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1964 the Tribute brings "the Beatles" to The Pabst

For nearly 30 years, 1964 The Tribute has performed around the world with its tribute act to the Beatles.  On Saturday, it brought its moptops and impressive mimicry to the Pabst Theater.

There is certainly no shortage of Beatles cover bands around the world, so what makes 1964 The Tribute stand out is the dedication to creating a snapshot of what seeing the Beatles back in 1964 might have been like. 

The praise that 1964 the Tribute has received over the years is definitely well-deserved and while perfectly recreating the sound and vocals of the Beatles wasn’t expected, the group comes about as close as humanly possible.  Each member of the group was given time to shine within the framework of the show, even Ringo (played by Bobby Potter) when he sang "Act Naturally."

All the expected hits of this period of the Beatles catalog were played, including "She Loves You," "Can’t Buy Me Love" and "From Me to You."

The highlight of the night was the audience-inclusive performance of "Eight Days a Week."  After requesting the audience’s assistance and teaching the clap pattern for the song, it was this infectious song that had the most magic. 

1964 the Tribute also employed banter to echo the humor that the band displayed during that first wave of Beatlemania.  Most of this was based on misdirection, such as the line "this song is for dancing cheek to cheek … or you can turn around and face each other."

Another delightful moment was while introducing a Carl Perkins cover, Perkins was introduced as being from Wisconsin.  A few members of the audience fell for the ruse and cheered the mention of Wisconsin before it was clarified that Perkins was actually from Tennessee. 

There was also playful ribbing between the band, such as when George (played by Tom Work) suggested that since his guitar had 12 strings, he must be twice the performer than John since his guitar had only six.  Most of these were quick jokes, but the intro for "I Should Have Known Better" was a lengthy one-note joke that dragged on far too long. 

While George introduced the song as being led by John (played by Mark Benson), John and then Paul (played by Mac Ruffing) repeatedly interjected and forced George had to point out that the other three members of the band also played on the song.  

The imitation of the banter was effective in small doses, but when this particular three-minute bit took place, it was draining to sit through.  Thankfully, this was the only misfire of the performance.

The dedication of the band's imitation of a Beatles show even went so far as to include an intermission after about 45 minutes.  An intermission can be risky as it puts a halt to the momentum of a show, and the 20 minutes did seem like an unnecessary break. 

However, when the band returned to the stage, it was quite savvy in its song choice with the energetic "Twist and Shout."  Not only did the group implore the crowd to get up out of their seats and dance, but it also included a singalong in which the audience was broken into parts for the "aahhhs" in the song.  

By the end of the song, it was as if that break had never happened.

While the premise of the performance was maintained throughout the evening, the obvious thing missing from the authentic nature of the show were piercing screams, joyous tears and fainting audience members.  In that regard, 1964 the Tribute actually provided a much more pleasant aural experience than a hypothetical Beatles show might have 49 years ago. 

While The Pabst crowd was definitely appreciative of the band, there was never a transformative moment where it felt like this could actually be a legitimate Beatles show. 

However, since that is impossible, 1964 the Tribute was about the next best thing and made for a highly entertaining Saturday night in Milwaukee (where Carl Perkins wasn’t born).


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