Beatle Beat: Liverpool tour heads back to where it all began

It was great to go back to Liverpool for the first time in nine years. And the reason for my return trip was especially nice — to see Paul McCartney in concert.

Arrangements were made with International Tours and Events, who have been ferrying fans to Liverpool for Beatle Week for 25 years now (check out toursandevents.com for info on all their tours). This was a smaller-scale tour (for them), but Liverpool was positively buzzing with activity; the streets were clogged with folks, you heard accents from around the world and attendance at attractions like The Beatles Story even outpaced what happens during Beatle Week.

Though our tour provided accommodations, I took advantage of the locale to spend two pricey nights at the Hard Day’s Night Hotel. It’s handily located at the foot of Mathew Street (home to The Cavern). Each room features artwork by Shannon (mine had portraits of John Lennon and George Harrison, circa Shea Stadium). The main staircase features pictures of the Beatles in their various appearances in Liverpool over the years. Outside, along the front, there are large statues of each Beatle.

I also found time to get some drinks in the busy Bar Four, where the staff took the trouble to concoct a daiquiri-styled drink for us ice-starved Americans. There’s also a gallery, where if you can’t afford Shannon’s artwork (£2,375 for a Let It Be-styled album cover with pics of the Fabs circa Hard Day’s Night), you can pick up postcard reproductions at a cheaper price. You can book tours here, as well.

ITC arranged all of our tours for us. On the first night, we were escorted to The Cavern to see the Mersey Beatles, who seem to play the venue almost as often as the Beatles themselves did. I’d forgotten how much fun it is to let your inner Beatle Geek free every once in a while. A set later in the stay by a group tackling the Sgt. Pepper period wasn’t quite as memorable, but there are always other options in Liverpool, and my friends and I soon retired to the White Star pub just around the corner (where a plaque assures you that the Fabs did, indeed, imbibe on the premises back in the day) to enjoy some nice British beer and converse with the locals. Our final Cavern show featured a too-brief set by Denny Laine (who performed a favorite Wings track of mine, “Deliver Your Children”), and who afterwards spent time chatting with attendees and posing for pictures.

We also attended screenings of All Together Now and Concert For George at a great arts center called FACT. The former is a documentary about the creation of the Cirque du Soleil show “Love,” and it is just out on DVD (EMI Music). It’s well worth getting regardless if you’ve seen the show. The latter is of course a documentary of the George Harrison tribute concert held at the Royal Albert Hall on Nov. 29, 2002 (would that Paul McCartney’s next live DVD look more like this than the frantically edited live DVDs he’s been releasing lately).

Alas, we weren’t at the late screenings of the films that Yoko Ono, Olivia Harrison and George and Giles Martin dropped in for, though some in the group did witness these folks entering the auditorium. FACT is in the middle of Liverpool’s party district on Wood Street (keep that in mind for future reference) and is right around the corner from another Beatles locale — isn’t it like that everywhere in Liverpool? — the Jacaranda, which is loud and raucous these days. On the lower level are murals replicating the ones The Beatles made when they hung out at the club, and other Beatles-related ephemera can be found on the walls.

Having missed out on seeing Yoko at FACT, I arranged my own brief meeting with her at an exhibition of John’s artwork at the Liverpool Echo building. I hadn’t spoken

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