Note: All pictures in this review were taken by the lovely and talented Boots from our seats in Row F, and without a single use of flash photography whatsoever. When it comes to buttkickin’ concert photography, my wife is Queen of the Freakin’ Ninjas!
As I mentioned in my album review (linked above), Rubber Soul is, in my opinion, the perfect record towards which you should direct new Beatles fans or those interested in discovering more of their music. Oh sure, everyone immediately wants to refer the budding neophyte to Abbey Road, Revolver, or especially Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, but in my mind Rubber Soul is easily the most ideal starting point. To quote myself… which is about as solipsistic an exercise as they come:
[Rubber Soul] arrives at the heart of [The Beatles’s] transitional period, turning away from the imagery of mop-topped teenybopper pop sensations towards singer-songwriters without peer, leading the vanguard that transformed the feature-length album into a singular work of art rather than a collection of singles, b-sides, and filler. With Rubber Soul, the studio had become as much an instrument as the Hofner bass, Gretsch and Rickenbacker guitars, and Ludwig kit, a tableau onto and into which the band expanded the boundaries of their craftsmanship… Rubber Soul evolved the process to a point where the production values were not just stronger; the songs were richer, cohesive, more sophisticated in their construction yet buoyed by the inimitable simplicity and purity of their presentation
I was reading and listening to a lot of Robert Greenberg when I wrote that review… can you tell?
Anyway, The Fab Faux performing Rubber Soul in its entirety was a done deal, in my book. This premiere Beatles tribute band is renowned for their ability to duplicate the sound and spirit of the Beatles’s recordings onstage. This is no “wigs and costumes” pastiche performance. If you’re looking for that kind of experience, there are a host of cover/tribute groups which will provide that level of entertainment in abundance. The Fab Faux is all about the music, and presenting the album-listening experience live and, judging by the reaction at the Parker Playhouse that night, to a rapturously thrilled audience.
Before the concert began promptly at 8 PM, we were treated to a host of Beatles cover tunes played over the venue’s sound system, the vast majority of which are almost completely unknown to the populace at large (I particularly enjoyed Shang Shang Typhoon’s take on “Let It Be”). As the house lights went down, “Beatle Brunch” host Joe Johnson took the stage to introduce the band, and soon joined the audience to enjoy the show. I know this because he was sitting right behind Boots and I!
Let us introduce the band line-up. We have:
- Frank Agnello – Guitars, Vocals (occasional fuzz bass)
- Will Lee – Bass, Vocals (occasional drums, keys, and acoustic guitar)
- Rich Pagano – Drums, Vocals
- Jack Petruzzelli – Keys, Guitars, Vocals
- Jimmy Vivino – Guitars, Keys, Vocals (occasional sitar and maybe a bazouki?)
These guys are not just ridiculously talented, but extremely damn entertaining. They’ve been performing together since the 90s and this is reflected in their onstage humor and easygoing playfulness, but when it comes to the music the guys deliver in abundance. Joining them for this performance were the ladies of the Creme Tangerine Strings (Sibel Finn and Amy Kimball), who enhanced the band’s sound with violin and cello during the second part of show.
So let’s get cracking and head through the set-list, 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.
|1. Drive My Car
|Vocals: Jack Petruzzelli, Frank Agnello. The Rubber Soul album began immediately, and you could hardly choose a better opening number than Paul’s cowbell-laden ode to a rather snotty lass who still managed to get her way anyhow.
|2. Norwegian Wood
|Vocals: Frank Agnello Rich Pagano. Rich took lead vocals, Jack pulled out a 12-string guitar and provided harmony vocals, and Jimmy whipped out the sitar to tackle John’s classic album cut. This is one of my all-time favorite songs — Beatles or otherwise — which made this a concert highlight for me.
|3. You Won’t See Me
|Vocals: Will Lee, Jack Petruzzelli. This infectious pop number featured Will and Jack on double-tracked vocals, with harmonies from the band. Those “Ooooooh… la-la-la’s” will get you every time, man.
|4. Nowhere Man
|Vocals: Jimmy Vivino, Rich Pagano. On any given day, this could be my favorite Beatles song of all time. Everything about it is perfection: the harmonies (provided by all five members of the band), the driving rhythm, the shimmering, perfect guitar solo, Lennon’s stark, poetic lyricism… I could go on. Nowhere Man is probably the most perfect pop song ever recorded. The Fab Faux more than did it justice, they really brought it to life onstage.
