From the opening chords of “I Want To Hold Your Hand” to the shimmering “Penny Lane” to everyone’s favorite sing-a-long “Hey Jude,” last night’s Fab Four concert at Pechanga Casino & Resort once again proved two things.
One: no group wrote and recorded a greater catalog of memorable pop/rock songs as the Beatles. Their music, as well as themselves as individuals — John, Paul, George, and Ringo — have been an integral fabric of life in the western world (and beyond) for almost 60 years.
There will never be a phenomenon like them again.
And two: no one — and I mean no one – performs as the Beatles, tribute-style, with more authenticity, passion and reverence than the Fab Four.
As Ron McNeil, who performs as John Lennon, has said, “We’re a loving tribute to the Beatles.”
Triumphantly returning to the Pechanga Theater a year after two sold out shows last January, one of which was taped for a PBS special, the Fab Four took the adoring Beatles fans on a musical journey of Lennon/McCartney treasures, beginning in 1964 with the help of a stirring intro by “Ed Sullivan,” realistically impersonated by Jerry Hoban.
“Happy New Year, 1964. I can’t believe it’s already here,” jokingly exclaimed Ardy Sarraf, who plays Paul McCartney.
From the Ed Sullivan Show-style performances of such early Mop Top hits “All My Loving,” “I Should Have Known Better,” and “If I Fell,” the Fabs easily moved into the Beatles’ mid-period, showcasing not only song such as “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “A Day In The Life,” but also adorning the Beatles’ iconic Sgt. Pepper outfits and facial hair.
“What do you think of the new uniforms?” asked McNeil in his thickest Liverpudlian accent. “You should like them, we got them in America.”
From drummer Erik Fidel’s Ringo-like light head bop at every offbeat to Gavin Pring’s ease at playing George Harrison’s lead guitar lines to McNeil’s John Lennon-like sardonic wit to Sarraf’s McCartney-esque eager-to-please showmanship, the Fab Four not only played the Beatles, but became them.
“Let’s face it, without these guys (referring to the Beatles, of course), we’d just be the Monkees,” said McNeil.
With the Fab Four, one not only gets stand-out performances as the Beatles singing their life-changing hit songs, but one get to delve deeper into the early solo careers of each Beatle. Tonight, John Lennon’s “Imagine” was highlighted.
Lennon’s simple-yet-powerful lyrics encapsulated his hopes and dreams in one song, a tune and message that still resonates today, over 40 years after “Imagine” was recorded.
“I want to dedicate this one to all of those out there who still believe in peace, love, and freedom,” said McNeil.
All you need is love, right?
The Fab Four’s second Pechanga show is tonight at 8 p.m.
At press time, the show was sold-out, but visit www.pechanga.com for further information on the show, plus upcoming Pechanga concerts.
Also, in a benefit for Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting victims, please join the Fab Four plus other tribute bands such as Zeppelin USA (Led Zeppelin) and Space Oddity (David Bowie) for a special concert, “Our Town for Newtown,” at 5 p.m. on Jan. 20 at the City National Grove of Anaheim.
Chris Baptiste is a local writer and regular contributor to SWRNN.