A Columbia County crowd largely too young to have known the Beatles, stamped and whooped in anticipation of the September 2, 2011 concert by 1964 The Tribute. The band, whose name describes their genre, style, and play list, started promptly, to thunderous appreciation from the fair-going audience.
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They played everything that Beatles fans love from the first several years of their US ‘invasion’. The crowd danced, swayed, rushed as close to the stage as the cattle fences would allow, whistled, and sang along at top volume, often in close harmony.
The band, composed of Mark Benson as John Lennon, Graham Alexander (as of 2011) as Paul McCartney, Tom Work as George Harrison, Bobby Potter as Ringo Starr, has been performing their tribute to the Fab Four since 1982. Their longevity is thus longer than the actual Beatles, a fact that they noted in their commentary to the audience. The group lost its founding member. Gary Grimes in 2010.
Their music was amplified far more effectively than the original Beatles’ sound was, if old news footage is any guide. The sound from the band-shell in the middle of the race track competed successfully with ambient sound. Only during their brief breaks did noise intrude from fairway rides and carnival barkers.
The concert was virtually non-stop, and generously timed. Despite the persistent heat, the band retained their early-Beatles suits and ties on, evoking the initial clean-cut image of the British invasion.
They played nearly every early song that Beatles fans can remember when questioned. The vigorous dancing around me made compiling a list impossible. However, this is a partial list of the songs they covered, most by John Lennon and Paul McCartney, in various combinations.
The Lennon/McCartney pieces included “A Hard Day’s Night” (1964), “All My Loving” (1963), “And I Love Her” (1964), “Can’t Buy Me Love” (1964), “Do You Want to Know a Secret” (1963), “Eight Days a Week” (1964), “From Me to You” (1963), “I Saw Her Standing There” (1963), “I Want to Hold Your Hand” (1963), “If I Fell” (1964), “I’ll Follow the Sun” (1964), “Love Me Do” (1962), “Please Please Me” (1962), “She Loves You” (1963),
Additionally, several songs represented the Beatles’ renditions of the songs of others. Some of the audience, including me, probably had no idea that these were not by the Beatles in the first place. These included “Roll Over Beethoven” (1963), by Chuck Berry, “Twist and Shout” (1963), by Phil Medley and Bert Russell, and “Everybody’s Trying to Be My Baby” (1964), by Carl Perkins,
Given the backdrop of old cars, antique tractors, and oldie-but-goodie carnival rides, the atmosphere was classic Norman Rockwell, right for anytime between the 1950s and next summer.
In this context, the performance had a powerful impact. If one did not look closely to the left or right at the clothing styles of other concert goers, it was possible to feel transported to the heady days when the Beatles made even grownups stop and take notice.
Unlike some tribute bands that merely play the songs of the Beatles, this band actually attempts to convey the experience of the British Invasion, with its sense of something very new appearing on the musical horizon. 1964 The Tribute apparently has the blessing of the families of the Beatles for their loving interpretation of the Fab Four. They certainly have worked hard on their presentation.
In addition to note-perfect capture of their quirky chords and close harmonies, the group tries to channel both body language and linguistic quirks. They give their energetic all to the fast-moving performance, permitting them to compress a great many songs into a concert of reasonable length – with encores.
Of course, although they have clearly practiced assiduously to achieve a guitar and drum style that honors the skill and creativity of the Beatles, they don’t possess their voices. The unique sound of those particular voices, working together, cannot be readily duplicated. After several hearings of a Beatles song, it is possible to hear the difference.
That minor deficiency did not, however, bother the happy crowd of Hudson Valley visitors. This agricultural fair always hosts concerts from varied musical styles. On this evening, many people in the grandstand were fans of rather different musical genres (country, heavy metal, or rap, judging from their clothes).
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This did not stop the audience from Twisting and singing along loudly. Some even danced in the ruts from the demolition derby despite the oppressive heat.
This was a wonderfully fun concert. The songs are so pleasingly crafted, that even years of being coopted by middle school choruses, garage bands, and advertisements, can’t spoil it.
These musicians treated it with the care and respect it deserves, and no small degree of talent of their own. They are not the Beatles, but they are as close as one can get. Having little prior experience of tribute bands except as a joke, this was eye-opening. It was good music done well. I would see them again with delight.