Review: The Fab Faux at Lisner Auditorium, 04/15

Editor’s Note: Enjoy this review from our sometimes correspondent/photog/Beatles fan Mallory Thompson!

In the midst of the IMF/World Bank meetings last weekend, navigating Foggy Bottom was a bit difficult for the average person – but nothing could stop hundreds of Beatles fans from swarming GW’s Lisner Auditorium to hear the “Fab Faux”.  I managed to find a parking spot with only seconds to spare before the concert began – and when the license plate in front of me read “Ringo 1” – I immediately knew I was in for a treat.

I rushed to the doors as the opening number “Hello, Goodbye” filled the room.  As I stumbled to find my seat, I kept thinking to myself, “They really DO sound like the Beatles.”  But as I turned to face the stage, I was met with surprise – there was a large assortment of musicians and singers to create the sound – not just the regular John, Paul, George and Ringo.  It didn’t take long for me to realize that the “Fab Faux” isn’t your average Beatles cover band.

The group hails from New York City and is celebrating their 13th year this month.  The lineup includes Will Lee from the “Late Show with David Letterman” and Jimmy Vivino from “Conan” – plus drummer/producer Rich Pagano, guitarist Frank Agnello and ace keyboardist/guitarist Jack Petruzzelli.  And it’s not just these five guys who make the show – enter The Crème Tangerine Strings and Hogs Head Horns to create the full Beatles musical experience.

As an avid Beatles fan, I’ve seen my fair number of cover bands, but the “Fab Faux” version was something new to me.  Absent were the matching suits, Beatles wigs and fake British accents – but in its place was something far better – Beatles music at its core.  Instead of being whisked to 1964 at Shea Stadium, the “Fab Faux” take you on a musical tour of the inside of Abbey Road.  Their version of a Beatles cover band comes down to painstaking perfection of every sound in a Beatles recording.

The “Fab Faux” rightly has its own following – over half of the people in attendance had been to a show before – but the concert wasn’t without its slight missteps. Since the “Fab Faux” work to make themselves sound like the Beatles instead of look like the Beatles, there is a constant flurry of crews bringing in instruments and swapping guitars – a major distraction for the concert go-er.  But all this can be fixed if you simply close your eyes – you’ll be transported back to Beatles-land in no time.

At Lisner, the band first performed a set of some crowd favorites – “Strawberry Fields,” “Yellow Submarine,” “Penny Lane,” “Lady Madonna” – and “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” where Jimmy Vivano’s guitar solo brought the house down.  After brief intermission, the band returned to play the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album in its entirety.  Sgt. Pepper is one of my favorite albums to just listen to – it has the popular favorites – “With a Little Help from My Friends,” “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” “When I’m Sixty-Four” – but also the difficult Harrison tune “Within You, Without You” inspired by Indian classical music as well as “A Day In the Life,” often praised as being the best Beatles song ever for its complexity.

As the encore ended, the crowds left Lisner and poured out into the DC streets, I suddenly realized, the journey was over – until next time.  An excellent evening and worth a second trip if the “Fab Faux” happen to be back in the area again.

Photos below the cut!.

Review & Contest: Christmas Revels!

Though I’m a Buddhist, I have learned to love and embrace the Christmas season, and part of that is due to annual performances by Christmas Revels.

What is Christmas Revels, you ask? Well, it changes every year, but the basic format is the same: pick a place, a time period, and perhaps an author or culture, and then build a show around the Christmas and winter traditions, filled with songs, audience sing alongs, traditional dances, and other wonderful things.

Of course, this formula flows more smoothly some years than others, but this year’s show is excellent. Based on the books and poems of Thomas Hardy, primarily Wessex, the show takes place in the ye olde nineteenth-century English town of Mellstock. The music is absolutely lovely, and you’ll recognize some favorites (and get to sing along!). This year’s show also features guests from England, The Mellstock Band, a quartet of clarinet, violin, concertina, and the serpent (or a ye olde tuba).

You should go if: you like Christmas carols, you like to sing in groups, you need a study break, you watching dancing, you like actually dancing, you enjoy the works of Thomas Hardy, you enjoy drunken English villagers, or if you enjoy 19th century music (including time-appropriate instruments)! That means you should probably go, and FoBoBlo wants you to be able to for free!

Just like last week, send a message to invitation@revelsdc.org with “FoBoBlo blog” in the subject line. Include name, mailing address, phone number and email address. Revels will notify the winner ASAP. The tickets will be for the show on Sunday, December 12th, at 5 pm.

[Tickets & Information]

Event Review: Joshua Bell at the Kennedy Center

Editor’s Note: This post is from our sometimes contributor Andrew!

Classical music and celebrity aren’t often thought of as being synonymous (at least not since the days of Mozart, or perhaps since Amadeus hit movie screens in 1984). But Joshua Bell may be the closest thing to a modern, American classical music rock star – after all, who else besides Bell can say they’ve played with nearly all of the world’s major orchestras; won both a Grammy and classical music’s highest honor, the Avery Fisher prize; contributed to the soundtrack for Dan Brown’s Angels and Demons AND dated a Tony- and Emmy-award winning singer/actress (in Bell’s case, the effervescent Kristin Chenoweth)?

Since only Bell fits those descriptions, it is no surprise that much of the pre-concert chatter at the Kennedy Center before the first of Bell’s three-concert tour with the National Symphony Orchestra focused on the man, the myth, the legend, the violinist.

But, as conductor Hugh Wolff reminded the audience in a brief pre-concert conversation, before Bell could take them “on a trip through sunny Spain” via Edouard Lalo’s Symphonie espagnole, he would take a voyage through Scotland via James MacMillan’s Í (A Meditation on Iona).

Much like the piece’s namesake, a gray, inhabitable island nestled between the Scottish and Irish coasts, the very modern Meditation, written just 13 years ago, captures and emphasizes this darkness through some very modern composing, including the shrill screeching of violins and drawn out crescendos, and through the use of some very modern instruments in the percussion section, including a thundersheet (a sheet of metal that makes a sound exactly as its name implies), a steel drum and steel pans.

While not “unbearably dull” as FoBoBlo contributor Rob feared the piece might be, it was not exactly “exceptionally gorgeous” as he had hoped. Rather, it fell somewhere between “too modern to understand fully…right?” and “music that could have been used in There Will Be Blood or on Lost.” There were hints of clarity – the low basses rhythmically mimicking the sound of the waves as Wolff alluded to before the performance – but by and large, MacMillan’s composition was perhaps a bit too conceptual. Either that, or Iona is one incredibly terrifying island of doom.

While the piece was relatively well-received, perhaps because of its modernity (a gentleman in front of me commented to his wife on his amazement at the use of steel drums), the audience was clearly saving the bulk of their applause for Bell, whose very warm reception was seemingly built up by the anticipation of his performance.

More on the concert under the cut.