Wednesday, December 8, 2010

An Incredible Simulation

The Fab Faux

Saturday, December 11, 2010
Terminal 5, 610 West 56th Street

In a crowded field of Beatles tribute bands,The Fab Faux scores points by not simply playing dress-up and churning out note-for-note recreations of the Fab Four’s greatest songs. Instead, these five talented musicians—Frank Agnello; Will Lee (bassist from David Letterman’s band); Rich Pagano; Jack Petruzelli; and Jimmy Vivino—let the music do the talking, playing these timeless tunes with a passion and fire missing from their rivals’ performances.

After playing a marathon John Lennon Tribute show at Radio City Music Hall for what would have been his 70th birthday in the fall, The Fab Faux returns to the Big Apple for what should be another amazing evening: the classic White Album in its entirety, from “Back in the USSR” to “Good Night.” And yes—that even includes Lennon and Yoko’s eight-minute tape collage, “Revolution 9.”

Keyboardist/multi-instrumentalist Jack Petruzelli spoke about the concert prior to the band’s recent gig in Boston.

Kevin Filipski: You guys often do theme shows or entire albums. Who comes up with these ideas?
Jack Petruzelli: Partly it’s a band decision and partly it’s a promoter’s request. The White Album has turned into a seasonal show for us. We don’t do it every year, but we love doing The White Album in New York. It’s a nice way to close the year, and it kind of gives the impression of going to see a symphony orchestra. It requires a fair amount of time to rehearse, because of songs we don’t do often, like “Revolution 9,” which requires spoken parts: everybody gets his own personal score. We’re responsible for all the chit-chat and those little motifs throughout that song. When we do The White Album, it requites a lot of planning. When we do a psychedelic show and pull out those out-there Harrison songs (like “It’s All Too Much” or “Blue Jay Way”), which we rarely play, they’re lost gems that are fun to do. There’s so much studio trickery going on and edited-together takes that we need to be in a room together and map out how to do them justice.

KF: How easy is it to find out exactly how the Beatles recorded their songs?
JP: Since there’s so much out there, it’s an incredible trove for fans and for musicians. There’s always some cool new book that comes out, new bootlegs surfacing, the “Rock Band” video game or the show Love that’s in Vegas, which makes it easy for a musician to study, say, the isolated guitar solo from “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.” And because the Beatles’ engineers took such good recording notes, it’s easy to be a geek about them and their music.

KF: How special is the Beatles’ music to you?
JP: It was the first music that I heard as a kid that meant something to me: when I was four years old, I made my mother take me to see Let It Be three times in one week. I’ve always remained a fan: I never get tired of it. So when we play, we try to rise to the occasion, as if we’re in a world-renowned chamber orchestra, and I’m going to play Bach’s B-minor Mass onstage! We always try to do it as close as we can to the originals: we know the music so well that we want to do it better than we did it last time. There are times when I’m listening to the music as we play live and I think, “We sound great!” or “We sound horrible!” The fans show up and they have their expectations, and when they hear certain numbers played live, they know where that guitar lick or tambourine part comes in. When we do “Penny Lane” and our trumpeter comes out to play the solo, people go crazy!

KF: The Beatles quit touring once the music became too complicated to perform onstage. How do you deal with the more complex parts of the group’s catalog?
JP: Although more than 95% of our performances are live, for “Revolution 9” and the huge orchestral crescendo in “A Day in the Life,” we have a sampler that helps out. Just to give you an idea of the level of intensity and dedication when we use the sampler, Will and Frank spent 48 hours at Will’s house researching where the samples came from on the original recording of “Revolution 9.” John Lennon took all that stuff, like a Sibelius piece and a Beethoven piece, and Will and Frank found those specific recordings, and recorded them backwards into the sampler. We use the sampler in a very musical way.

KF: Some of the Beatles’ music is nearly a half-century old. How does it feel playing it in a musical climate vastly different from when it was created?
JP: Even in the 21st century, the Beatles will still be by far the most popular rock band ever. I feel very lucky to be in this situation. I’ve been in a number of different bands which depended on the selling of music to pay for the tour, and the majority of artists don’t make money selling CDs or downloads. I’m fortunate to be part of something that’s live and different every night—we’re only a “tribute band,” but people still want to go out and enjoy a good show. I hope that’s what we give them.

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