(All photos courtesy of the lovely Boots and her amazing skills, considering we were all the way back in Row T and she wasn’t using any flash…)
It’s not exactly a groundbreaking revelation that, as a near-lifelong Beatles fan, I’m sick to death of Beatles tribute bands. I’m explicitly referring to the Wigs-n-Costumes bands in particular. You know the type I’m talking about: four musicians who, from a distance at an angle if you squint REAL HARD, look almost like they could be from Liverpool. All clad in mop-top wigs at first, then long-haired hippie wigs by the end. Three costume changes, of course: vintage 60s Teddy Boy suits at first, then colorful Sgt. Pepper costumes, and finally the Abbey Road cover attire. And lots of bad, bad, BAD Liverpudlian accents.
Not that I want to sound like a total Betty Buzzkill, but you’ve seen one, you’ve pretty
The Creme Tangerine Strings
much seen them all. Which is one of the reasons why I never miss The Fab Faux when they come to town.
The concept behind The Fab Faux is simple: reproduce The Beatles music live onstage almost exactly how it appears on the record. No wigs or costumes or other such schticky chicanery. The band is all about the music and performing The Beatles canon as it should be heard, first and foremost.
And they do a magnificent job. The band consists of the following line-up:
Frank Agnello – Guitars, Vocals
Will Lee – Bass, Vocals (and occasional drums, keys, and acoustic guitar)
Rich Pagano – Drums, Vocals
Jack Petruzzelli – Keys, Guitars, Vocals (occasional bass)
Jimmy Vivino – Guitars, Keys, Vocals
Will Lee and Jimmy Vivino
Lee and Vivino are light-night television staples (on the Letterman and Conan O’Brien shows, respectively) and all of them are consummate musicians and vocalists. They can sing and play the hell out of these songs, with an equal amount of reverence and playfulness. Vocals are often double-tracked live to lend them the same amount of “fullness” you hear on the records, with three, four, even five-part harmonies to be heard throughout the show.
Joining the band on many of their shows are the Hogshead Horns (John Chudoba, Tom “Bones” Malone, Tom Timko, Jerry Vivino) and the Creme Tangerine Strings (Sibel Finn and Amy Kimball), who are brought onstage to enhance the performance with horns, sax, flutes, violins, and cellos when needed. And man do they make an already tight band sound even sweeter. When you have all 11 of them onstage together performing I Am The Walrus or Strawberry Fields Forever, it’s the aural equivalent of a thick slice of Heaven covered with Awesomesauce.
And then the instruments… if you’re a vintage guitar nut, the sheer amount of hardware brought up on stage will make you drool buckets. Epiphone Casinos (in both sanded-down and turtle-shell finishes), Les Pauls, Rickenbackers as far as the eye can see, the unmistakable Hofner violin bass, Gretsch Country Gentlemen, warm Vox amps, Ludwig kits… I could go on and on about how starstruck I was by just the gear alone.
(Speaking of which, if you’re a gear nut and a Beatles fan, you totally need to read Beatles
Frank and Jack
Gear: All The Fab Four’s Instruments From Stage To Studio. Droolworthy. Check out the link below.)
Anyway, every member of the band is both a fantastic musician and vocalist, but they are all seasoned entertainers. They really know how to work a crowd and get them fired up. Naturally the audience is going to be made up of Beatles fans, from the barely casual fans to the ultra-hardcore Beatle nerds. For the music alone… dayenu. But these guys are damned funny and, having played together since 1998, have a freewheeling rapport and camaraderie. If the band is having a good time on stage, the audience will nearly always have a great time watching, and if the reaction on Saturday, October 27, 2012 was any indication, the crowd at The Parker Playhouse was having a ridiculously awesome time.
The Fab Faux have played Ft. Lauderdale five times now, and Boots and I have seem them all five times. Three times have been “mixed bag” shows, in which the band plays anything from any album or era of the band. You never know quite what you’ll hear, and that’s part of the excitement. But twice they’ve done “album” shows. One year we saw them do the entire Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart Club Band album. For this performance, the band was celebrating Magical Mystery Tour by performing the entire album for their second set (with a “mixed bag” setlist for their fist).
I was extremely excited for this. Side 2 of Magical Mystery Tour might possibly be, after side 2 of Abbey Road, the band’s greatest album side ever. None of the songs on Side 2 were in the MMT movie itself, but since they were singles released around the time period, they were placed on the album proper in the USA. (MMT was originally released as a pair of EPs in the UK, eventually collected as a full album). I mean the line-up itself is jaw-droppingly great: Hello Goodbye, Strawberry Fields Forever, Penny Lane, Baby You’re A Rich Man, All You Need Is Love… zowie! Even side 1 with the movie songs, while not quite as engaging, has some top-notch material in the title track, The Fool on the Hill, and I Am The Walrus. With songs like that in the hands of performers as insanely talented as The Fab Faux, you know you’re in for one hell of a time.
