Review by Niamh Muldowney
Peter Jackson’s 2021 documentary series, The Beatles: Get Back was an astonishing piece of work, synthesising over sixty hours of footage and over a hundred and fifty hours of audio, into a nearly eight hour Beatles marathon. The sprawling documentary, constructed from Michael Lindsay-Hogg’s footage of the songwriting sessions leading up to the band’s iconic last public performance on the rooftop of Apple Corp in London, released on Disney Plus near the end of last year. Now out in Irish cinemas, The Beatles: Get Back – The Rooftop Concert focuses directly on the concert in question, with the addition of the Disney Plus opening that swiftly sets up the formation of the band and the major moments in their history prior to 1969.
The portrayal of the concert is infused with the unique energy and joy of performing in front of an audience. There is a wonderful sense of being-in-the-moment as the band performs and you can hear the songs getting tighter and more polished with each repetition. Jackson also plays with space by showing multiple different views of the concert at once, forming triptychs out of footage from the ten cameras either on the rooftop or on the street below. In this way, while fans may have seen some of the concert before in the Let it Be film, they have not seen it like this.
Due to the set list of the rooftop concert (composed mostly of repetitions of Get Down, and Don’t Let Me Down), the film unfortunately lacks the narrative flow of a typical concert, however Jackson adds structure to the film by intercutting between interviews of people listening from the street, along with the police officers attempting to shut the impromptu concert down. These micro-narratives, along with the conclusion of the film that shows the band and their partners listening to the recordings, helps keep the audience’s attention and brings the film to a satisfying close.
The digital restoration of the footage also needs to be commended, it is clear no corners were cut for the streaming release as it still maintains its quality when projected in a theatre. It is truly something special to see such larger than life musical figures projected onto the big screen and by bringing the concert to a cinema venue, Jackson can make full use of the sound system. There is a novel joy in having a bass line from over 50 years ago rattling in your chest as you tap your foot along to one of the repetitions of Get Back.
Get Back – The Rooftop Concert is a must see for fans of The Beatles, if purely for the fresh look at this familiar concert. While there is less here to appeal to those who aren’t fans of The Beatles, the film is short and sweet, doesn’t over stay its welcome, and is certain to make for a fun night out.