Despite sound issues, Fab Faux hits the right notes in loving re-creation of The Beatles' 'Abbey Road'
With more traditional Beatles tribute bands such as 1964 and Beatlemania, the key was in squeezing your eyes almost shut so that what you saw through the blur sort of resembled the real thing. With The Fab Faux, performing at the Michigan Theater Saturday night, the secret was in closing your eyes entirely, letting the music re-create the magic.
For The Fab Faux, the point is not trying to look like The Beatles, but to lovingly and in amazing detail re-create the band’s sound — particularly the complex, later material the Beatles never performed live — all without wigs, costumes or fake British accents.
“This is our classical music,” charismatic frontman Will Lee (bassist in David Letterman's band), told the crowd, nearly 1,200 strong and heavy on the baby-boomer side of the equation.
So how did the Faux fare? After an alarmingly off-kilter first couple of songs (specifically “And Your Bird Can Sing,” “Nowhere Man” and “Paperback Writer,” during which the harmonies fell flat and Lee’s vocals sounded hollow and so buried in the mix they barely registered over the music),the group found its groove — or, more likely, the sound man adjusted the mix. From then on, The Fab Faux brought the house down.
Other members of the rock-solid ensemble were Jimmy Vivino (guitarist and music director leader of Conan O'Brien's band), drummer/producer Rich Pagano, guitarist Frank Agnello and keyboardist Jack Petruzzelli. The Creme Tangerine Strings and the Hogshead Horns provided cello, violin, trumpet and the like.
The show started off with an hour’s worth of assorted Beatles tunes, most from the band's more psychedelic years, with each of the musicians trading off on vocals and instruments, depending on the demands of the song.
Crowd favorites from the first half included the ovation-inducing “Strawberry Fields Forever,” with impeccable strings, horns and an electrifying drum solo between Pagano and Lee; a killer version of "While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” with Vivino and Lee offering blistering guitar solos and Agnello providing vocals that sounded eerily like George Harrison’s original; and the trumpet-driven “Penny Lane.” I enjoyed the simple "Anna (Go to Him),” from early in the band’s career and with Pagano again on vocals, as well as a lovely rendition of “Eleanor Rigby.”
After intermission, the fivesome performed the full “Abbey Road” album, from “Come Together” to “Her Majesty.” Petruzzelli’s singing on “Oh Darling” prompted another ovation — he clearly owned the song and then some. Vivino provided some impressive (and really, really loud) guitar licks during “I Want You,” and the seasonally appropriate “Here Comes the Sun,” sung by Lee, was just fine, although the vocals seemed determined to slip back into muddiness. As the set continued with “You Never Give Me Your Money,” “Golden Slumbers” and “Carry That Weight,” audience members clearly liked what they heard, bouncing their heads in time to the music.
The ovation that followed “The End” bordered on rapturous. For an encore, the band returned for a rocking version of “I Saw Her Standing There” (really the only foray into The Beatles’ “yeah yeah yeah" years), followed by a sing-and-sway version of “Hey Jude.”
For those of us who grew up with The Beatles, Saturday night's performance was more than an evening of memorable, flashback-inducing music. It was also about as close as anyone in the audience would ever get to being at a live Beatles show. Sure it wasn’t the real thing but, sound issues aside, these Faux were pretty fab.