The music of The Beatles is timeless, surviving long decades after the original British invasion and permeating American culture, from mop-top haircuts to the way we look at a line of people crossing a crosswalk.
Over the years, tribute bands have cropped up to give life to the classics and help carry the songs from generation to generation. Two of these acts will come to Summit County on Saturday, Dec. 28, and each has a different take on presenting The Beatles to a new audience. Doctor Robert, The Beatles Tribute, will play The Barkley Ballroom in Frisco, and 1964: The Tribute will take the stage at the Riverwalk Center in Breckenridge.
‘1964’ The Tribute
As founding member Mark Benson puts it, 1964: The Tribute is all kind of his fault.
“Oddly enough, we never intended this to be full time,” he said. “We thought it would be something we’d do once month or once every two moths here in Akron, (Ohio), and it just took off. We are probably doing 100 shows a year (now).”
The band members have all been Beatles fans since there were Beatles, Benson said, and they’ve all been in music most of their adult lives.
“We do costuming and haircuts, but ‘1964’ The Tribute — I designed it to show you what it would have been like if you were lucky enough to see them in concert,” he said.
The band plays all of the Beatles tunes up through the end of their touring career — the Beatles stopped touring in 1966 — making the show more of a straight-forward concert, rather than a Beatles story that weaves through the decades. Benson said that was important because no one actually knows how the original band would have performed any of its later music.
“We stick with that early rock ’n’ roll,” Benson said. “To that end — to make it look and sound as much as possible like their show looked and sounded — we procured all the same amps and guitars, guitar strings, drums, cymbals, anything you can get.”
The goal of “1964” is to try to sound the same as what was coming off the stage when The Beatles were in vogue. Benson said that attention to detail and the chemistry among the band members are what make this tribute distinctive.
“We are really trying to show you what it’s like to see The Beatles,” he said. “Our talking on stage is modeled after a style of communicating — the jokes and the banter. We aren’t trying to be better than another tribute band. We’re just trying to be the best that we can be.”
The Beatles Tribute
Rather than play straight-ahead Beatles, imitating every nuance of the live experience, Doctor Robert, The Beatles Tribute, likes to find smooth, creative ways to get from one song to the next, similar to some jam bands. Despite that, Kevin Reinert said he’s not gung-ho on using the term “jam band” to describe Doctor Robert’s take on classic Beatles music.
“I hesitate to use the term ‘jam band’ because I think people think of this space odyssey kind of thing, and we don’t want people to lose interest too much,” said Reinert, who plays bass and vocals and manages Doctor Robert. “We won’t just go off on tangents the entire time, but certain songs lend themselves to fade out. … “Come Together,” that one kind of lends itself to going for a little longer.”
Most songs still end up being played as they were made famous, Reinert said — the band doesn’t change the arrangements too much — but when there’s an opportunity to expand at the end of the song or take a solo a few bars longer, the band will jump on the chance. Reinert said audiences like that Doctor Robert puts a new shine on some old favorites.
“I think a lot of people like the little change in what people kind of think of as a Beatles tribute act, a fresher, more modern way of interpreting the music,” he said. “ I can’t say anyone’s ever been upset with us doing it. We come up with creative ways to do it … on stage instead of 100 percent here’s every Beatle note you’ve ever heard.”
The members of Doctor Robert don’t don wigs, talk in accents or attempt to impersonate the band — one of the band members is even a woman — but they still try to keep true to the music and what people recognize.
“We’ve been doing it for just over three years, and as we play shows, we see what worked with the crowd or what we had fun doing,” Reinert said. “We read the venue and the crowd and play our show to that.
“I feel like The Barkley is going to be more what we’ve talked about with expanding the music and taking it pretty further, but if you take it to a country club or something, with people who grew up with the Beatles, we might go more toward jukebox Beatles. We might not do the jam-band thing if we get a crowd that doesn’t really want that.”