The Mersey Beatles: A British Invasion at the Embassy
It takes four fab musicians to cover the Fab Four and earn the official stamp of approval of John Lennon’s sister. But on Friday night at the Embassy, The Mersey Beatles proved that they were up to the task. I went expecting to hear great Beatles cover tunes. But The Mersey Beatles delivered much more.
The show started with a red-hot opener by the talented local musicians of Moser Woods. After everyone was warmed up and settled in their seats, Julia Baird – younger sister of John Lennon – introduced the headlining act with a touching tribute to her brother, the Beatles, and the impact their music has made for generations.
It goes without saying that the Beatles are a tough band to cover. In the last 50+ years, The Beatles have surpassed “iconic” status. They are not simply a band – they are a cultural institution in their own right, eclipsing the impact of any other group in rock n’ roll history. If you’re going to cover something of that caliber, you’d better do it perfectly. After all, no matter where or what you play – you’re playing to an audience that can sing every note by heart. As Julia’s endorsement attests, the Mersey Beatles take that task seriously.
Musically, the group is exceptionally talented. Riffs and rhythms matched with a level of precision that makes the highest levels of “Guitar Hero” look like tic-tac-toe. The licks, solos, tight vocal harmonies and instrumental harmonics rang true to our collective musical memory, song after song. But they don’t stop there. Just like the original band, these guys are all from Liverpool, Merseyside. (Which, by the way, they affectionately compared to Fort Wayne.) They play at many of the same joints where the Beatles first earned a fan base. Onstage, they even refer to each other as John, Paul, George and Ringo.
The costume changes also reflected the Beatles personal and musical evolution. The show started with Ed Sullivan-approved short wigs and clean-cut black suits, for songs like “I Want to Hold Your Hand.” Dressed-down khakis and vests accompanied the “Rubber Soul” era. And the full Sergeant Pepper regalia came out – long wigs, fake mustaches and all – for “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” and “Strawberry Fields.” By the end of the night, the costumes became a living replica of the “Let it Be” cover photography. The matching outfits were gone – a reminder that it was a quest for personal autonomy that ended the Beatles run as the fab foursome.
An onstage screen added to the evening’s experience, setting the mood with Beatles-inspired photography, artwork, videos, song lyrics and era-appropriate memorabilia. Much like the Beatles trajectory through the 1960s, the mood picked up steam as the night went on. The audience moved from sitting, to standing, to dancing in the aisles – as feet-tapping early tunes made way for soulful rock jams. For some audience members, it was a great night to reminisce and remember. For others, it was a taste of what a live Beatles show might’ve been like – if only we’d been able to catch Beatlemania when it first began.