On Monday, May 20 1963, touring with Roy Orbison, The Beatles played the Gaumont Cinema in Southampton.
They reeled off seven songs: Some Other Guy, Do You Want To Know A Secret, Love Me Do, From Me To You, Please Please Me, I Saw Her Standing There and Twist And Shout in a venue to which they returned on December 13 1963 and again on November 6 1964.
Now half a century later, their music will be celebrated once again and on the very same stage, in a building now known as the Mayflower Theatre.
Let It Be, seen by more than half a million people in London and elsewhere, is now on tour, taking in Southampton from Monday to Saturday, May 12-17.
The show charts The Beatles’ meteoric rise from their humble beginnings in Liverpool’s Cavern Club, through the heights of Beatlemania, to their later studio masterpieces with live performances of early tracks including Twist and Shout, She Loves You and Drive My Car, as well as global mega-hits Yesterday, Hey Jude, Come Together and Let It Be.
Playing Paul McCartney – appropriately given that McCartney was born James Paul McCartney – is James Fox.
“It’s basically a concert show, but it is also the story of The Beatles as told through their music,” James explains. “We start off early doors in the Cavern and go right up to the roof-top concert. There is some dialogue, but essentially it’s a two-and-a-half hour concert that they never gave, a concert in which The Beatles played all their greatest hits.
“I have done the show since the start. We did it on Broadway for a couple of months as well. It has been two years for me already,” says James who became McCartney, he says, because of the particular skill set he offered.
“I play guitar and piano and bass,” he says, though the one thing he can’t manage to do is play the bass left-handed in true McCartney manner.
Otherwise, the show is born of true attention to detail, he stresses, performed on the back of months and months of research.
“Unlike most other roles, it’s really not something that you can try to put your own stamp on. It has got to be an impersonation.People expect to see Paul McCartney. You have just got to study the mannerisms, the stance, the cheekiness. They start off cheeky boys and they go through a period where they were a bit more moody and introspective.
“There are so many interviews you can look at and films of their performances. You can see the way they changed. You just have to try to get into their minds and see why Paul gets fed up with the press or whatever at this point, try to see how his mood changes, why it changes, how he becomes less animated in some ways on stage. The energy levels drop. You see something like the Shea Stadium performance, and they are suddenly world-wide pop stars and there is a huge swagger, and then you get to something like Sgt Pepper and it is different – though obviously by then they had stopped performing live.
“And then you go through to the roof-top concert, and you can see that they are different people, that there are different weights of personalities going on.”
For that middle to later period when The Beatles just didn’t play live, that’s what the show is giving the audience, James says: “You are letting them see the hits performed live in a way that they never were.”