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Across the Universe to Friday Harbor
The music of the Beatles takes listeners through a journey of time, melding different genres from the late 50s to the early 70s.
The Beatles shaped not only music through these eras but influenced the people of an entire generation. Devoted fans wanted to be the Beatles, mimicking everything from haircuts and clothing to philosophies. For musicians yet born - their style and innovative music set the standard for future tunes.
The group Abbey Road LIVE! is a Beatles-tribute act that focuses on the music instead of mimicking the famous foursome’s look. They bring to life some of the more mature and complex tunes and leave the mop-top haircuts and vintage Rickenbacker guitars out of the show. The band has expanded its scope to include more than 100 Beatles tunes, from all eras of the Fab Four’s career. The band specializes in complete, start-to-finish album performances of masterpieces such as “Abbey Road,” “Magical Mystery Tour,” “Rubber Soul,” “Revolver” and “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band.”
Abbey Road LIVE! is coming to Friday Harbor, Saturday, July, 6, for a return engagement at San Juan Community Theatre. The band takes the stage at 8 p.m.
We talked with band member Michael Wegner, pictured at left, to find out a little more about the life of a Beatles-tribute act.
Journal: What is the hardest part about playing music of the Beatles?
MW: The vocal harmonies. There’s a pretty high standard to live up to with vocals by John Lennon, Paul McCartney and George Harrison and we want to do the music justice. Also, many of the songs we play were never performed live by the Beatles, since they stopped touring in 1966. A lot of their recordings used funky studio tricks that can’t really be replicated live so one of the big challenges is how to adapt those songs to a live setting.
Journal: You have been playing together since 2002. What keeps a group together?
MW: Musical diversity helps. If you do the same thing night after night, it will get old fast. Fortunately, Beatles music covers a lot of ground from pop, rock, country to psychedelic so that makes it fun. Plus there’s so much music. We have well over 100 Beatles songs in our repertoire, but there’s also at least 100 we’ve never played. So we’re never short on “new” material. We are all involved in other bands and original songwriting projects as well, so that keeps us all pretty balanced.
Journal: What is the weirdest thing that has ever happened at a show?
MW: Probably the time a topless middle-aged woman jumped up on stage at a hippie festival in Oregon. We were playing “When I’m 64” and she was just bopping around in nothing but a tie-dye skirt with a big grin on her face. We just kept on playing and the audience didn’t seem to mind. It was a classic Oregon Country Fair moment.
Journal: What is most rewarding about keeping this music alive in a live setting, rather than people just listening to Beatles cds or records?
MW: It’s great to see all the different ages in our audience. We have six year olds to 60 year olds and beyond in the crowd all singing along and dancing. It’s reassuring to see high school and college kids being so enthusiastic about Beatles music 50 years after the band first appeared on the baby-boomer scene. There’s nothing better than looking out at a group of people of all ages, arm in arm, singing together “All you need is love!”
Journal: How many times have you performed on the islands and why do you keep returning?
MW: Probably for the same reason your readers continue to live on the islands and visit. We have loved the San Juans ever since our first visit to Lopez in 2008. So this will be our sixth time returning. The people are great, the land is beautiful and it makes a nice break from the Georgia heat [the band is based out of Athens, Ga.]. Anyone that has been in Georgia in July knows what I’m talking about.
For more info about the band, visit http://abbeyroadlive.com/.