Monday, January 16, 2012

Fab Four

Normally I wouldn't have any interest in seeing a pop revival group, but my brother and sister have seen the Fab Four several times and they absolutely insisted that I spend an evening under the magical spell of the Beatles. So Steve and I saw the Fab Four at the Rialto Saturday night.

As we were sitting down, we realized my favorite escrow officer, Paula Trimmer, was in the row in front of us. I told Paula if these Beatles impersonators can get us to scream, we will know they were good. As it turned out, part of the screaming was generated by "Paul's" tee shirt toss, and Paula was the winner.

The boys opened with their first appearance on the Ed Sullivan show. I was immediately struck by the attention to detail. "Paul" was playing a left-handed Hofner bass. The backdrop was the Ed Sullivan set I remember so well from that February night in 1964, those huge arrows pointing to the lads. "John" stood with that bent-kneed, wide stance of Lennon's. "George" usually looked intense, and only occasionally flashed a quick smile that put vertical creases in his cheeks, just like The Quiet Beatle. Did these guys have plastic surgery or just a lot of makeup to get these effects?

When "George" wasn't frowning or grimacing, he affected the snarl that George had. "Paul" was always looking up at the balcony, his tilted head wide-eyed and angelic. "Ringo" was slightly hunched over, teeth clenched, shaking his Beatle hair cut like a bobble head. Their singing voices, accents, mannerisms and costumes were quite convincing. I was very impressed.

I thought I found one deviation from authenticity. I thought Ringo played drums with the traditional grip. I asked Steve, who learned to play traditional grip in the '60s, and he thought Ringo played traditional grip, too. This "Ringo" was playing match grip. I just looked it up, and found that Ringo was one of the innovators of match grip. When he started playing that way, the rest of the drumming world followed.

The Ed Sullivan impersonator was great. His skits were taken directly from the Ed Sullivan "Shoe". He introduced the "youngsters from Liverpool" and waved a congratulatory telegram that had been sent to the show by Elvis and his manager "Colonel Sanders". "Ed" showed us how Ed got that stiff-backed demeanor when he pulled a wire coat hanger from the back of his jacket.

"John" announced that the music was completely live and all performed on stage, without CDs, which prompted "Paul" to ask, "What's a CD?" During the Sgt. Pepper set, "John" and "George" played synthesizers, but I can't believe they got the whole orchestral effect of "A Day in the Life" with a synthesizer.
Here's "John", playing "Imagine" in the Army shirt he wore on The Dick Cavett Show.
Steve didn't know about John's Dick Cavett appearance with Yoko Ono (who was played by Tom Hanks in "Forrest Gump"). Steve said John Lennon wouldn't have worn an Army shirt during the Vietnam War. I told him I had a Navy pea coat and an Army jacket from War Surplus when I was in junior high in Massachusetts. He said the only thing he bought at War Surplus was camping equipment. I was surprised to learn that New England was ahead of Steve's trend-setting L.A. with the ironic War Surplus fashion statement.

Here's a neat trick. The Fab Four wore the Nehru jackets that the Beatles wore for their Shea Stadium appearance. While a movie of Paul playing "Yesterday" was projected on the backdrop, "Paul" played "Yesterday" on the same model guitar, matching Paul gesture for gesture.

Neither of us saw the Beatles, and we didn't feel that this was at all the same as the real thing, but it was still wonderful to be immersed in memories of a more optimistic and thrilling time. We're glad we went.

No comments: