When the Beatles tribute band the Fab Faux takes the stage at the Ulster Performing Arts Center (UPAC) at 8 p.m. on Saturday, February 11, you will see five men – not exactly young ones – bearing no resemblance to any famous Liverpudlians that I know of. The show will not progress from Nehru jackets to paisley ascots, from black horn-rimmed to round wire spectacles or from clean countenance to grizzled. Further, there be will no overarching story aligning the musical journey of the Beatles with cultural history and the shopworn narratives of the 1960s, no multimedia montage of Ed Sullivan, Charles Manson, pastel blobs and the Maharishi. Adjust your expectations accordingly.
Even so, there is a subtle theatricality to the Fab Faux, whose stated purpose is to offer part-perfect renditions with an emphasis on the later songs – those songs that the Beatles themselves never performed live. The spectacle comes in the form of five guys with busy hands and great piles of mostly historically accurate instruments accounting for every detail ever committed to tape by Sir George Martin and the lads: nuances that have been pored over, fetishized and referenced to death by generations of fans and musicians. If you wonder whether they manage to grab all the dense action of the Stockhausen-inspired “Revolution 9,” for example, wonder no more.
At the heart of the Fab Faux’s mission is a kind of virtuosic perversity: We will perform, with anal exactitude, music that was never intended to be performed – music that is synonymous with the birth of high-budget multitrack recording as its own art, liberated from performance. We will perform the unperformable because we, like you, are fanatical about this music.
And they do it, gloriously. It takes massive chops and versatility; it takes lots and lots of equipment; and it took (one would assume) some significant startup cash (well-returned by now, one would also assume).
The Fab Faux treats the music of the Beatles as classical repertoire. But in classical repertoire, as in punk rock, the music needs to be made fresh daily, made new in the moment. While the members of the Fab Faux are unabashedly reverent toward their subject, the sound is anything but studious. It swings, it rocks and it fusses with an easy exuberance and intensity that the Beatles themselves, frankly, would have been hard-pressed to equal. But fair’s fair; the Fab Faux would have been hard-pressed to write this stuff.
If you have read Geoff Emerick’s Here, There and Everywhere: My Life Recording the Music of the Beatles or The Beatles Equipment Guide Book, or if you are a recording musician who dished out to get hold of Eastwest’s The Fab Four Virtual Instrument sample collection (or, heaven forbid, Hofner’s inexplicable Stu Sutcliffe signature bass), this show may approach the mystical. In any case, if you like the Beatles, be prepared to be overwhelmed.
My first time, at Webster Hall, I wept – or at least felt like it – to hear this music played this well by seasoned pros (heavy cats all) who seemed as innocently overjoyed to be a part of it as I was. The last things you’ll need are the boots and the moptops, the lookalikes and the dull-headed history lessons. For all I know, they may have added some pastel blobs since I last saw them, but the point is: This is religious music, not historical soundtrack, and this is probably the best that it has ever been played.
The Fab Faux perform at UPAC, located at 601 Broadway in Kingston, on Saturday, February 11 at 8 p.m. Purchase your tickets ($51 general admission or $46 if you are a Bardavon member) at the Bardavon box office, located at 35 Market Street in Poughkeepsie, (845) 473-2072, or in person at the UPAC box office.