The Mersey Beatles
Friday, Feb. 26, at 7:30 p.m.
Mobile Civic Center Theater, 401 Civic Center Drive, www.mobilecivicctr.com
Tickets: $29-$46, available through Ticketmaster and Civic Center box office
Fifty years ago, the British embarked on their second invasion of the U.S. But instead of muskets and cannons, they infiltrated the American music scene with guitars and drums.
Four young men from Liverpool donned black mod suits and Cuban-heeled boots and riddled U.S. radio waves with their fresh pop rock. As the years passed, The Beatles transcended from pop icons to enigmatic mystics of psychedelic rock ‘n’ roll. Even after the band disbanded, their music continued to permeate American culture in a variety of mediums. To this day, The Beatles still gather new fans.
Now, four different lads from Liverpool are invading the Azalea City. The Mersey Beatles’ performance at the Civic Center Theater on Feb. 26 promises to be unlike any Beatles tribute performed here before. For the British Invasion’s 50th anniversary, this four-piece tribute to one of the U.K.’s greatest bands is making their debut in the U.S.
According to Steven Howard, who plays the part of bassist Paul McCartney, they could not be happier, especially touring in a climate that contrasts so favorably with their homeland. “It’s been a blast, especially down here in Florida where the weather is nice,” Howard said. “In England, it’s minus 5 [degrees Celsius]. So, it’s a lovely change to get down to some sunshine. Everybody is having a fabulous time, and it’s been a great experience for the boys.”
Before starting their Mersey Beatles project, Howard said, the band was like many other up-and-coming groups, trying their hand at original music. Even then, the influence of The Beatles could be heard in their original compositions. Howard said their music was a “very Beatles-influenced band in the tradition of Oasis.”
In addition to their original music, the group also incorporated a plethora of covers in order to generate money to record. Even though their lives were dedicated to music, The Mersey Beatles decided that being an original band was not going to create a permanent career in the music business. Their concept brought them to a career decision based on their greatest muse. With a new goal set, they began to audition across Liverpool as their current band.
“We bought some cheap suits and turtlenecks like on the covers of ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ or ‘Meet the Beatles,’” Howard said. “It worked out great the first year. We started to really get serious about it and never looked back.”
The Beatles’ catalog and aesthetics were not the only aspects of the legendary band’s career The Mersey Beatles emulated. The group has followed the same career path as The Beatles. When The Mersey Beatles began their auditions, they frequented the same Liverpool social clubs The Beatles did. The audiences consisted of people who had seen The Beatles during their early years, and they won over new supporters with each performance.
While the crowds embraced the band’s authentic look and musical accuracy, they also noted the passion The Mersey Beatles exhibited during performances. When they were done with the social club scene in Liverpool, they decided to approach the legendary Cavern Club for a gig.
During their early years, The Beatles were regulars at the Cavern. Their performances at this local venue laid the foundation for their musical legacy. The building consists of two rooms. The “Arch Room” is featured in many photos from The Beatles’ early performances. Howard describes the other section as a “live lounge.”
The Cavern Club has become one of the U.K.’s most notable spots for regional music. Adele has performed there, and Paul McCartney has been known to stop by and reminisce. Howard calls the Cavern an integral part of Liverpudlian culture.
After the Cavern Club’s directors witnessed the power of The Mersey Beatles’ show, they quickly brought the band on as their resident Beatles tribute. The Mersey Beatles spent the next 10 years performing the music of their favorite band in the venue that sparked the British Invasion. Needless to say, Howard and the group had found the success they longed for.
“The Cavern Club really has a great atmosphere,” Howard said. “The bands that play there all have a high standard. They don’t put just any old band on stage. You have to be pretty good to be invited. They’re pretty picky.”
During their tenure at the Cavern, they became close friends with director Julia Baird, who is also the sister of the late John Lennon. Howard notes Baird bonded with the band over their shared passion for The Beatles’ music. Baird is currently touring with The Mersey Beatles and promoting her book “Imagine This: Growing Up with My Brother John Lennon,” which gives readers a rare, honest look into the Lennon household, one Howard says has been embellished over the years.
“This book is her story about John, because she said that she was fed up with people getting the story wrong, especially about her mother,” Howard said. “It’s her chance to put the record straight.”
As far as the performance goes, Howard said The Mersey Beatles follow the same format as many other Beatles tribute groups. The band will spend the first part of the show in The Beatles’ trademark mod suits and take the audience from Beatlemania to their legendary Shea Stadium concert. For the second part, they’ll take the audience from “Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” to “Abbey Road.”
Many may wonder what makes The Mersey Beatles different from other Beatles tribute bands. Howard says their goal is not to mimic the band. He described their show as “happening right now” with the band being “in the moment.” He notes this as one of the most crowd-pleasing aspects of their show.
“We don’t feel like we’re acting,” Howard said. “We always try to be as natural as possible, and the music speaks for itself.”