Photo | facebook.com/fabfourband
Band: The Fab Four
Date: Friday, June 14, with doors at 7 p.m.
Venue: Saenger Theatre, 6 S. Joachim St., mobilesaenger.com
Tickets: $25 – $55 (does not reflect resale prices) available through Ticketmaster
In 1964 four mop-topped lads from Liverpool sparked an era in rock history known as The British Invasion. From there, The Beatles went on to become one of the most iconic bands in rock ‘n’ roll. From their pop beginning to their psychedelic ending, The Beatles’ catalog still remains sonically relevant while gathering new listeners with each generation. The Fab Four is a Beatles tribute act that is assisting in keeping both the spirit and the music of The Beatles fresh for fans both old and new. With each performance, this group provides an impressive lighthearted trip through The Beatles’ musical history. The Fab Four founder Ron McNeil was more than happy to chat with Lagniappe’s Steve Centanni about his favorite musical subject.
Centanni: What was your first memory or experience with The Beatles?
McNeil: None of us in the group are old enough to have an original Beatles memory. I borrowed my older sister’s records and never gave them back. That was pretty much my first experience with The Beatles. I was actually a Monkees fan growing up. I liked The Monkees. They kinda introduced me from there, because my sister also had some Monkees records. I started buying my own copies of albums, much to their delight. So, it turned out OK for me.
Centanni: Before performing with The Fab Four, what was your musical experience?
McNeil: I was really, really young, like five or six years old when I started getting into music and wanted to play. I would play around on a keyboard and my dad bought me a little guitar. I always wanted to be one of The Beatles or one of The Monkees. I started learning all that stuff, not because I thought I would have a job performing as an impersonator. I loved the music.
I wanted to know what George is playing here or what John is singing here or why George’s guitar sounded like that. I started working out all the parts by myself, because I loved the music so much. They have so much music that it turned into a job within itself, being a kid just learning the stuff. When I was about 15, my dad took me to a show here in Los Angeles called “Beatlemania,” which was the first Beatles impersonator thing that I saw. I was like, “Whoa, those guys aren’t The Beatles, but they are The Beatles. That would be a great job to have!” Many years later, I met up with Ardy (Ardavan Sarraf), who plays Paul McCartney in the band, and we started the band from there.
Centanni: What was it like recruiting the talent for The Fab Four?
McNeil: I entered a Beatles sound-alike contest that was here in Los Angeles at a Beatles convention. I won first place singing “Imagine.” The following year, I saw a band performing, and Ardy was playing bass and singing in that band as Paul McCartney. I thought, “Oh my gosh! If I could get together with that guy! I sound like John, and he sounds like Paul. We might be able to do this!”
A few years later, we contacted each other and remembered each other from the convention and got it started from there. We got together with a couple of friends and started a group here in Southern California. We got a call to perform in Las Vegas, and we started honing our show.
When we started doing that, some of the better impersonators came to us. We met Gavin Pring, who plays George Harrison in the group, and he’s from Liverpool. So, he was playing with another band and came over and joined us. People were telling us, “We don’t want to start our own Beatles group. We want to join The Fab Four.”
Centanni: How would you compare the live show now to the early days?
McNeil: There’s certainly a lot more bells and whistles now, but basically, it’s the same show. It’s pretty much the hits of The Beatles. We’re one of the few four-piece groups in the world that performs all the music live on stage. Usually, they’re (other Beatles tribute bands) playing to the track, or there’s a fifth Beatle playing extra parts. We do it all ourselves on stage. We try to do a show that doesn’t have the bells and whistles. We try to involve the audience, because they know the songs as well as we do. We try to make a great experience for everyone.
If you grew up with The Beatles, hopefully, it sparks some memories. If you didn’t grow up with The Beatles, you get to see what it might be like to see this music performed live on stage by four guys who look something like them. We’re hoping that everyone gets a good experience out of it.
Centanni: What’s it like behind the scenes during a live show?
McNeil: We have to grow a lot of hair and moustaches and things. It can get pretty crazy backstage, but we try to get dressed as quickly as possible. The Beatles went through a lot of changes from the moptop look to Sgt. Pepper’s to when they split up. It’s fun to change into different costumes and watch people’s response to the different eras of The Beatles. We feel like it helps with the experience getting people to go, “Oh, I remember John Lennon with the glasses!” It’s a fun experience.
Centanni: The Fab Four has played all over the world, including the U.K. What kind of reactions do you get from The Beatles home crowd?
McNeil: We’re actually going back to the U.K. Every year in Liverpool in August, they have the world’s biggest Beatles convention out there called International Beatle Week. We’ve been invited this year to be the top act. We’ve been invited in past years. They get Beatles acts from all over the world. They get Japanese Beatles groups and Fillipino Beatles groups. Everybody goes over to Liverpool in August to celebrate The Beatles. We have at least two guys in the group from over there. We have Gavin from Liverpool, and our new guy, Adam Hastings, who plays John Lennon from time to time, is from Newcastle. They help us with the accents and stuff, which helps with the authenticity. It’s crazy everywhere you go, people know the music. Either they grew up with the music or they’re just experiencing it now. It brings people together. We get the same response everywhere we go. The girls still scream, but they’re a little older now.
Centanni: After spending so many years performing The Beatles’ catalog, what have you discovered about the music?
McNeil: The question that people ask me all the time is why it’s lasted so long. I really don’t have an answer to that question. The music just keeps carrying on and on. I think because The Beatles wrote songs about love and peace. As long as those themes are relevant today, then I think they’ll be relevant forever, as long as people want peace and love.
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