Richie Feathers, Arts Editor
As I was leaving the Hunt Union Ballroom last Saturday night, I overheard a father say to his son, “[they were] some of the most influential people ever, and not just because of the music.” I smiled as I kept walking, remembering the many times my own father and I have had a similar discussion over the same four people: The Beatles. There’s really nothing that can be said that hasn’t already been covered about The Beatles, yet it’s a conversation that’s become essential to not only the history of music but history in general. The Fab Four represent not only a period in our society; they’re a staple.
Saturday night saw the celebration of The Beatles with the tribute band Yesterday. The ballroom was filled with parents, kids and students, all prepared to sing along to some of the most adored songs ever written. And as the lights finally dimmed and four unknown yet all-too-familiar figures took their place on stage, the excitement only grew. Overhead, a recording of the infamous announcement from the Ed Sullivan Show introduced us to a new band called The Beatles and the scene was set for Yesterday’s rowdy opener: a spirited performance of “Twist and Shout.” Many female fans immediately jumped up and started dancing, a scene that I can only imagine was a mere glimpse of what Beatlemania must’ve actually been like. But everyone joined in the singing.
Sporting the mid-sixties trademark mop tops, each of the members of Yesterday fluently adopted the mannerisms of a different Beatle. Rhythm guitar and lead vocalist Don Bellezzo brought out John Lennon’s wit and sense of humor, while bassist and lead vocalist Rich Fazzi’s portrayal of Paul McCartney’s carefree nature was spot on. Monte Mann’s visual appearance as reserved lead guitarist George Harrison was unmistakable and Dick Cunico embodied drummer Ringo Starr’s light-hearted personality. Based out of Las Vegas, Yesterday, named after the most covered song in history, performed all eras of The Beatles’ music in their original key and interacted with the crowd and each other in the famous Liverpool accent and improvised banter.
But the tribute band also excelled at recalling similarities in the performance. Lined up in the same stage positions, Bellezzo’s John and Mann’s George shared a mic as Fazzi took Paul’s vocals on classics like “All My Loving” and “Yesterday” while Bellezzo took lead on 1965’s “Help!” And after every song Yesterday played, the four musicians joined in on The Beatles’ trademark full bows. It’s no wonder this tribute band has been around for the past 15 years.
The show was split up into two sets. With the band dressed in simple black suits and ties, the first set covered the early days from the British Invasion through the masterful 1966 “Revolver” era. Yesterday shined on the infamous cover of Chuck Berry’s “Roll Over Beethoven” and early hits “Please Please Me” and “I Saw Her Standing There.” The first set also contained Cunico’s Ringo on lead vocals for a “Yellow Submarine” singalong and a welcomed inclusion of John’s beautiful “Nowhere Man” from 1965’s “Rubber Soul.”
The second half of the show was filled with songs from the latter half of The Beatles’ career, starting with their influential Sgt. Pepper’s days. As the stage lights came back up after a brief intermission, the members of Yesterday were suddenly dressed in the famous bright uniforms of the era. The set began with the groundbreaking fusion of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”’s opening two songs, the title track and “With a Little Help from My Friends.” Moving along with standouts “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “Penny Lane,” both named after places from John and Paul’s childhood, the second set hit all the right notes as Yesterday continued to sing and play authentically like the Fab Four, creating a truly nostalgic show.
Yet it was their cover of “Hey Jude” that really was the standout of the night. Fazzi took vocals and piano and led the audience through one of the most beloved songs in The Beatles’ catalog as lighters and cell phones were raised high in the air. Elsewhere, I was excited to see Yesterday include “A Day In the Life,” complete with the imperative fade out and unmistakeable final chord, and fan favorites “Come Together” and “Here Comes the Sun,” where Mann finally stepped in for lead vocals.
As the concert drew to a close with a reprise of “Twist and Shout” and a jubilant “Can’t Buy Me Love,” the entire audience stood and danced together to the same music. And for just that moment, the wide generational gap was bridged by the universal love for a group of four musicians. But as Yesterday, who’ve been to five different continents to perform the same tribute, proves, the members of The Beatles were and are more than just musicians; they’re legends. And their music was, is and always will be magic.