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September 22, 2018

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Giles Martin reshapes, and protects, the Beatles’ legacy

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Christopher DeVargas

Giles Martin and his father, Sir George Martin, in the listening room at The Love Theater at the Mirage on Tuesday, June 7, 2011. They were in town to celebrate the fifth anniversary of Cirque du Soleil’s “Love” at the Mirage on June 8.

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During a stage discussion of the upgrades to “The Beatles Love” at the Mirage on Thursday, Sir Paul McCartney scrambled onstage to surprise Martin, who is the son of the late George Martin who redesigned the music in “Love.” The show is celebrating its 10th anniversary and a recent revamping at the Mirage.

Giles Martin was seated on a director’s chair onstage at the Love Theater at the Mirage when he was unexpectedly upstaged by an underdressed interloper.

“I’m talking and I hear this clapping, and I’m saying to myself, ‘What’s going on?’ ” said the son of the late Sir George Martin an hour or so after he left his onstage session with VIP guests. “I turned around, and there he was.”

Martin had been cut off by a knighted former Beatle, Sir Paul McCartney, clad in sweatpants and a T-shirt. McCartney ran a circle around the nonplussed Martin, who had risen from his chair, then bowed to the crowd and posed for a quick photo.

McCartney then grabbed the mic and said, “Ladies and gentlemen! Giles Martin!”

With that, he scrambled off.

“I hadn’t seen him this trip at all, and I was going to text him yesterday … ” Martin said, chuckling. “But it’s true, I love him dearly, I really do. He has been incredibly kind to me, all my life, and of course my father loved him, too.”

There is a familial feeling in the boundless Beatles universe as the show “Love,” the fanciful collaboration between the band and Cirque du Soleil celebrates its 10th anniversary tonight at Love Theater. McCartney and Ringo Starr are in the hotel now, as are Yoko Ono and Olivia Harrison to round out the ranking members of Apple Corps, the Beatles licensing company.

The list of extended Beatles family members expands to attend the landmark show include Sean Ono Lennon (son of John and Yoko) and Dhani Harrison (son of George and Olivia). Ron Howard, who has produced the documentary “The Beatles” about the band, is also in Las Vegas for the event.

Giles Martin’s role in the Beatles’ stage show has been simple to describe but nearly impossible to appreciate unless you are in his position. As the son of the man who produced all of the Beatles' recoded music during their active eight-year run, Martin was given the band’s recorded catalogue and charged with creating the soundtrack to “Love.”

It was not easy at first. Martin recalls being afforded access to the Beatles’ master tapes at Abbey Road Studios in London, where the band recorded nearly all of their albums from 1962-70.

“I was ostracized,” he said. “I had engineers at Abbey Road who would not speak to me, who would turn off the lights when they left and I was still working.” So pure were the Beatles’ masters that purists at Abbey Road were rankled even when the tapes were cleaned up for the band’s first CD releases nearly 30 years ago.

“And here I come, just destroying everything,” Martin said. “It wasn’t until ‘Love’ opened that I was accepted, and that this work was appreciated.”

Martin and Cirque director and writer Dominic Champagne, who co-created the show a decade ago, were most recently in Las Vegas in February for previews of the revamped production. The upgrades have been precise in some areas, profound in others.

A new sound system has boosted the “low” end of the music, and such songs as “Come Together” and “Tomorrow Never Knows/Within You, Without You” make your heart jump. “Twist & Shout” has been added and “I Am the Walrus” edited away near the top of the show. The stage surface is now used for video projections, and the silhouette artistry on the theater’s scrims has been updated. Most impressively, images and video of the band is used far more inventively than in the original show; the late Neil Aspinall, a friend of the band dating to their days of playing at the Cavern Club, always fought to keep the Beatles’ images away from the stage — and only at the end of the show, during the show-closing segment of “All You Need is Love” was the band actually shown in performance.

“They were very protective of the Beatles’ image, in case the show did not work,” Champagne said today. “Now, we can’t get enough of those images in the show.”

Naturally, Martin’s father was instrumental in the launch of “Love” and was on hand for the opening in 2006 and again five years ago for the fifth-year anniversary. But Sir George died March 8, just as Giles returned to Wilshire, England, from Las Vegas.

Martin smiles as he remembers his final chats with his father.

“I’d ask him questions, 'Dad, you know, do you ever feel you’re not very good at music?’ and he’d say, ‘What do you mean?” I said, ‘I often feel like I can’t do this, if I don’t have the chops and maybe I’m just bad at it,’ ” Martin recalled. “And he said, ‘No, I never feel that way. I always feel like I am brilliant.”

There is a quick laugh.

“I just remember how amazing that was, that he was lying in that bed, feeling so bad — when you are dying, you are not feeling good, you know, that’s the fact, but he had so much gratitude,” Martin said as he looked out at the “Love” stage. “In our various conversations, I said to him, ‘Dad, you’ve recorded the Beatles. Think of how many millions of people you’ve made happy. He was very proud of that.”

The final artistic contribution from Sir George is the orchestral arrangement in the stage version of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.” During the number a female artist soars above the audience as a line drawing is created on the stage below.

“It’s now hard for me to imagine the song without the arrangement,” Martin said. “In some way there is a synergy of the sound and the line drawing, the new strings my father added and George recording the song as a young man, with the dancer’s movement as she performs … there is all that interplay, and without that arrangement, it would not be the same.”

It is the moment we recall Sir George and his role in the Beatles’ family. “He said to me, at the end, ‘I did the best I could.’ That’s what I keep in mind. When you think of the Beatles, it is so much more than a show. It’s the power of escapism, and being taken on a journey that makes you feel better.”

Follow John Katsilometes on Twitter at twitter.com/JohnnyKats. Also, follow Kats on Instagram Instagram.com/JohnnyKats1.

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