Amid much speculation, the Beatles have finally reunited. In April 1984, an announcement is made at a press conference that John, Paul, George, and Ringo will be embarking on a worldwide tour starting that fall. While there are no immediate plans to record, they expect the tour will show that they are still the best band in the world and many fans who never got a chance to hear them before 1966 will finally be able – with modern sound systems, no crowd can scream loud enough to drown them out.
John and Paul have been getting along great, with Paul stopping by any time he’s been in New York and bringing gifts for Yoko and Sean. Any lingering bitterness between the two long-time friends has been squashed since the renegotiation with Northern Songs and the distance of time.
Ringo has always been on board. Any time these guys gave the go-ahead to go out and make money, he knew he’d have a bag packed. His 1983 album Old Wave hadn’t even gotten a release in Britain or America.
The last holdout was George, who was convinced by a big check being waved in his face.
It’s a gorgeous evening in October at Shea Stadium. The Beatles decided to start their tour here for old time’s sake – plus, John could get there by train. And what luck, the Mets have missed the playoffs, so there’s no conflict. Tickets to every North American show have long since sold out, but these tickets were so in demand they were selling for almost 10 times face value in the parking lot before the show ($90).
At 8:17 PM, all the lights go dark. Realizing what’s about to happen, the over-capacity crowd of more than 52,000 fans go berserk. It’s only after the first few bars of the opening song that the crowd becomes completely silent, mesmerized as John, Paul, and George harmonize a capella.
A few seconds of silence are allowed to linger before a single spotlight comes up on Ringo, sitting at his drum set. The crowd screams again, and he waves and quietly paradiddles for a few seconds, soaking it in. The rest of the stage lights come up with the other three at their traditional positions; Paul and George are sharing a microphone with their instruments’ necks pointed away from each other. The screaming could go on forever, so they just start after Paul’s head nod signaling Ringo’s sticks.
IT DON’T COME EASY
The group decided well ahead of time that their solo work would be fair game, if only to have some more recent songs to pull their playlist from. Fans have tried to imagine the Beatles playing together on many of these tracks anyway.
Part of the deal with George getting on board was a bit more of a spotlight for his own work. He does his best to sing this one. Everyone’s so happy to be here, they don’t really notice how bad he sounds.
I WANT TO HOLD YOUR HAND
The song that blew the Beatles up worldwide still sounds good as hell. After the closing three-part harmony of this one, Paul finally addresses the crowd. He makes a few small comments about how happy they are to be there and playing together again. John asks, “Can yeh hear us alright?” The crowd responds enthusiastically.
John starts regaining his confidence during this song. He was throwing up backstage before the show and insisted that he not have any songs with his solo voice to start the show, having gone through this with Elton John a decade earlier. But now he starts having fun with his backing vocals, and during the last breakdown he tries to ad-lib a third verse, giving up halfway through with a smile toward Paul.
PLEASE PLEASE ME
Perfect timing. You’ll note that when the Beatles performed this one live after it was a single, John’s harmonica part was replaced by George playing a kind of graceless guitar lick. None of that is necessary here, as the band is backed up by several unacknowledged side musicians. Soon this will turn into opportunities to bring on huge guest stars. But not tonight.
DRIVE MY CAR
I FEEL FINE
WE CAN WORK IT OUT
A HARD DAY’S NIGHT
John takes a few moments to acknowledge that the song they just played was the theme to their first film, and next will be the theme to their second film.
After “Help!,” John and Paul pull back nearer to Ringo and George steps forward into a solo spotlight while fixing his capo. John and Paul share a mike for the backing vocals on the next tune.
HERE COMES THE SUN
Now the three standing Beatles spread out around the stage. John stays near his mike, but we’re about to jam.
EVERYBODY’S GOT SOMETHING TO HIDE EXCEPT ME AND MY MONKEY
This one is stretched to almost ten minutes of pretty good jamming. Paul jumps around a bit and George noodles in tune. The final chord is a bit unrehearsed, but it works in context. Everyone is so happy, including the guys on stage. Time for a brief break to take a whiz and a shot.
At the beginning of this one, John starts all alone, playing the riff on his acoustic guitar. The others gradually join him onstage and start playing and singing their parts. When it’s done, Paul counts “one, two, three, faw!”
I SAW HER STANDING THERE
Paul plays lead guitar on this one in the studio, including the solo, and does so again now. It’s unclear who is playing bass, since no one on stage is holding one.
At the only full live performance John ever gave post-Beatles, this was the only Beatles track he did. You can find it on the phenomenally terrible “Live in New York City” album (not on Spotify).
TICKET TO RIDE
WHILE MY GUITAR GENTLY WEEPS
The Beatles kind of act like this is another jam, but it’s really not that different from the White Album version. Ringo does not yell at the end.
HOW DO YOU SLEEP?
John and Paul try to make it clear to the faithful that they’ve buried the hatchet by duetting on this extremely unpleasant song about how Paul is the devil. It doesn’t really work, but at least they tried. This touches off a mini-set of solo songs now played as a band.
ALL THINGS MUST PASS
It seems like the coda could go on forever, and the crowd wishes it would. Little do they know that there will be an
Stolen from John Wesley Harding, the Beatles finish the show with the entirety of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, in order. They refuse to wear the costumes, though.
Complete Spotify playlist: