REVIEW: The Sheffield Beatles Project @ The Folk Forest

The Sheffield Beatles Project are a phenomenon that seems to be becoming something of a Sheffield institution. Since they first hit the stage to perform Revolver at Tramlines a few years ago, what started off as a one-off show has taken on a life of its own. That show went down so well that the logical extension was to cover successive Beatles albums every year as each 50th anniversary came around. And so it is that in 2019 we have arrived at Abbey Road, the band’s last album.

The biggest crowd of the day assembled in the Folk Forest on a beautiful Sunday afternoon in anticipation of the show. It would be almost unthinkable that anyone in the audience did not know at least some of the songs, and indeed several people near me sang along with every single word, such is the enduring, timeless quality of the music on Abbey Road. It was the Beatles’ final album, and perhaps the band knew they’d never record together again. George Harrison contributed his best ever song, ‘Something’, and today’s performance of it was one of many highlights. They even managed to arrange for the sun to come out for ‘Here Comes The Sun’. ‘Maxwell’s Silver Hammer’, ‘Octopus’s Garden’ and the beautiful album finale were all there, but for me the most stunning moment came on the lesser known track, ‘I Want You (She’s So Heavy)’. It’s the longest track on the album at over 7 minutes, and couldn’t be less like the singalong version of the Beatles some people seeing the film Yesterday might be fooled into thinking they were.

The main man behind this project, Ben Eckersley, arranged and conducted the 30+ band of musicians so expertly that this performance was given a life way beyond the recorded version. It was a truly stunning arrangement, and was a tribute to the dedication of the many fine Sheffield musicians involved. And if you missed this, all is not lost. Not only are they performing Abbey Road again in December at the O2, they are planning to add a performance of the entire Let It Be album to the bill. If the crowd reaction is anything to go by, I’m predicting that will not be the last we hear of The Sheffield Beatles Project.

Photo credit: Dora Damian

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