The Hogshead Horns
(Incidentally, Penny Lane and Strawberry Fields Forever were recorded during the “Sgt. Pepper” sessions and were originally intended to be included on that landmark album. Instead, they were quickly issued as singles when Beatle music – any Beatle music – was requested by the label in early 1967. Can you imagine how much more over-the-top amazing Pepper would have been with those two tunes? Man…)
Anyway, enough of my waxing emphatically about what coulda-been and let’s get to the important stuff: specifically, the setlist, my thoughts on each song, and where/how they were originally released in both the UK and US. I’ve also included who sang lead vocals on each song, as best as I could anyhow. Again, they often reproduce double-tracked vocals live, so at times it’s difficult to tell who’s singing lead and who’s doing harmonies, but I think I got the gist of it. So buckle up kiddies! After all: When a man buys a ticket for a magical mystery tour… He knows what to expect. We guarantee him the trip of a lifetime. And that’s just what he gets… The incredible Magical Mystery Tour!
1. Back in the USSR
Vocals: Rich Pagano, Jack Petruzzelli. The band went straight for the opening track from the White Album to kick off the show, and it’s practically a no-brainer when you think about it. McCartney’s Cold War-era rocker is a total barnstormer, and their spirited performance hooked the audience almost instantly.
2. Dear Prudence
Vocals: Will Lee, Rich Pagano. For a split second there, I was hoping that the band was going to trash the scheduled set-list and just do the White Album from start to finish… alas, that wasn’t to happen. But given that Back in the USSR segues directly into Dear Prudence on the album, so should it in a live performance, and the band didn’t disappoint. Prudence is a Top 10 Beatles song for me. They did it absolute justice.
3. And Your Bird Can Sing
Vocals: Frank Agnello. AYBCS has been a favorite tune as long as I’ve been a Beatles fan, a karaoke favorite of Boots’s and mine. It’s one of the band’s most chimey and musical rockers, with an absolutely unforgettable riff.
4. All My Loving
Vocals: Will Lee, Jack Petruzzelli. The first time I heard this tune was on the Live from the Hollywood Bowl album; it’s one of Paul’s early-era classics. One of those deceptively simple songs that is anything but simplistic. Will Lee is a master for a variety of reasons, not the least of which because he, like Paul, is able to sing lead on this song and play that wonderfully musical walking bassline at the same time. Unreal.
Vocals: Jimmy Vivino, Rich Pagano. Here we have one of George’s best known songs and the Revolver album opener. What made The Fab Faux’s performance notable was the jam outro that closed the song. As much as I love The Beatles, they were never, by any stretch of the imagination, a jam band. The groovy bassline and crunchy guitars almost scream for extended noodling, and the band provided that in abundannce.
Vocals: Frank Agnello, Rich Pagano. Here’s where I geekily display my Beatle-Fu: I bent my ear to listen whether or not the band was going to play the mono or stereo version. There’s a marked difference between the two, if you’re listening for it: lyrics, cadences, flubs, pluralization on a specific word, and so forth. They played the stereo version. Nifty!
7. I Dig A Pony
Vocals: Rich Pagano. Let It Be was one of the first Beatle albums I had as a kid, but it was never one of my favorites. I liked the music just fine (mostly) but it was the last Beatles studio album released (but NOT the last one they recorded), and the sadness, friction, and weariness of their impending collapse is all over the album and the documentary film that accompanied it. It’s missing the George Martin magic (and contains entirely too much Phil Spector excess). As such, it’s a dark and kind of sad record, still with moments of greatness. I Dig A Pony isn’t a great song, but it’s a solid album track that opens and closes with a thunderous riff.
8. I’ll Cry Instead
Vocals: Will Lee, Rich Pagano. Now this is a longtime favorite! The band announced they were going to do a “movie song”, but didn’t go with an obvious choice from “A Hard Day’s Night” (something like the title track, I Should Have Known Better, Can’t Buy Me Love, etc.) Obviously they have to throw in lots of recognizable songs for casual Beatle fans, but they go often enough into the deeper cuts to satisfy raving Beatle lunatics.
9. I’ve Just Seen A Face
Vocals: Jack Petruzzelli. Another favorite tune, the band went acoustic with this number. Will Lee traded his bass for a 12-string guitar and even performed the solo as Jack admirably tackled Paul’s vocals. This song opened the US Rubber Soul album and set that album’s tone as The Beatles’s “folk” album, but in the UK it was simply an album track on Help. I know the UK/Parlophone albums are considered the ‘definitive’ albums, but I have a huge love of the US/Capitol Rubber Soul LP.
