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The Beatles: Eight Days A Week – The Touring Years (4 stars)

Ron Howard's expertly constructed documentary offers a stirring portrait of the Fab Four, even if it has nothing new to say

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The Beatles: Eight Days A Week – The Touring Years

credit: Copyright SubaFilms Ltd

'The band you know. The story you don't'. So reads the tagline to Ron Howard's engrossing documentary about the evergreen icons of music but, while it's true that there can't be many people unaware of the Fab Four, the film holds nothing new or revelatory, particularly for existing fans. Yet, with its abundance of archive video and still footage, together with a host of new interviews, it's an undeniably glorious watch.

Concentrating on the early life of The Beatles and their meteoric rise to global fame – fuelled by a gruelling international touring schedule which took in around 250 concerts between 1963 and 1966 – Howard has expertly mined the extensive annals of Beatles history to present a cohesive look at the band's formative years.

Concert, interview and home movie footage with John, Paul, George and Ringo is woven together with public and private photographs to create a seamless journey from Liverpool's tiny Cavern Club to the dizzying heights of playing for over 55,000 fans at New York's Shea Stadium on August 15, 1965. They returned to the USA in 1966, a tour which culminated in a concert at San Francisco's Candlestick Park; immediately after this gig, in the back of the meat wagon that raced them from the stage, the band unanimously decided never to play live again (aside from a brief rooftop appearance in January 1969), and instead concentrate on studio recording. 'It wasn't about the music,' recalls McCartney of the often-frustrating experience of playing, unheard, against thousands of screaming fans. 'It became a freak show.'

Where the documentary really comes into its own, however, is in new interviews with surviving band members Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr – who speak with retrospective frankness about the highs and lows of such extreme fame – and those who witnessed the phenomenon first hand. As such luminaries as Sigourney Weaver (seen, in a brief, shining moment, as a teenager at an American gig), Whoopi Goldberg and Richard Curtis explain just what The Beatles means to them – inclusion, freedom, energy, anarchy and sheer, unadulterated joy – their heartfelt sentiments will resonate with any fan, old or new.

Putting The Beatles in such historical and popular context is nothing new, their contribution to music and culture having been widely discussed, debated and poured over in myriad printed and on-screen works. Still, Eight Days A Week effectively captures both the infectious energy of four hugely entertaining young men, and the evolution of a creative genius that continues to endure.

Wide release from Fri 15 Sept.

The Beatles: Eight Days A Week – The Touring Years

  • 4 stars
  • 2016
  • US
  • 137 min
  • 12A
  • Directed by: Ron Howard
  • Cast: George Harrison, Ringo Starr, Paul McCartney, John Lennon

Engrossing and expertly constructed documentary about the Fab Four's rise to global fame, weaving concert, interview and home movie footage to show the band's journey from the Cavern Club to their final proper concert in San Francisco's Candlestick Park. There's nothing new or revelatory, but it's an undeniably glorious…

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