For one, brief shining moment it was “Beatlemania” again as 1964: The Tribute flawlessly recreated the early days of The Fab Four on June 6 at the F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts.
It’s easy to see why 1964: The Tribute earned such rave reviews from Rolling Stone magazine and the late Dick Clark; the show gets all the details right. The performers – Mark Benson as John Lennon, Mac Ruffing as Paul McCartney, Tom Work as George Harrison and Bobby Potter as Ringo Starr – were dressed in black suits and Beatle boots like the original band wore on “The Ed Sullivan Show” in February 1964, when 73 million tuned in to catch the first glimpse of “the four lads from Liverpool.”
The spot-on arrangements of the songs were played on authentic reproductions of The Beatles’ instruments: a black Rickenbacker 325 and a Gibson J-160E for Benson/Lennon, a Hofner model 500/1 violin bass for Ruffing/McCartney (Ruffing is naturally right handed but taught himself to play lefty like McCartney), a couple of Gretsch guitars and a 12-string Rickenbacker for Work/Harrison and a four-piece Ludwig drum kit for Potter/Starr.
The selections all came from The Beatles’ touring years of 1964 through 1966. To put that in terms of albums: from Vee-Jay Records’ “Introducing…The Beatles,” which hit stores 10 days before Capitol’s “Meet The Beatles,” through “Revolver” (or, if you’re a fan of the famous compilations, only the red “1962-1966” package, nothing from the blue “1967-1970”).
The show began with the one-two punch of “She Loves You” and “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” both of which hit No. 1 in the U.S. in early 1964. They then played “From Me to You” and “Please Please Me,” which were recorded in 1962 for The Beatles’ U.K. debut album, with Benson/Lennon adding harmonica to the mix.
Work/Harrison stepped up to the microphone for “Do You Want to Know a Secret,” an album track in the U.K. that hit No. 2 in the U.S. Ruffing/McCartney followed with a rocking “All My Loving.”
1964: The Tribute scored big points for a flawless rendition of the lesser-known “This Boy,” complete with some gorgeous three-part harmonies, and kept the party going with Potter/Starr’s “I Wanna Be Your Man” and “Eight Days a Week.”
Work/Harrison strapped on the 12-string for “A Hard Day’s Night” and “I Should Have Known Better,” while the three-part harmonies were back for “If I Fell.” The first half came to a rocking conclusion with “Can’t Buy Me Love,” “Everybody’s Trying To Be My Baby” and “Money (That’s What I Want).”
The group kicked off the second half with “I Saw Her Standing There,” “I Feel Fine,” “Drive My Car,” “Ticket to Ride,” “Things We Said Today” and “You Can’t Do That.”
Benson/Lennon said 1964: The Tribute has been touring “all over the world” for 31 years, playing around 100 shows a year. The group has played at New York City’s Carnegie Hall 13 times and played at Shea Stadium, site of The Beatles’ triumphant concert in front of 55,000 in 1965.
As the band began 1965’s “In My Life,” I kept looking around for a piano for the tune’s instrumental bridge. Fearing it would be supplied by tape, instead it was played live on the guitar by Work/Harrison, and it sounded superb.
Kudos to the band for including another lesser-known tune, “And Your Bird Can Sing” from the U.K. edition of 1966’s “Revolver” and the American compilation “Yesterday…and Today.”
They headed down the home stretch with “Help!” and “Day Tripper” before ending the main set with a spectacular, sing-along version of “Twist and Shout.”
For the encore, each member took turns singing lead on a quartet of covers from The Beatles’ early repertoire: “Rock and Roll Music,” “Matchbox,” “Roll Over, Beethoven” and “Long Tall Sally.”
Saturday’s concert was presented by Edd Raineri, host of “The Beatledd Fab Four Hour,” which can be heard every Friday at 7 p.m. on 88.5 WRKC in Wilkes-Barre, and was opened by Benjy G., a comedian from New York City, who did impressions of Ed Sullivan and told jokes about The Beatles and the ’60s.