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Faux four a fan favorite

The Calvin Theater was alive with the spirit of 60s on Saturday night when 1964 the Tribute brought the sounds of the Beatles to the Northampton stage. Named the “best Beatles tribute band in the world” by Rolling Stones Magazine, 1964 the Tribute recaptured the experience of the early Beatles for the audience…

The performance was an imperfect but thoroughly enjoyable impersonation of the Beatles at their arrival in the States. The experience of the band members contributed to the quality of their imitation without detracting from the illusion of their performance. There were, however, a few noticeable differences in watching the twenty-year-old Beatles and their middle-aged counterparts.

It would, for example, be difficult to say that four 50-year old men in tight pants and mop-cut wigs capture the sex appeal of the Beatles in 1964. They had the mannerisms of the Beatles-Lennon’s high-chested guitar style and weird wide-stanced leg bob, Ringo’s goofy head-shake. They had the clothes, the moves, the Liverpudian accents. But when they asked the audience to take a gander at George’s (Tom Work’s) ass, the reaction was more amused chuckling than ecstatic cat-calling.

Vocally and instrumentally, however, Mark Benson, Gary Grimes, Tom Work and

Terry Manfredi are as close to the original Beatles as imitation bands come. Benson was especially good as Lenin; his vocals on “If I Fell” and “I Feel Fine” were standouts of the evening. Grimes’ voice was a bit tinny at times and prone to screeching on some of the higher numbers. It was his impersonation of McCartney, more than the quality of his vocals, that drew the audience into the illusion of 1964. From body language to witty banter, 1964 embodied of the touring atmosphere of the Beatles arrival in America.

The banter ran a little more corny than charismatic, but it appealed to what was generally an older audience at the Calvin Saturday night and instilled a deep sense of nostalgia in the performance. Watching 1964, it was easy to imagine what the Beatles might have looked like onstage together in their fifties, playing the old hits and joking with the audience about the old days.

Harder to imagine was that the old woman in the next row who fell asleep during intermission could’ve been throwing her bra at the real Paul, John, George and Ringo 40 years ago. Thankfully, in a theater where the average audience member was either over 40 years old or accompanied by an adult, everyone kept their bras on. The only point at which things got a little rowdy was during 1964’s rendition of Twist and Shout, a clear crowd-pleaser. 

For the most part, however, the performance was a classy tribute to the early days of the Beatles leading up to their 1964 world tour. 1964 the Tribute is distinct from other Beatles tribute bands in that it focuses on songs from the Beatles’ early albums, with songs from Please Please Me, With the Beatles, A Hard Day’s Night, and Beatles for Sale. Pop-infused love songs like “I want to Hold Your Hand,’ ‘All My Loving,’ ‘If I Fell’ and ‘Can’t Buy Me Love’ dominated the evening. It was the sounds of the Beatles pre-acid: more pop and less of the psychedelic rock of Abbey Road and Sgt. Pepper.

1964 the Tribute has been performing since 1982 – as was announced during the show, the tribute band recently celebrated its 26th ‘birthday’. The Ohio-based 1964 has performed at concert halls, universities, shows and fairs across the country, and been voted “Contemporary Music Artists of the Year” by the National Association for Campus Activities and “Campus Entertainers of the Year” by the Canadian Association for Campus Activities and it has even been to Carnegie Hall nine times .

Although they aim for authenticity in recreating the experience of the Beatles, 1964 the Tribute differs from the original band in a few minor respects, specifically in terms of sound quality and set length. Improvements in sound quality can be attributed mostly to the larger and better speakers available today – audiences at the original Beatles’ concerts often complained of being unable to hear the music. 1964 also plays 45 minute sets as opposed to the Beatles’ traditional 30 minute sets, and the tribute band was more than willing to perform an encore of Long Tall Sally. The Beatles never played encores.

Ultimately, the night wasn’t so much about imitating the Beatles as about recapturing the feeling of the early Beatles for the older audience members and giving younger viewers a chance to see what the Beatles could’ve been like live.

This much can be said about Benson, Grimes, Work, and Manfredi: they take a sad song and make it better.

Rachel Dougherty can be reached at rdougher@student.umass.edu.

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