10. I Me Mine
Vocals: Will Lee. The first set of the night had a lot of George in it, and this trend continued as the Creme Tangerine Strings and the Hogshead Horns joined the band onstage for this album track from Let It Be.
11. All I’ve Got To Do
Vocals: Rich Pagano. Rich came out from behind the drumset (Will took his place) to sing this early Beatles number. It was a beautiful rendition, made even better by Rich’s extended hum outro.
12. Old Brown Shoe
Vocals: Frank Agnello. If you would have told me that the first big song that got the crowd on their feet and dancing manically would have been Old Brown Shoe, I would have immediately checked the date to make sure it wasn’t April First. It’s a fine song, don’t get me wrong, and another one of George’s deep album cuts that doesn’t get enough play, but how many casual Beatle fans would even know it existed? It was a B-side in the UK and released on the Hey Jude compilation album in the states, so it was never included on any big-name Beatles album. Still, it’s a testament to how strong a performing band the Fab Faux are. They really sold it, and the audience responded in kind.
13. While My Guitar Gently Weeps
Vocals: Frank Agnello, Jack Petruzzelli. This one is a crowd favorite. Of the five times we’ve seen the band, they’ve always played While My Guitar Gently Weeps. Jimmy Vivino reproduces Clapton’s famous soloing perfectly, but he also adds plenty of his own fretwork fire, the band wailing with another extended jam until they stop to respectfully listen to tape of George performing the song in an acoustic demo. Powerful stuff. Amazing song.
14. This Boy
Vocals: The whole band! This Boy isn’t a favorite Beatles song of mine, but I really loved the five-person harmonies the band put together live onstage.
15. I Saw Her Standing There
Vocals: Will Lee. Yeah this pretty much brought nearly the entire venue to their feet. How could it not?
Vocals: Jimmy Vivino. This classic John single was brought to fervorious life with Jimmy on vocals. As a Beatle nut, I loved that they not reproduced the sound of the original single (also on the Hey Jude album in the States), but that they incorporated bits from the White Album Revolution 1 track as well as the video performance (with the bop-shooby-doo-wops aplenty). A great shout out to us obsessive fans. 🙂
17. Get Back
Vocals: Jimmy Vivino. Thus ended the first set with plenty of fire and energy. Two fast rockers in a row whetted our appetite for some psycho-chromatic magical mystery time.
18. Magical Mystery Tour
Vocals: Will Lee, Jack Petruzzelli. We begin the Magical Mystery Tour in earnest with the album’s title track. One of the band members (I think ’twas Frank) began a spoken-word introduction before the blasting melodies from the Hogshead Horns brought the song to life.
19. The Fool on the Hill
Vocals: Will Lee. The Hogshead Horns switched from trumpets to flutes and recorder, and Will’s vocals were brought to the forefront as he delivers one of Paul’s most under-recognized tunes.
Vocals: The whole band! This (mostly) instrumental tune might be considered album filler, but I always felt it added a lot of tenor and atmosphere to Side 1. It basically fulfilled the same purpose during the live performance: adding some flair and psychedelia to the performance.
21. Blue Jay Way
Vocals: Jimmy Vivino, Jack Petruzzelli. Blue Jay Wray has never been a favorite of mine. It’s a droney, dirgey song from George that isn’t one of his best. Before the show, I was actually wondering if this tune would “lose” the crowd. It did, a little bit. Not that people were restless but you could basically tell that most were politely waiting for it to finish. And it’s not that I don’t like George in trippy mode; Within You, Without You might be my favorite Sgt. Pepper song, and most people can’t stand it. To those guys: REALLY? You’d much rather hear Fixin’ A Hole or She’s Leaving Home? Bah…
22. Your Mother Should Know
Vocals: Rich Pagano, Jack Petruzzelli. Your Mother Should Know brought the crowd back a bit, after the strangeness of Blue Jay Wray. And why not? It’s from Paul in his most upbeat pop showmanship mode. And at least there wasn’t any stiff, embarrassing choreography with someone ominously wearing a black carnation. (Google it)
23. I Am The Walrus
Vocals: Rich Pagano. I have a special relationship with I Am The Walrus. It was the one song that made me want to pick up a guitar, ANY guitar, and start playing… which is odd enough, as Walrus isn’t a guitar-based song by any stretch. But then again, I was always an odd kid. I was 11 and our band teacher screened the “Magical Mystery Tour” movie for us one rainy afternoon, and it was watching Paul groove with his Rickenbacker bass that made me perk up and think that I could do that too. Well… ANYWAY, I Am The Walrus is always a Fab Faux showstopper. Again, like While My Guitar Gently Weeps, they’ve always performed I Am The Walrus (with both the Creme Tangerine Strings and Hogshead Horns) every time I’ve seen them. And it kills, every single time. Last time, I think they even opened with it. Doesn’t matter when in the show they perform it, it’s always a highlight.
