The Beatle Brothers at Fitzgerald’s: four hours of passion

Best mural in Berwyn outside, best music inside

Great mural outside, great music inside

NANCY CARR * Last night I saw the Beatle Brothers at Fitzgerald’s in Berwyn, IL, giving the crowd the ultimate Christmas gift for Beatles fans—four hours of  covers played with expertise and passion, featuring the best Lennon and McCartney vocals I’ve heard outside the real thing. Far more than any dress-up-like-the-Beatles-band, Phil Angotti and Jay Goepnner, along with their stellar crew of backing players, put across the emotional intensity of the music. Their spontaneity and obvious love for the music they’re performing made last night’s show fly past, though they started playing a little after 9:00 and didn’t stop until after 1:00 a.m.

Playing to a capacity crowd, they covered the range of the Beatles career and included some forays into Lennon’s and McCartney’s solo years. Jay Goepnner sounds uncannily like Lennon, and he gave amazing performances of “Instant Karma” and “Jealous Guy” during the solo part of the show. Phil Angotti, for his part, can do the full McCartney like nobody else I’ve heard. Hearing him nail the throat-shredding vocals on “Oh! Darling” and “Maybe I’m Amazed,” complete with the highest “oooh-oohs,” was spine-tingling.

The crazy thing about the Beatles is that four hours doesn’t exhaust the cream of their catalog. The Beatle Brothers did a huge number of songs—everything from early hits like “I Should Have Known Better,” “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” and “She Loves You” to the late 60s’ “Lady Madonna,” “Dear Prudence,” and “A Day in the Life.” Some of the best moments were the unexpected songs: “You Really Got a Hold on Me,” “Kansas City (Hey Hey Hey)” and “Anna (Go to Him)” aren’t songs you’re likely to hear at most Beatles-themed shows. It says everything that needs to be said about the Beatles that another four-hour show with different songs from the catalog could be just as strong.

Finally, one of the most enjoyable aspects of the show was seeing the obvious affection Jay and Phil have for each other. They clearly appreciate each other’s talents and do all they can to let the other shine. They not only get John and Paul’s harmonies right, but conspicuously take pleasure in working together to create joy for each other and for the crowd. This show made me think wishfully about what might have been had Lennon and McCartney had more time to work through their differences.



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  1. Avatar Velvet Hand wrote:

    Sounds awesome, but I do wonder – do they have a George and a Ringo too? And how on earth did they do the “wooosh” bits in “A Day In the Life”?

    • Nancy Carr Nancy Carr wrote:

      They did do “Something” — and quite respectably — but the lack of a singing George and Ringo is certainly a limitation. And in terms of the studio effects, the Beatle Brothers do a more rough-and-ready approximation, with a great keyboardist and guitar effects pedals, so they’re not getting every sound spot on the way some Beatles tribute bands do.

      Tributosaurus (whose Beatles shows I see regularly) is more dedicated to getting all the sounds as close as possible, so they bring in string sections, wind instruments, etc. and utilize more electronic special effects. Those shows are their own kind of delight for me, because I enjoy seeing just how many people, and how much equipment, is actually needed to duplicate the songs. But in terms of projecting the sheer joy and energy of the music, I give the laurels to the Beatle Brothers.

  2. Avatar Velvet Hand wrote:

    Thanks, Nancy, for elaborating. Re. “they’re not getting every sound spot on the way some Beatles tribute bands do”: I haven’t seen a Beatles tribute band in a very long time and have no idea what today’s tributers are capable of, but I’ll take creative use of limited equipment over (presumably) predictable spot-onnery any day. Do many current acts perform interesting approximations of Revolution 9, by the way? And is there a single one that does You Know My Name?

    • Avatar hologram sam wrote:

      Velvet, the Brooklyn ensemble “Alarm Will Sound” did an impressive live version of Revolution 9 to an appreciative audience. Here’s the link:

  3. Nancy Carr Nancy Carr wrote:

    I stick to the non-wig-wearing Beatles tribute bands, Velvet Hand, because I’m after the music, not an approximated experience of what the actual Beatles looked like (would have looked like, in the studio years), so I’m no expert on Beatles tribute bands. The friend who went with me Friday night said that some of the wig-wearing bands use recordings and/or electronics to cover the sounds of instruments that are not being played live, or sound effects that were used in the studio recordings.
    I saw Tributosaurus do the White Album (and reviewed the show) and here’s what I said about what they did with “Revolution 9”:
    “”Revolution 9″ was the biggest buzzkill I have ever experienced at a live show. The band pointed out that the song is an example of musique concrete and thus can’t really be recreated, so they played the recording. Makes sense, but man how the energy drained from the room (along with phalanxes of people heading for the restrooms). It’s striking that this is the one song in the Beatles catalog that can defeat a live performance. I have to confess that I’ve never liked it (though I have, intermittently, felt that I should respect it) and this experience helped me understand my antipathy.”
    On “You Know My Name”: if Tributosaurus continues on their quest to do every song in the Beatles catalog, they’ll get to it. They’re up to “Abbey Road” / “Let It Be” now, and haven’t missed a song yet, including singles and B-sides. (That is, unless you fault them for not performing “Revolution 9” live, which I don’t.)

  4. Avatar Velvet Hand wrote:

    Sam – that version is impressive indeed, thank you. In its (often hilarious, I think) “literalness”, it demonstrates one of the 2 possible ways of recreating this “tune” very nicely, the other being the creation of one’s own unique tape collage. Wonder if anyone’s ever done that?

    Nancy – if you ever get to see Tributosaurus (or anyone) doing “You Know My Name” live, please let us know whether they managed to include “Let’s hear it for Dennis, hah-hey”. 🙂

    I think the fact that the music they made includes Revolution 9 (and that John apparently MEANT IT when he made it – whatever that means) is one of the things that makes the Beatles so great and so utterly unique. I’ve both liked and disliked it (it still varies) but it’s clear to me that they wouldn’t be the same without it.

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