Thursday, August 26, 2010

Paying Tribute To a Great Beatles Cover Band: American English

Concert Review & Preview

American English
Seen August 1, 2010
Lincolnwood Fest

Appearing at the
Backlot Bash in Skokie, IL
Sunday, August 31st, 6:00pm

A few weeks ago I posted a list of my 100 All-Time Favorite Artists of Popular Music. Aside from people wondering if I had too much time on my hands (I do, and welcome all employment inquiries), the second most prevalent response was, "The Beatles aren't number one?"

That's correct; topping my list is Bruce Springsteen. In terms of the frequency with which I listen music and how ardently I follow him--including having seen 38 live shows in Chicago, New Jersey, L.A. and points in between--to say anyone other than "The Boss" is my personal favorite would be dishonest

But if the question were simply, "Who is the greatest all-time artist of popular music?" my answer would invariably be: "The Beatles." I would unreservedly testify under oath that the Beatles are the best, most important and most influential artist in the history of pop music.

Obviously, since I was born in 1968, I never saw the Beatles live and never had the opportunity. And the truth is that even if I were a good bit older, the Beatles only toured America--and thus played Chicago--a total of three times, none past 1966. As the video below depicts, many fans at Beatles shows could scarcely hear the songs over the screaming, and their concerts lasted barely over 30 minutes.

I have seen Paul McCartney in concert five times--I'm surprised he hasn't hit Chicago despite being on the road this summer and last--and he always performs a healthy dose of Beatles hits. I've also seen Ringo Starr in concert and have long loved George Harrison's Live in Japan double CD collection recorded in 1990 with Eric Clapton and his band, and wish George had decided to tour America around that time.

Although I was--and remain--heartbroken by John Lennon's murder (and would veto Mark David Chapman's current bid for parole) and saddened when George Harrison passed away at such a relatively young age, I feel that it is proper that The Beatles never were able to do a reunion tour. Their moment in time should remain sacred--and through songs, albums, videos and movies, they will undoubtedly live on forever.

Not as a substitute or vicarious thrill, but just something that I enjoy, over the years I have seen a handful of Beatles tribute bands (although not one called Rain, which will soon be performing on Broadway). My favorite, by far, has long been American English.

Of course, they are not the Beatles, despite technically pretending to be. And they are not even the next best thing; that would be Beatles recordings, concert footage and catching McCartney when he comes to town. But the price is right--usually "free" at a number of local summer festivals around Chicagoland and elsewhere--, the set list is impeccable (no matter what they play) and the sound is close enough to make it a whole lot of fun.

I've seen American English a number of times--usually at least once per summer over the last few--and never not enjoyed them a great deal (I think they've changed some of their members over time, but have never missed a beat(le)). At the beginning of August, I saw their 3-hour, 3-set show--dressed in appropriate uniforms, they perform as the early Beatles, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart Club Band and the later (Hey Jude, Get Back, etc.) Beatles--at Lincolnwood Fest in Proesel Park.

This Sunday night at 6:00pm, American English will be performing in Skokie at the Backlot Bash festival (honoring the village's past as a filming location in early days of motion pictures). I intend to be there.

There's no admission cost and "a splendid time is guaranteed for all." So why not "Drive Your Car" up to Skokie for a magical history tour? Especially because in a day when rock concerts start at about $50 on average and musical theater is charging big bucks for compilations of old songs with little or no accompanying narrative, you can always count on American English to deliver a tremendously satisfying show for nothing (or next to it). And that's something to which we can all pay tribute.

(This is a video of American English (from YouTube; I did not shoot it) performing A Day In The Life.)


Addendum: Rolling Stone has been advertising a new Collector's Issue featuring their picks for the 100 Greatest Beatles songs. On their website, they count down the Top 10. It's a pretty good list, but here are my 10 favorites (at least this week;-)

10. Here Comes the Sun
9. I Want to Hold Your Hand
8. Nowhere Man
7. While My Guitar Gently Weeps
6. Rain
5. Across the Universe
4. Help
3. A Hard Day's Night
2. Ticket To Ride
1. A Day in the Life

Runners Up:
And Your Bird Can Sing
Day Tripper
Hello, Goodbye
We Can Work It Out
In My Life
I Should've Known Better
Hey Bulldog
She Said, She Said
I Want To Tell You
Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds

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