By Neil Nisperos
When evaluating art that really matters, The Beatles are among the real miracles and artistic touchstones for western music and pop culture.
Their musical legacy is arguably without equal, with a talent, genius, influence and popularity that will be appreciated long after most forget about 90 percent of the artistic and commercial product produced in this century and the last. They are among the likes of Mozart, Shakespeare, or Dylan, in the virtuosity of their lyricism and musicianship.
With that said, it was an honor for me to see one-fourth of the legendary band perform at Coachella this year — losing my voice in the process after singing along with Beatles bassist/songwriter Paul McCartney to his hits “Hey Jude” and “Paperback Writer” — among my favorite songs of all time. I didn’t think my Beatles experience could be equalled this year after seeing Paul live, singing “Can’t Buy Me Love” while he jammed on his original Hofner Bass guitar.
I was wrong.
With the release of The Beatles Rock Band last week, in addition to their remastered album recordings, I was again lost in the heavenly bliss of the Fab Four’s three-part harmony, in ways I hadn’t experienced before.
With recreated Hofner bass in hand, and microphone on mouth, I re-lived the Fab Four’s deliriously fast rise to the top from the working class docks of Liverpool to playing sold-out American arenas filled with screaming girls, and back home to the hallowed halls of their Abbey Road recording studio in London — all through a quality product that should not only please to no end existing Beatles fans but also introduce their music to a new generation. I shared this experience with friends and strangers, all happilly united in the goal of recreating truly amazing music.
As a guitar player, I was at first skeptical of a video game that cheats one of the real experience of creating real music, or actively listening to an actual record. Playing a real musical instrument, I still believe, is far superior than pushing colored buttons on something that looks like a Fisher-Price toy guitar for toddlers, in the safety and security of one’s living room.
There’s something about rock music that shouldn’t be living-room friendly. There’s something weak about rocking out with a light plastic guitar with plastic buttons instead of the delicate picking of steel strings, executing knuckle busting chords, and pulling off sonically seductive riffs after years of practice and experience.
But the new Beatles Rock Band game still proves a revelation in the way one can experience, appreciate and truly understand The Beatles’ art. There’s quality in the production here and fans and non-fans alike really get an opportunity to appreciate and have fun with some the truly remarkable songs. The new medium of video games are truly evolving into important works of art that not only captivate but allow the one to be able to participate.
Among the best bits:
– Art: The production art for the box, cut-scenes and the gameplay are all gorgeous rendered. From the beautifully riveting opening animation sequence to the psychedelic vibrancy of later song levels, the experience is a candy for the eyes and ears. Its nice to see band rock out the Cavern Club and Ed Sullivan’s Theatre set in full Technicolor. The middle period of the game features famous Beatles venues such as Shea Stadium and Budokan in Japan. The Beatles last period is set in Abbey Road studios and the band’s legendary final live performance on a London rooftop.
– Drums: The game actually serves as a real musical learning tool. The music educational value of the game through the software and hardware is top-notch. The game comes with an intuitive electronic drum set that authentically replicates the crash, hi-hat, toms, snare and bass of an actual drum kit. The player can use the hardware with the game’s easy to learn tutorials on Ringo’s actual drum lines that you can slow down and learn beat by beat.
– Vocals: Here players can either choose to sing lead or harmony and the microphone sensitivity to pitch and beat is spot on. The game should prove hit at parties, and might even serve to teach the tone deaf to sing on key.
-Online play: Hook up your internet cable to the console, test your skills and tour the world, literally. The game easilly finds you bandmates to sing or play along with from around the globe.
– My only beef is that the game needs more songs. We’re missing several greats numbers like “Money,” “I Should Have Known Better,” and “Let it Be,” among many other classics. The game should have been released with the Beatles entire catalogue, though I understand they will be available for download.
Photo by Neil Nisperos: Paul McCartney of The Beatles, plays his Hofner Bass, at the 2009 Coachella Valley Festival of Music and Art