The Beatles

The Beatles in Washington, D.C., Feb. 11, 1964 [Video]

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Passport Video's The Beatles in Washington, D.C. is a fairly clever DVD, taking a well-known concert documentary totaling approximately 19 minutes of music and expanding it to 35 minutes, without ever seeming overly padded. The group's first public concert in America, in Washington, D.C., was a priceless moment, capturing their sound before the arena tours that eventually wrecked their precision, and also a repertoire that they soon abandoned in favor of more contemporary songs. Before getting to the concert footage, the DVD spends four minutes excerpting clips from various documentary sources of press conferences and promotional advertising for the Washington concert. As the latter was held at a boxing arena, which meant the stage was surrounded on four sides by seats, the bandmembers were obliged to change the direction they were facing every few songs, so that the audience would all get to see them face-on at some point. Over musically irrelevant moments such as their initial setup, there is audio of a John Lennon interview, telling of his visceral response to American rock & roll, with Chuck Berry his example; the latter is the perfect lead-in to their opening number, "Roll Over Beethoven."

The footage is grainy and somewhat washed out, but the audio is surprisingly decent, capturing the guitars extremely well considering the noise. In the pattern of the rest of the disc, between "Roll Over Beethoven" and "From Me to You" George Harrison is heard in an interview over higher-quality footage from other documentaries, discussing the importance of "From Me to You." The latter is a song that the band had ceased performing by the time they were officially recorded on-stage, as are "I Saw Her Standing There," "Please Please Me," and "Till There Was You," which come later in the program. "I Saw Her Standing There" is very strange, as on the opening bars and the break, Harrison's lead guitar is all that one hears, far louder than the rest of the band, before settling down. At various times throughout the program, it's possible to view the faintly superimposed title "The Beatles in Washington, D.C." over the image. The comments of Paul McCartney to the crowd ahead of "Please Please Me" made this reviewer laugh out loud, even at this late date, and that song and "She Loves You" are also the two best recorded of the songs from this venue. The last four minutes of the disc program are given over to a montage of moving images of the group from across their history, while a generic instrumental entitled "Beatle Beat," credited to the Brittband, plays over the silent footage. The other major feature is "Whadda-U-Know," a Beatles trivia game that can be selected easily enough from the menu and is simple to use -- as is the usual nature of trivia games, it freely intermixes the important and the insignificant.

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