|5. Think For Yourself
|Vocals: Jack Petruzzelli. Frank whipped out a Fender P and cranked up the fuzz, replicating the fuzz bass sound originated by Paul on the album. The first Harrison song of the evening, this uptempo number was a solid crowd-pleaser.
|6. The Word
|Vocals: Jimmy Vivino. Right before the song began, Will took off his jacket and showed the inner lining to the audience; it was, in fact, the “Butcher” cover to Yesterday and Today. Rather apropos, since that US album contained several songs that were missing from the US version of Rubber Soul. The band provided vocals over the chorus while Jimmy took lead on the verses. Highlights of this song included Jack’s bouncy piano work and Jimmy’s spirited maracas!
|Vocals: Will Lee. “Were you ever a teenager in love with a French girl?” the band asked as Will broke into McCartney’s tender ballad Michelle. You could just sit back and watch heads swaying during this number.
|8. What Goes On
|Vocals: Jack Petruzzelli. I’ll freely admit I’m not a big rockabilly fan and, as such, this song isn’t a favorite of mine. Jack’s energetic delivery worked pretty well though; his melodramatic presentation of the “Did you mean to break my heart and watch me die?” line was one for the record books.
|Vocals: Will Lee. It behooved Frank to mention that on an album full of capo’ed guitars, this particular song was capo’ed the highest (8th fret, I believe?). Will took lead on this one, with Jimmy playing something that looked like a bazouki. I think. But what do I know? I’m just a caveman…
|10. I’m Looking Through You
|Vocals: Jack Petruzzelli. The hand claps that pulsated through the album track make their appearance here, featuring lead vocals from Jack with an assist from Frank.
|11. In My Life
|Vocals: Jimmy Vivino. In My Life is just one of those great John Lennon songs that floors you every time, and Jimmy handled it beautifully on vocals, with a spirited “harpsichordish” solo from Jack.
|Vocals: Rich Pagano. I’ll freely admit that I’m not much a fan of this song. Not that I dislike it; it fits the album’s tenor just fine, but I’m mostly indifferent to it. The band did a great job covering the song, of course.
|13. If I Needed Someone
|Vocals: Frank Agnello. This is the second Harrison cut from the album, and it’s an absolute beaut. Frank took lead but the rest of the band handled harmonies beautifully.
|14. Run For Your Life
|Vocals: Rich Pagano. Pound for pound, this is probably the creepiest song The Beatles ever recorded, and probably holds the record for the creepiest song attached to the bounciest, most upbeat music ever. The highlights of the song were the dueling soloists of Jimmy, playing slide on a Gibson SG, and Jack, playing country licks on a Fender Strat. It made for one hell of an outro!
|15. Hello Goodbye
|Vocals: Rich Pagano, Jack Petruzzelli. Joined onstage by the Creme Tangerine Strings, the band won back the crowd from an easy-going lethargy of Intermission drinks and snacks with an upbeat number that got the crowd right back on their feet.
|16. I Am The Walrus
|Vocals: Rich Pagano. I Am The Walrus is always a showstopper and crowd favorite. In the six times I’ve seen The Fab Faux, they’ve always played this number to great success… and tonight it didn’t disappoint.
|17. And Your Bird Can Sing
|Vocals: Frank Agnello. Lennon didn’t particularly care for this song, but in my opinion it’s one of the most unforgettable ’60s Power Pop classics. Once again, Jimmy and Jack handled the dual leads during the intro, outro, and chorus. Short, punchy, uptempo, and awesome. Like Jackie Rogers Jr. with a Bouncy C…
|18. Ticket To Ride
|Vocals: Jimmy Vivino. Ticket To Ride is often credited as one of “the earliest prototypical heavy metal songs”. I would agree to disagree on that particular assessment, but it doesn’t stop this song from being so gosh-darn swell! Frank whipped out the 12-string Rickenbacker for this one, bringing an unmistakably ringing chime to the table.
|19. Here Comes The Sun
|Vocals: Will Lee. The combination of acoustic guitar, synthesizer, killer harmonies and simple, direct lyrics make for one of the most beautiful songs Harrison ever recorded. With one exception (soon), I saw more people singing along with this particular song than with any other during the entire performance.
