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Beatles tribute band to play the Sanford Center Friday

Photo courtesy of the Fab Four The Fab Four, a Beatles tribute band, will be performing Friday at the Sanford Center.

The year was 1964, and the music world was aflutter because a group of odd-looking British singers were coming to the United States.

Their first performance was to be on the most important show on television, “The Ed Sullivan Show.” One of the most persistent questions Sullivan faced was if he would make the quartet cut their hair. And Sullivan used that question to the max, but reported quite seriously that The Beatles were quite safe for human observation. In fact, Sullivan noted, the band from Liverpool, England, were charming with their mop-head haircuts and slim cut suits.

Fans, and music lovers in general, will get a chance to relive some of those memories Friday when The Fab Four — The Ultimate Tribute performs at the Sanford Center in Bemidji.

“We’re based out of Los Angeles, so we have had everyone come to see us,” Ron McNeil, who portrays John Lennon in The Fab Four, said in a recent phone interview. “The guys from The Monkeys, Kiss and actors like Tom Hanks and Eric Idle of Monty Python fame have all told us that that night on the ‘Ed Sullivan Show’ changed the world.”

Dubbed the best of all Beatles tribute bands, The Fab Four have performed all over the world. Originally conceived as a PBS special that was recorded at the Pechango Resort and Casino in California, the show has grown markedly over the years.

What separates this show from others is the attention to detail, with no flashy props or media to back up the band. It’s just the band, on stage, singing and playing the countless Beatles hits through the years.

“None of us in the group have an original Beatles memory but my older sister had the records,” McNeil said. “I borrowed them and didn’t give them back. All of us have a similar story of an older person showing us, I got to see the Broadway show with my father, ‘Beatlemania,’ when I was a kid. Being musicians, (The Fab Four) was something that we gravitated to, there are so many songs and albums. Another example of our attention to detail, our guitar player Ardy Sarraf (who portrays Paul McCartney) is naturally a right-handed player but he learned how to play left handed just for the show. He said it was like trying to learn to drive backwards.”

Other current Fab Four members include Erik Fidel as Ringo Starr and Gavin Pring as George Harrison. And while learning to play and sing the songs is one thing, there are many intangibles to giving the best Beatles performances the past 15 years. The Fab Four had to study how each of The Beatles walked, and talked, and performed on stage. They change costumes several times throughout the show to replicate different eras of the band.

“Everywhere we go, all over the world, people love The Beatles,” McNeil said. “We have people who grew up with The Beatles, and their kids and their kids, it is really amazing. The Japanese are really into the nostalgia and they are great audiences. It is incredible that we are still  singing these songs 50 years later, but The Beatles wrote songs about love and peace, I think those themes are what attract people, and as long as people want peace and love, those messages will continue.”