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"1964" The Tribute

Carnegie Hall, New York City September 18, 2004

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As a die-hard music fan fortunate enough to grow up in the '60s and '70s -- when all of the best music was being made -- there are a handful of rock bands that are just indispensable to me. Queen, The Who, pre-solo-career Alice Cooper, Elton John, David Bowie and, a little later in the '70s, The Ramones, are some of the last true rock acts to really break any musical ground. Everything today is just a retread or a retread of a retread. Yawn City. In my opinion, and I don't find many people who will disagree with me, there are only two bands that could do no wrong and have therefore earned the right to be referred to as the undisputed Gods of Rock and Roll: Led Zeppelin and the Beatles. Led Zeppelin invented heavy rock and The Beatles, well, they invented everything. The Beatles were the greatest pop band to ever exist. If you don't agree with me, I don't want to know you.

Saturday night I took my friend and fellow Beatles fanatic Randy to see a Beatles tribute band known as "1964" The Tribute. Over the course of a career spanning about twenty years, "1964" has perfected the art of "becoming" the Fab Four. Although I entered Carnegie Hall (which by the way is an amazing venue for a rock concert) as a serious skeptic, I left three hours later a true believer. Billed as "The Number One Beatles Tribute on Earth" by Rolling Stone magazine, "1964's" flawless and emotionally captivating two-hour show proved this grand statement to be true.

The members of "1964" (who are all Americans) are Mark Benson (John), Gary Grimes (Paul), James Pou (George), and Greg George (Ringo). Though their physical resemblance is not anywhere near identical, the musician's unbelievable aural similarities to the Beatles, along with their fully mastered physical mannerisms (down to their Liverpudlian accents, the way Ringo shakes his head and how John holds his guitar up high against his chest) coupled with my extreme nearsightedness made it easier for me to imagine that these guys looked more like the real Beatles than they actually do. Once they started to play, opened their mouths and sang, the illusion was complete. I was watching the Beatles perform at Carnegie Hall, and it was just insane.

The Beatles were not from Outer Space, they were simply four guys who loved music, and it showed. When "1964" first took the stage, I watched as an objective observer, very much aware that I was seeing "not The Beatles, but an incredible simulation," as the tagline for Beatlemania goes. By the third song, I was singing along, dancing and very close to really getting a little freaked out and emotional at hearing songs I've loved all my life performed as if The Beatles were actually there in the room. It was extremely easy to understand how, say, back in 1964 at the Ed Sullivan Theater, little girls would have completely lost their minds in the presence of The Beatles. Their power and the sheer joy of their music are absolutely irresistible and transcend all language barriers, space and time. The only thing missing, as my friend Randy suggested, was the undeniable personal charisma of the original Beatles as individuals. "Paul McCartney and John Lennon were two of the most charismatic people…on earth," he said. "When John Lennon spoke, you couldn't look away because everything he said was so interesting." He's right of course, but we were just being overly analytical. In the absence of The Real Thing, "1964" is as good as it gets.

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The set list included mind-blowing renditions of:

"Please Please Me" "Do You Want to Know a Secret?" "Day Tripper" "And Your Bird Can Sing" "A Hard Days Night" "This Boy" "I Need You" "HELP!" "Yellow Submarine" "Paperback Writer" (complete with spot-on three part harmonies) "Boys" "And I Love Her" "Mr. Moonlight" "Twist and Shout" "She Loves You" "Can't buy Me Love" "If I Fell" "We Can Work it Out" "Eight Days a Week"

And others that I can't remember. The encore of "Rock and Roll Music" had the entire crowd up on its feet. This is a great show for young kids and even grandparents. Randy and I are both in our 40s and we were easily among the youngest people in the audience. Additional songs in the band's repertoire – but not performed at the show I saw -- include "Slow Down," "There's a Place," "It Won't be Long," "Don't Bother Me," "I Don't Want to Spoil the Party," "I'll Follow the Sun" and "Long Tall Sally, " so you know you can attend more than one "1964" performance and not see the same show twice. I would definitely see them again with any of my other Beatles loving friends. What a magical evening.

There will never be another band like The Beatles. Fortunately, we have an insanely talented and authentic act like "1964" The Tribute to remind us of the invaluable gifts and immortal musical legacy that John, Paul, George and Ringo left behind. God save The Beatles.

"1964" The Tribute: www.1964thetribute.com/