Just the name conjures up a myriad of different responses in people of all ages, and all walks of life. What more could possibly be said about a band who changed the face of popular music forever in just eight short years? The music of The Beatles is forever ingrained on the collective consciouness...after 13 studio albums, dozens of compilations, books, and assorted memorabilia, the legacy of The Beatles often seems to be teetering on the edge of overkill. But after all this, what we must come back to is what really matters most...the music. Amazing that a full 31 years after the demise of The Beatles, four talented men - Michael Amador (George Harrison), Ron McNeil (John Lennon), Ardy Sarraf (Paul McCartney) and Rolo Sandoval (Ringo Starr) - manage to breathe new life into the music and character of The Beatles, making us all remember why we loved them in the first place.
Though I was born in 1977, I feel as if I grew up with The Beatles. My history with them began at an extremely early age - around 3 or so - when my dad and I would play with trucks and listen to his vinyl albums (this predates CDs, for those of you younger ones out there). My memories are vivid of hearing the strains of "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band," "Abbey Road" and others. I can hear each pop and crackle...can still smell the aged, worn vinyl that seemed warm and inviting...the marred sleeves which time hadn't been good to, but made them seem all the more loved. "Pepper" was even in the original mono (an entirely different experience, by the way). My dad owned everything past "Rubber Soul" (the U.S. issues, unfortunately), and so growing up I became enamored with the fab four. They were more than just a band for me - they were a way of life. As I grew, so did my obsessions, and by high school I had procured all of their albums on CD, as well as a host of books and other memorabilia. It seemed timeless and natural to me. Having spent all this time with The Beatles, it seems only fitting then that at some point my attention drifted on to other bands, though I still retained a fondness for them in my heart (as well as a head addled with far too much trivia). All I needed was a re-awakening.
The first time I had the privilege of seeing the Fabs play was at Disneyland sometime in October of 2000. A friend of a friend had mentioned that a Beatles tribute band was going to play at Disneyland, and since we all had season passes and were fans of The Beatles, we were in business. I remember that chilly Fall day well. We were all a bit skeptical of "America's #1 Beatles tribute band," especially myself. After all, I had spent a good 20 years listening to the band...this had better be something special.
We arrived late that night, some time around 8:30, so we missed the first set by quite a bit. As we approached the Tomorrowland Terrace, I could make out a bass line emanating its way over the buildings. As we grew closer, I could tell it was "Drive My Car" (I have a knack for identifying songs by the bass lines...who knows why). We finally got to the Terrace...it was a madhouse. There was a huge sea of people in front of the stage area...all of the tables were taken, and even more people were standing in the area behind the tables and on the ramp. The band was all decked out in the familiar Sgt. Pepper outfits..."George" even had his three cornered hat, and "John" his round granny glasses. As I listened more and more, the technical accuracy of the band began to make itself more prominent. These guys had every note nailed...they were using the exact same equipment The Beatles used, right down to the Vox amplifiers. And in between songs, the band rapped to the audience and to each other in nearly dead-on imitations of the real Beatles. One of the main things that struck me was how evident it was that these guys knew The Beatles inside and out. When "When I'm Sixty Four" broke down due to "Paul" forgetting the words, he quickly quipped "I already got the words wrong, didn't I? This is so informal, we'll start again!" I quickly pointed out to my friends that he was quoting a line from Paul McCartney's "Unplugged" special, when "We Can Work It Out" broke down for the same reasons. It became clear that this wasn't some ordinary Beatles tribute band...this was an *experience*.
Perhaps what struck me most was the astonishing diversity of the crowd...young and old, of all races. A middle aged man stood next to me, grinning from ear to ear and bobbing his head gently. A couple in front of me embraced and sang along. Little children danced.
I was already wishing I was closer to the stage.
The band went through an incredibly accurate and mesmerizing set, focusing on the Beatles' psychedelic era. One of the most amazing aspects of the band was how they managed to emulate every single note with just four people on stage...from the sound effects in "Yellow Submarine" to the horn parts in "Penny Lane." There were several moments when I told my friends that this was perhaps the most *surreal* thing I had ever seen in my life. It was The Beatles, playing live, 30 years after their demise, right in front of me...in my favorite place on earth, no less.
The crowning moment of my first experience with The Fab Four was at the very end of the set. The band launched into the "Sgt. Pepper" reprise, which I figured would perhaps end the set. I was wrong. Without hesitation, the band segued right into the opening strains of "A Day In The Life." I thought to myself 'there is no possible way they can pull this off live.'
"John" sat hunched at the keyboard, drenched in a spotlight, crooning the haunting lyrics into the microphone. Everything was spot on. As the orchestral rave-up neared, I anticipated how they were going to recreate the sound of a huge orchestra on that tiny stage. The stage went dark as "Paul" turned around and faced "Ringo"'s drum kit. He bobbed back and forth with with his bass...a sort of fencing act with the air. "George" stood stoicly at a keyboard at the left of the stage. The band's attention to detail again made itself apparent as "John" mumbled the count-off into the microphone, amidst a heavy dose of slap delay...just like the record. "John" stood up a bit from his keyboard and began pounding the keys, slowly making his way up to the high end of the keyboard. A low rumbling emitted from the stage that was absolutely monstrous. The noise just grew louder and louder as "Ringo"'s crisp drum fills and "Paul"'s hypnotic bass notes led the way...and as the noise grew louder and louder and the ground began to vibrate slightly...louder, louder, vibrating more and more, and then *CRASH!!!!*, "Ringo" slammed his cymbals as the "orchestra" grew higher and higher , louder and louder, and then a few beats later the sound reached a fevered pitch as the "orchestra" climaxed...ZAP!...and the band went right into the jaunty middle section.
I wanted to weep.
I was sold. As the song continued, "Paul" proceeded to nail the bridge section which leads nicely into the "ahhhh" sing-a-long before the final verse. After the second incredible orchestral build-up, a mere second or two of silence pervaded the chilly night air, and then the band came crashing down in one final E chord, amidst thunderous applause by the stunned onlookers. The stage was backlit brightly as the four stood and took a collective bow, and the stage lowered.
I was in awe.
Needless to say, we waited around 45 minutes for the third set, by this time having made our way up into the middle of the crowd. The band went through a blazing set of rocking numbers from the "white album," "Let It Be" and "Abbey Road"...unforgettable versions of "Birthday," "Revolution," "Let It Be," "Lady Madonna," "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" and a host of others. Their humor and rapport was astounding...just like the real thing. Not only this, but it was apparent that they strongly resembled the original Beatles, particularly the people playing Paul (Ardy Sarraf) and John (Ron McNeil). Ardy had every nuance...the pensive bass playing while staring at the neck, the wide-eyed stare into the audience, the head-bobbing, the pointing...even the open mouthed shocked look when he made a mistake. When Ron - sporting long hair and clad in a white suit and sneakers - was playing the keyboard, whenever he would stare down at the keys, it was vintage Lennon. Terribly surreal...terribly effective.
After this performance, I returned to the Tomorrowland Terrace several times to see them, commencing in January of 2001, and continue to do so. The Fab Four was quickly becoming an obsession. I've also seen them outside the park many times, such as at the incredible House of Blues shows. Each concert is just as much fun as the previous one. Every show is a surprise, as you never know what songs they'll pull out. And on top of this, I've made a lot of good friends and aquaintances along the way. The Beatles seem - for all intents and purposes - to be back in my life.
An Introduction • The Members • The Show • Concert Reviews
The Fab Four Official Website
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