|20. Glass Onion
|Vocals: Rich Pagano. If you would have told me that the first song of the evening from The Beatles (“The White Album”) would have been “Glass Onion”, I would have been pleasantly… pleased. And I was. I had to give up tickets to go see The Fab Faux perform the entire White Album in Port Chester last year, and I’m still a little bitter. So this helped. A little.
|Vocals: Frank Agnello. Speaking of beautiful Harrison songs from Abbey Road, Frank took lead vocal and lead guitar duties on “Something”. I don’t even know what else I can say about this number, except it was knocked utterly out of the park.
|Vocals: Jimmy Vivino. “Rain” was often called the best Beatles B-side ever, but in my opinion is equally as good as its stellar A-side partner (“Paperback Writer”). Jimmy even sang the backwards vocal during the outro. Good stuff.
|23. While My Guitar Gently Weeps
|Vocals: Frank Agnello and Jack Petruzzelli. Rich hails us out of the bridge from “Bungalow Bill” into this Harrison classic. Along with “I Am The Walrus”, this is a signature tune that the band has performed every time I’ve seen them. And of course there will be another “signature tune” to come (soon). The highlight is of course Jimmy’s absolutely shredding guitarwork: first a pitch-perfect take on Clapton’s original solo, and then an extended solo section capping off the song. Brilliant stuff.
|24. Eleanor Rigby
|Vocals: Will Lee. Amy’s and Sibel’s strings were brought to the forefront while Will sang lead on McCartney’s minor-key classic from Revolver.
|25. Strawberry Fields Forever
|Vocals: Rich Pagano. “Strawberry Fields” is one of Lennon’s signature tunes (with a LOT of help from George Martin, but that’s a knish for another deli). There was a lot of multi-instrumentation going on here, especially from Will who went from bass to keyboards to joining lead vocalist Rich on the drums, as the two performed an extended drum outro with Will pounding the floor toms and Rich rockin’ the kit.
|26. No Reply
|Vocals: Frank Agnello & Rich Pagano. You know, Beatles For Sale gets slagged on a lot by Beatles faithful but it remains one of my favorite albums from the band. Cover tunes notwithstanding, the dark, acoustic, introspective numbers are always appealing to me, especially “No Reply”, which is so direct in its accusatory anger and desperation. Love this song.
|Vocals: Frank Agnello. An indisputable classic from McCartney, the perfect simplicity of the song was replicated onstage with Frank on vocals and acoustic guitar, Jack on acoustic guitar, and the Creme Tangerine Strings doing what they do best.
|28. Oh! Darling
|Vocals: Jack Petruzzelli. Yep, here’s another one of The Fab Faux’s signature moments, one that they’ve done every time I’ve seen them and always to rapturous applause. Jack’s spirited, soulful take on McCartney’s stalwart Abbey Road track never fails to fire up the crowd. This was no exception.
|Vocals: Jimmy Vivino. MAN, I’m a sucker for a sanded-down, blonde Epiphone Casino… anyway, Jimmy took lead vocals on the last song of the second set, and the distortion-filled rocker brought the crowd to their feet.
|The band retook the stage and delighted the crowd by introducing none other than rock legend Dion DiMucci, whose history of amazing hit songs hardly abides the telling, and he performed with the band through both encore numbers!
|30. Ruby Baby
|Vocals: Dion DiMucci. Dion led the band in a spirited, soulful rendition of Lieber and Stoller’s “Ruby Baby”, one of his 1960 hit songs.
|31. Twist And Shout
|Vocals: Jimmy Vivino. The evening came to a close with this rousing crowd-pleaser. Dion stayed onstage and performed the song with the band, with not a single ass-in-seat at this point. Not only was everyone dancing, the crowd was in full sing-along mode.
Phew! What a show… and while I definitely missed the guys from the Hogshead Horns — no “Penny Lane” this time around — there was no want for great music that night. Boots and I have a running statement at the end of every Fab Faux show, which is usually one or both of us saying “Every time we see them is the best time we’ve ever seen them!” No exception this night, that’s for sure. Everything in that evening’s performance was perpetrated in service of the music of The Beatles, and I’d be hard-pressed to come up with a better live way to honor the band’s legacy. Great show. Check these guys out when they’re within your confines, or close enough for a road-trip. They’re worth it.