I recently saw “The Fab Faux” in concert, and it was an eye-opening experience.
I’d gotten the ticket as a gift, and I have to say it wasn’t something I would have bought for myself. I like the Beatles just fine (and that night the Fab Faux was playing the entire Abbey Road album, which I particularly like) but I wasn’t really into the idea of tribute bands. To me, tribute bands seem like cover bands that only cover one group. Now, I spend about 99% of my performing time playing someone else’s songs, and it’s fun, and I can enjoy a good cover band as much as the next guy, but it was never something I thought I’d, you know, write a blog post about.
“So,” I asked as we rode up to the Keswick, “are these guys going to wear Nehru jackets, and everything?”
OK, so this might be one of those things that everybody else understands but me, but I’ve been there before.
So the guys come out, and first thing, there are five of them. Already the math isn’t working out for me. One of the guys in the center picks up a bass. “OK,” I’m thinking, “that’s Paul.” And through the first number I’m trying to map Beatles to the players in front of me.
I was immediately impressed with these guys. The musicianship was terrific, and I only appreciated it more and more as the night went on and I really started to think about how challenging their task was. After all, they were trying to reproduce –live– a studio album. That’s why there wasn’t one Paul. As circumstances required there might be two or even three “Pauls” needed at once. Each player played several instruments, and it was pretty much flawless.
Add to that the fact that everyone in the crowd knew these songs note-for-note. There was no margin for error. Nowhere was this more plain than during “Penny Lane” (they didn’t play Abbey Road exclusively) and a gentleman stepped to center stage with the coronet (there was some orchestration there that night that I take it are not a standard part of the group, but I don’t really know). When they got to the trumpet solo in the middle of Penny Lane it was like watching a tightrope walker. We all knew every note of that solo –it’s anything but an easy solo– and there would be no covering up errors on that one. They guy nailed it… it was awesome.
When a player occasionally stepped out to play something a little differently, it had to be so idiomatic to the Beatles that it wasn’t jarring to the audience. That’s a pretty tall order, but somehow it worked.
I came away from the whole thing deeply impressed. For one thing, these guys really seem to love the music. I guess I came into it expecting either parody or lifeless, slavish devotion to every note and utterance on the album, and this was neither. It was like something really great had been handed down to all of us, and the Fab Faux was bringing it out to show it off. They weren’t trying to be the Beatles, and at the same time they weren’t trying to give us “their version”.
One of my friends remarked later that when we go to the orchestra, we never talk about them as a cover band. I’d never drawn that kind of connection for myself, until I had a chance to see the Fab Faux.