Beatles tribute band makes era come alive
The end of summer is near but there’s still plenty of time to “Twist and Shout.”
Tomorrow night, Beatles fans will be in all their glory, as The Fab Four - The Ultimate Tribute to The Beatles, will be taking the stage at the Newport Yachting Center around 8 p.m. as part of the Nantucket Nectar’s Sunset Music Series.
Described as “the best Beatles show in the world” by the Los Angeles Times, the California-based mop-tops are ready to perform classics from the band’s vast catalog, including “Can’t Buy Me Love,” “Yesterday,” “A Day In The Life,” “Here Comes The Sun,” “Hey Jude,” and more.
“There are so many hits that it’s hard to know where to start and where to stop,” said Ron McNeil, who performs as John Lennon. “We’re probably one of the only groups in the world that starts cutting number one songs because there’s not enough time in a show to fit them all in.”
To make the experience as authentic as possible, they look and dress exactly like the Beatles, as they wear signature outfits that correspond to different eras of the Beatles’ career, such as the black suits with skinny ties, the colorful Sgt. Pepper gear, as well as the “Let It Be” style.
“We’re not reinventing the wheel here; we’re just following the Beatles’ career,” McNeil said.
Also, they sing and speak to the crowd using British accents.
“The guy that plays George Harrison, Gavin Pring, looks exactly like him and is actually from Liverpool, England,” said McNeil, as the members of the Beatles all grew up there. Also, Pring helps the other members fine-tune their dialogue to sound as accurate as possible.
Their members are so dedicated to accuracy that bassist Ardy Sarraf, who plays the role of Paul McCartney, is right-handed but learned to play left-handed bass and guitar especially for the part.
It’s this attention to detail, said McNeil, that makes them so popular.
“There are a lot of Beatle[s] bands, but we take it a little bit further,” he said.
McNeil said that unlike other Beatles tributes, The Fab Four, which formed in 1997, plays everything live on stage. There are no pre-recorded tracks or additional members off to the side.
“Every note you hear us singing or playing is all us,” he said. “A lot of people don’t say it, but most groups use some kind of tape in the background and we don’t do any of that.”
Further, they have an arsenal of 15 cast members who rotate gigs.
“It’s to the point that the John Lennons in the show have learned to play the more difficult songs on keyboard, instead of hiring an entire orchestra, which we do from time to time,” said McNeil.
While McNeil isn’t scheduled to perform at the Newport show, he said the lineup will be sure to please fans of all ages. As usual, their concerts are family-friendly.
“We see kids from 5 years old and all the way up,” he said. “It’s a great experience. The music itself bridges a lot of generation gaps and brings everyone together. Sometimes we’ll have a meet and greet and we ask the kids, ‘OK, did you bring your parents are did they bring you?’ It’s always 50-50.”
Of course, he anticipates fans at the show will be screaming for The Fab Four, just as America did in 1964 when the Beatles first came to the U.S.
McNeil is flattered by all the hype. Of course, he enjoys every minute of it, as well.
“It’s a fun thing,” he said. “John Lennon was one of the most famous people to walk the planet. Every guy wanted to be him and every girl wanted to be with him. He was a fun character and a great person. He always sang about peace and wrote great songs.”
Those “great songs,” said McNeil, lured him into being a Beatles fan as a youngster. They also made him want to become a musician.
“When I was growing up, the Beatles had already split up, so I was borrowing my older sister’s records and never gave them back,” he said. “Then, I started learning music. When you’re a young musician, you pick up a guitar and the lick from ‘Day Tripper’ is one of the first things you want to start playing because it’s so cool. If you’re playing piano, ‘Let It Be’ and ‘Hey Jude’ were some of the things that pushed you into playing because they are a little simpler. It’s the basis for any musician.”
But why were the Beatles so popular? The answer, McNeil said, is simple.
“It’s attributable to the themes in their music,” he said. “They sang about love and peace and things that hopefully will always be prevalent in society. People will always want those things in the world.”
In addition to The Fab Four, fans will get the opportunity to see another tribute act Friday night, as The Foreverly Brothers Duo, a tribute to The Everly Brothers, will open the show. Providence singer-songwriter Greg Lato will start the evening on the more intimate Courtyard Stage.
After they perform, an Ed Sullivan impersonator will introduce The Fab Four.
“Their multi-media stage show promises to be fun for all ages while the Beatles music and their 27 songs that went to number one speak for themselves,” Michele Maker Palmieri, general manager of the Newport Yachting Center, said in a press release.
The Newport Yachting Center is located on the waterfront in the heart of historic downtown Newport on America's Cup Avenue. Gates will open at 5:30 p.m., with music starting on the Courtyard Stage at 6 and The Foreverly Brothers Duo beginning at 7 on the Main Stage, with The Fab Four to follow.
Tickets are available at $25 for standard seating or $45 for preferred seating and can be purchased by visiting www.newportwaterfrontevents.com or by calling the Newport Yachting Center Box Office at 846-1600.