24. Hello Goodbye
Vocals: Rich Pagano, Jack Petruzzelli. If Walrus put the crowd in a fever pitch of excitement, it continued with equal measure with Hello, Goodbye.
25. Strawberry Fields Forever
Vocals: Rich Pagano. The Mellotron opening to Strawberry Fields Forever is one of the most recognizable openings to any Beatles song, and the murmurs of excited anticipation that greeted it spoke volumes about this performance. The audience was absolutely riveted throughout. Will even dropped the bass for the song outro and joined Rich on the drums to add some extra percussive emebellishments. I don’t know which grabbed the crowd more, this song or the one that followed…
26. Penny Lane
Vocals: Frank Agnello, Jimmy Vivino. Penny Lane joins I am the Walrus and While My Guitar Gently Weeps as one of the songs The Fab Faux has performed all five times I’ve seen them. Let’s face it, the song itself is every inch a classic, but it electrifies the crowd every time: singing, dancing, clapping, the works. Boots and I have a running gag when the extra microphone is brought out to the forefront. She always turns to me and excitedly proclaims, “I know what THAT is for!” Indeed, its for Hogshead Horns member John Chudoba, who brilliantly plays the piccolo trumpet solo (and extended outro) that sends the crowd into uproarious applause. For obsessive Beatle nuts, he also plays that little bit in the end that was never on the album or single releases, but WAS included on a outtake that is famed amongst Beatle nerds. Wonderful!
27. Baby You’re A Rich Man
Vocals: Jimmy Vivino, Rich Pagano. Rumor has it that Baby You’re A Rich Man was an homage of sorts from John to manager Brian Epstein. Allegedly, during one of the final utterances of “Baby you’re a rich man too”, the last two words are slurred just enough to sound like John is referring to Brian’s sexuality and religion. I’ll let you connect the dots on that one. Anyway, I’ve always enjoyed this album cut tremendously; it always had a kind of spooky otherwordliness to it, one which the band was able to quite admirably replicate onstage.
28. All You Need Is Love
Vocals: Jimmy Vivino. Holy Toledo… what can I possibly say about this song that hasn’t been said a zillion times before, and with a tetrazillion times more eloquence and with more than a dash of pinpoint awesomesauce? Even Will summed it up better than I can when he said it probably had the most important message of any Beatles tune. Even the song title tells you all you need to know with more heartfelt refinement than I could ever muster. So I won’t. It was a breathtaking ending to the live presentation of the Magical Mystery Tour album. Well done, gentlemen (and Tangerine Creme Strings ladies).
29. Oh! Darling
Vocals: Jack Petruzzelli. The band returned for their encore to near rapturous applause, and they delivered in kind with the final show-stopper of the evening. If you’ve ever seen Jack deliver the goods, then you know why. Big, loud, and eminently soulful, the entire audience was on their feet grooving along. It was practically a scene from Caligula in its joyful Bacchanal, minus the graphic excess and a slummin’-it Peter O’Toole.Note, also, that this was the only Abbey Road song of the evening!
30. Hey Bulldog
Vocals: Jack Petruzzelli, Rich Pagano. Before the show we heard the Toad The Wet Sprocket cover over the PA, and I remarked to Boots that Hey Bulldog was another favorite of mine, and definitely my favorite from the Yellow Submarine album, which, if you think about it, isn’t saying all that much. Or perhaps all too much? (See what I did there?) The band did a wonderful take on the song, complete with their own version of the dog-bark section.
31. Day Tripper
Vocals: Frank Agnello, Rich Pagano, Jack Petruzzelli. The show closed out with a classic Lennon/McCartney rocker. I don’t think anyone was seated at this point. Place was a madhouse! A MADHOUSE I TELL YOU!
John Chudoba’s “Penny Lane” solo
Boots and I have a running gag, where after each Fab Faux performance we turn to each other and say, “Every time we see them is the BEST time we’ve ever seen them!” This performance was no exception. I don’t think I’ve ever seen any crowd at any FF performance THAT animated, excited, and engaged. And while there were plenty of first-timers in the crowd that night (the “How many virgins” joke, though, might need to be retired), even us returning vets were equally surprised and delighted by the show. That’s the sign of lasting entertainment, and The Fab Faux crew put on yet another outstanding performance.
Do I have any complaints? Nope, not a one. Maybe the Dancing Sea Shanty Captain sitting two seats down from us could have used a shower (or three), and guys, PLEASE work on the merch. You had the coolest Magical Mystery Tour/Fab Faux shirt for sale, but in small and medium sizes ONLY? Really? Fooey. Still, those are just infinitesimal nitpicks. Go see The Fab Faux when they come to your town. Even for the most fleeting of Beatles fans, a splendid time is guaranteed for all. Hah! See what I just did there? OK, I’m out.