Twist and shout
We're still celebrating anniversaries in regard to The Beatles, though it's been 50 years since the boys from Liverpool broke up and ended the most successful run in music history.
The split became official in 1970 when Paul McCartney said he wasn't working with the group anymore, and left behind John Lennon, George Harrison and Ringo Starr. Of course, each enjoyed solo careers.
But, music lives on forever, thanks in part to tribute bands, including perhaps the country's premier act that celebrates John, Paul, George and Ringo: The Fab Four.
Ardy Sarraf, who plays Paul, and Rob McNeil (Lennon) started the group in 1997 and it has toured extensively since then, pretty much year-round for weekend shows, both in the United States and internationally. They'll be in Portland to play the Newmark Theatre, Friday, Dec. 27.
Members have changed throughout the years, but the Fab Four now consists of Sarraf, Adam Hastings (Lennon), Gavin Pring (Harrison) and Joe Bologna (Starr).
The Fab Four prides itself on minding to "devil's in the details," Sarraf said, in playing and singing Beatles music, using period instruments and costumes and the show presentation. The group has performed in Las Vegas at the Las Vegas Hilton, Aladdin, Sahara and Riviera and in 2013 won an Emmy Award for the PBS special "The Fab Four: The Ultimate Tribute."
Sarraf's fascination with The Beatles began as a teenager, although he was a KISS fan. When John Lennon was murdered in 1980, his sister put together a collage of Lennon photos in an album and Sarraf asked, "Why was everybody so touched?" He started listening to Beatles/Lennon music, and it clicked.
Sarraf started playing guitar at age 15, and played with a high school band. He taught himself to play left-handed bass, as McCartney plays left-handed.
"When I was younger, I gravitated toward Paul, even though John was the first Beatle I knew about because of what had happened to him," Sarraf said. "I had the Paul resemblance as a kid with the hair, and I started singing and had that timbre in my voice. I started honing in on vocalizing and impersonation stuff."
While McNeil has retired "for the most part," Hastings serves as a "dead ringer for John, it's pretty scary," Sarraf said.
Sarraf admires The Beatles for their great songwriting and musicianship. Among his favorie songs are "All My Loving," "Yesterday" and "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band."
"What's not to like?," he said. "They were just perfect, and came at the right time (to the U.S. in 1964)."
Fan reaction for The Fab Four, he added, has been mixed over the years.
"They usually say, 'We want a refund,'" Sarraf joked.
"You get all sorts of reactions. For people who have seen The Beatles, it's like seeing them again, 'But I can hear them this time.'" Indeed, Beatles concerts weren't bolstered by megawatt systems of today, and they often played in big stadiums and could hardly be seen by people in the cheap seats.
"Of course, you can't please everybody. We're purists too, but it's a show. We try to give them two hours of The Beatles on stage, and play all the greatest hits."
The band does about 100 shows a year, leaving their families to live and work on the road, and it's a Catch-22 for a musician to be part of a tribute band, Sarraf said.
"I don't mind it, it is who we are," he said. "A tribute act is better than a cover band. We're not just hashing through a song or looking at an iPad for chords. We try to get as close to a record as we possibly can.
"We've all done original songs, and been in original bands. We decided to put all our efforts into what we love most, and it's the music of The Beatles, and do it live."
The Fab Four play Newmark Theatre, 1111 S.W. Broadway, at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 27. Tickets: $35-$125, www.portland5.com.
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