Enjoy The Show
The Fab Four are the Fabulous Fourmost of Beatles Tribute Bands

By Lee Valentine Smith

At this point in music history, it's not an exaggeration to say that the world is decidedly overpopulated with tribute/cover bands. However well-meaning, sometimes there's just no real reason for their existence. Nearly every legendary act has a phalanx of imitators crisscrossing the globe playing corner bars to fancy halls, churning out the hits. The quality level of musicianship and presentation varies from embarrassingly bad to surprisingly good.
The Fab Four, on the other hand, push the tribute concept to its highest possible level of excellence.

In two decades of existence, the California-based band has emerged as the ultimate, fine-tuned edition of Beatle tributes, with painstakingly accurate recreations of costumes, hair and equipment. With a setlist of around 90 percent of the Beatles band and solo catalog, the Fab Four are an internationally touring corporation, reinventing the pure excitement of a career-spanning performance by the world's greatest band. And it's all played live. No tracks, tricks or lip syncing allowed. Even the actual Beatles couldn't replicate some of their own material on stage.
INsite spoke with the Fab's own Paul McCartney, co-founder Ardy Sarraf.

Symphony Hall is a great venue for any show, but it seems perfect for what you do.

It is. I think this is our second or third time there, and it's great to include it in our little down-south mini-tour during that week.

You've toured as the Fab Four for twenty years, do you call the different legs of tours by a new name every time you go out - or have you given up like Bob Dylan with his "Neverending Tour?"

Unlike some bands that only tour during certain times of the year, we are literally on the road every weekend. So we'd probably run out of names for it. It'd be worse than naming hurricanes, there's just too many. We've been road warriors for twenty years, starting the show in 'Vegas, at the Hilton - on Elvis Presley's old stage, actually. We did that for about two and half years and then we started touring.

Touring is hard work, even when you're playing the music you love.

For us, it's a good mix because we're on the road half the time and home half the time. We're kind of in the travel league of pro athletes or the military or business travelers. It's not easy but we love it. We chose to do it and now we've just gotten used to it. It is taxing sometimes but once the show starts, that's the fun part.

Two decades is a long time to do any job, especially a creative one. The Beatles is the focus, but obviously you're all musicians who play your own material as well.

We've all gone the original route when we were younger, with trying to get a deal and all of that stuff. But that ship has sailed and now we just do the show. We all love The Beatles anyway so it works for us. We first met at an L.A. Beatles convention in the '90s and now here we are.

How many personnel changes have occurred so far?

We've changed a couple, but we're unique in that the originals are still part of the Fab Four family. Our original George Harrison is doing front-of-house sound. So he's our George Martin now. If a member can't be onstage anymore for whatever reason, they're still part of the band. You have to stay ahead of the Jones, as they say, right? We have to keep it young and fresh. No one wants to be a 60-year-old trying to sing "All My Lovin'" like on the Ed Sullivan Show. None of us want to do that.

That's a lesson some of the other tribute acts need to heed.

Well there are some people that just don't know when to hang up the boots. I know it's hard for them to do that because it is so much fun, but you've gotta keep the sacred status of a Beatle. Don't go up there if you don't look the part or sound good anymore - musically or visually. We take it all very seriously. Those Beatle records are the Bible and we try to replicate the records as much as we can. We're the only four-piece that I know of that does everything live. So we can do "Day In The Life" or "Strawberry Fields." Things that often take five or six guys on-stage to do, we can pull off as a four-piece without any kind of tracks or anything like that. Every vocal is live, unlike some of the bands out there. If we didn't really sing, I think that would be cheating.

You're beating The Beatles because they couldn't even do some of their own complicated stuff live.

Yeah, but we have to. We do a two-hour show that's basically the red and blue albums. All the hits.

How obscure do you get?

We throw a few album-tracks in there sometimes, especially when we go back to the same venues we've played before, just so everyone can have a little variety. When we play in L.A., we really mix it up.

Do you know the whole catalog at this point?

It's pretty close. A few times we'll do an entire album. We did the Pepper album in '17 and this year we'll be doing the Abbey Road album in its entirety a few times.

Will you ever tackle the entire White Album?

There's so much weird stuff on there! One of these days we'll do it all the way through. We do quite a few songs from it already. In general, I think we know pretty close to 90 percent of their whole catalog.

That's a lot of stuff. And, as you know, you're playing to people who know that material inside and out, every little detail, including the original demos and outtakes.

Oh yeah, and sometimes at local shows here in L.A., we'll throw in stuff like that and do things like "Hey Bulldog" or "Rocky Raccoon" or "Dear Pridence." So we have an eclectic following and we're pretty all-over-the-place, too. Gavin Pring, who does George Harrison is actually from Liverpool and Adam Hastings is coming into the band in March is also British. Actually his first big run with us will be when we play the south, so he'll be on the Symphony Hall show. So there's two Brits in the band now.

Speaking of detail, you play left-handed as Paul, but you're actually right-handed. That's a lot of work.

Yeah, I taught myself how to play left-handed over twenty years ago now, just to do this. If we are calling ourselves the ultimate tribute to The Beatles, what kind of tribute would it be if I played right-handed? You've gotta be left-handed.

That's so important to the look.

Right, you've got to have those famous silhouettes of The Beatles on stage. But then you take it further and do the physical resemblances with the make-up, the wigs and the clothes. And I would dare-say that I really think we do it right. I think we look better than most bands and we sound better than most bands who do this. When you see the pictures of the three of us up-front, as George, John and Paul, it's so close it's scary. Gavin and Adam are close to dead ringers for George and John.

You have to stay on the money because, let's face it, you do have some competition.

Absolutely. Sometimes there's too much competition. When you have too many bands, it just muddies up the water. Like you said, there are die-hand fans coming to the show and they know what they want to see. But some bands will just plop a mop on their head. 'Hey, I can sing She Loves You.' And they're 300 pounds. There's nothing wrong with being 300 pounds, but no one wants to see a 300-pound John Lennon.

The only 300-pound John Lennon anyone needs to see is if it's Lennon himself.

Exactly, if he'd had an Elvis stage. But what we're about is taking the audience back in time and giving them the thrill of seeing The Beatles for a quick two hours. We have all the guitars and the clothes. The devil's in the details with us. Always has been.

You've got touring down to rock and roll science at this point.

Yeah, after twenty years, we're finally learned that it works best if we have basically four complete sets of instruments and amps and the front-of-house board in cases. So at any given time, we'll have three or four sets of instruments crisscrossing the country as we tour. It all just comes down to caring about the music. We love The Beatles as much as anyone in the audience and we just want everyone to enjoy the show.

The Fab Four play Sunday, February 10 at Symphony Hall. For more information, please visit atlantasymphony.org.

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