15 Years Ago: The Beatles’ ‘Love’ Premieres in Las Vegas
The original concept of Love, a spectacular theatrical production featuring the reimagined music of the Beatles, came from George Harrison a year before his death in 2001.
At a fete for the Montreal Grand Prix in 2000, Harrison had met Guy Laliberte, a Canadian businessman who shared his love of Formula One racing and also happened to be the cofounder of the contemporary circus company Cirque du Soleil. When Laliberte came to visit Harrison at his English estate Friar Park the next fall, Harrison politely proposed the idea for Love.
"We sat in the garden," Laliberte recalled in the program notes of the show, "and George said, 'Do you think there's anything that you could do with the Beatles' music?' I said that it would have to be a project that we did with the Beatles, and he said, 'I believe it's time for that now.'"
Five years after Harrison's death, his idea would be become a reality. After several years of discussions among the remaining Beatles, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, as well as Harrison's widow, Olivia, John Lennon's widow, Yoko Ono, MGM's Mirage and the Beatles' holding company Apple Corps, Love premiered in June 2006 at the Mirage in Las Vegas.
“George and Guy shared the same vision,” Olivia Harrison said in 2016. “They planned to utilize the extraordinary creativity of the Beatles and Cirque du Soleil to produce an uplifting moment in time.”
For the show's music, it made sense to bring in the man who knew a thing or two about dissecting the work of the Fab Four: original Beatles producer George Martin. He enlisted the help of his son Giles, who was put through an audition process.
“They locked me in a small room at Abbey Road,” Giles Martin recalled. “And I could do whatever I wanted, no one would ever hear it. That was the deal. And my dad came in. I did the ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’/‘Within You Without You’ combination. And even he was thinking, ‘Well, this probably isn’t a very good idea, you know, they’re not going to like this.’
"And then, it was funny, Paul and Ringo came in, and Olivia and Yoko, and they heard it, and that’s what they liked, they liked that edgier thing. And then the rule book was thrown out the window.”
Giles Martin recognized the gravity of such a task. "Love was a project where I constantly thought I was going to get fired," he said in 2017. "That was my modus, you know? This was such a ridiculously stupid idea that anyone would let George Martin's son come into Abbey Road, touch the untouched tapes of the Beatles and chop them up to create a show in Vegas is pretty deplorable."
He backed up copies of the tapes but noted that in order to focus on the task, he needed to detach himself from the group's legacy while still honoring its work. "I think from the Beatles' point of view, from my father's point of view," Martin recalled, "if I spent my whole time going, 'I can't believe I'm doing this,' I wouldn't be able to do my job."
Alongside his father, Giles Martin crafted a work consisting of more than 120 Beatles songs from the original recordings. To enhance the live experience, an in-the-round theatre equipped with 7,000 speakers was designed specifically for Love. In partnering with Cirque du Soleil, Martin found a new and exciting platform to introduce the Beatles in a way they had never been heard before.
Years later, Love is still performed at the Mirage.
“They have this great thing, which is so refreshing in artistic life,” Giles Martin said. “They don’t believe anything is impossible. And we work in a world, especially in music nowadays, where everything is slightly regimented and it’s difficult to break rules. And with Cirque, if you have a mad idea they’ll go for it."