The Last Beatles Concert, 50 Years Later

You know you should be glad the Fab Four left the stage for the studio.

A few weeks after their harrowing escape, the Beatles were back on the gerbil wheel in the States, where they worked their way from Chicago to Detroit, Cleveland (where fans nearly trampled them), Washington, and Philadelphia. And then down to Memphis, where a cherry bomb was tossed onstage, making the band think they were being shot at (troupers that they were, they kept playing).

But neither security concerns nor the grim plains-trains-and-automobiles slog fully explain why the Beatles gave up the stage. It was no way for them to make music. Even before their first, triumphant trip to the States, the Beatles were getting sick of standing in front of shrieking crowds of adolescent berserkers. “They’re not listening to anything,” John griped. “All they’re doing is going mad.”

The fact that no one was listening may explain why concerts had become the one strangely stagnant part of the otherwise vibrant Beatles enterprise. Though the band had been making transformational music in the studio, their stage show lacked anything like the innovations they were pioneering on record and in film. Though they mixed in some new tunes in the act, the basic presentation on stadium stages in the summer of 1966 differed little from the performances the band had been giving at Liverpool’s Cavern Club in 1962.


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