll performance of all time, I think I'd pick the Beatles rooftop performance of Let It Be. Originally designed to a film about the songwriting and recording process, Let It Be remains on of my favorite Beatles albums and the show that summed up its finale, an impromptu show on the roof of Apple, remains one of my favorite rock 'n' roll concerts caught on film.
I was lucky enough to find this entire show on YouTube, broken up into three sections, and there is also a planned DVD release (if it hasn't been released already) with more of the session videos included.
Here is part 1, 2, and 3. (Update: Unfortunately all three are no longer viewable).
Although some of the songs played at this show are some of my favorite Beatles songs, there is something else for me that really makes it great. Although there would still be another album to come, Abby Road (released before Let it Be, but recorded after) this footage definitely shows that they were still friends and enjoyed making music together, despite moving in different directions and knowing it was time to part ways creatively. It also demonstrates how the band has grown, as I think it is pretty obvious from the first notes and even their appearances, that although they are the same four individuals and the same band, they have all grown significantly since their days at the Cavern Club.
The concert is rough, but does contain all the necessary parts to sound like the album versions, and the rough spontaneous feel is part of what I like. They still laugh and smile at each other and you can tell that they were still friends through it all, but you can also see a bit of the strife that split the band. There is a certain sadness that is just slightly evident in the mood, as if they knew it would soon be over because of all the problems that had occurred during the sessions, that I think would be present even if I didn't know it was their last live performance. These two things combine together to make this an amazing concert that actually has a very personal feel. It has an interesting dichotomy as there are moments where the band is having fun and gelling just like they always did on stage, but at the same time, it seems like they all knew it was time to move on. It has an almost, end of an era quality to it that comes through in the performance. I think it makes this concert that much better, as it adds tremendous authenticity to the show and to them as individuals.
The Beatles are, and always will be, legends as they probably will remain the largest rock 'n' roll band of all time... forever. This concert, along with collections like the Anthology, really brings them down to reality for me. It shows them more as people than as larger than life rock stars, fun loving characters and a band out to change the world. I like that, because although huge rock personae are great, it is nice to see that they were still regular people dealing with regular problems like people growing apart, and were not completely consumed by their celebrity status. That makes me respect them so much more as authenticity is probably the hardest quality to bring to entertainment whether through music, film or other media. It is easy to put on a fake front, but to put it all out there, warts and all, is hard.
I think the only bad part of the footage is that there is a little too much footage of other people and their reactions when personally I would have preferred more footage of the band. There are also two takes of "Get Back", which isn't really a necessary but is a nice bonus, especially seeing the power was switched off during one take I believe.
I haven't seen the entire Let It Be video with all the session film, but I've seen a lot of the clips and the entire Anthology. Some of the session clips are even more real and grounding than this performance and give an amazing peek at the behind the scenes of "the rock 'n' roll band" exactly as originally intended. I can't wait to see the entire Let It Be DVD.
Although it isn't available on DVD at Amazon as of the writing of this article, you can sign up for the waiting list here: http://www.amazon.com/Let-Be-Michael-Lindsay-Hogg/dp/B00005JKGT/ref=pd_bbs_sr_2/102-3214976-8970504?ie=UTF8&s=dvd&qid=1174872177&sr=1-2
I'm sure I will have this show in my collection as soon as possible. Maybe I'm reading in to this to deep (with ideas about the band's authenticity, but this show will forever be the final live performance by the band, and that alone makes it iconic.