By STEVE SEYMOUR
Folks attending The Fab Four- The Ultimate Tribute show at the Island Resort and Casino last weekend may have been thinking "John, Paul, George and Ringo" but they were actually seeing Ron, Ardy, Gavin and Erik.
The tribute program included faithful renditions of two dozen songs played by Beatles impersonators who incorporated even the smallest details into their act.
An announcement prior to the show recorded by Penn Jillette informed the audience that the Fab Four create the show completely live on stage.
The Fab Four comprised Ron McNeil as John Lennon, Ardy Sarraf as Paul McCartney, Gavin Pring as George Harrison and Erik Fidel as Ringo Starr.
Hoban, known for his impersonation of Sullivan in the movie "Pulp Fiction," opened the concert by introducing "The Beatles" just as the real TV impresario did when the British act appeared on his CBS program over three historic Sunday nights in Feb, 1964. The shows launched Beatlemania.
"This is a live show, we want to know, is this a live audience?" Hoban asked as the curtain opened.
Dressed in dark suits with skinny ties and wearing Cuban-heeled leather Beatle boots, the Fab Four began with "I Want to Hold Your Hand" playing the same instruments the Beatles used.
Playing a left-handed Hofner violin bass just like McCartney, Sarraf stood at house left. Pring's Harrison occupied center stage, while McNeil's Lennon dominated house right. Fidel played his Ludwig drum set on a riser behind the others. The three guitarists chose from 11 different guitars including instruments made by Rickenbacker, Gibson and Gretsch, favored by the Beatles.
The Fab Four followed with "Please Please Me" and "All My Loving" also performed live on the Sullivan program. Footage of the audience from the Sullivan shows played on a video screen behind the band as they recreated the two numbers.
The title track to "A Hard Day's Night," the Beatles' first movie, was featured next. Ron, Ardy, Gavin and Erik included the soundtrack's "I Should Have Known Better," with McNeil duplicating Lennon's harmonica licks from the original recording.
Other early Beatles songs followed, including "Eight Days A Week," "Can't Buy Me Love," "Help," "She Loves You," "I Saw Her Standing There" and "Twist and Shout."
Originally recorded by the Top Notes in 1961, "Twist and Shout," was the only Beatles cover song in the Fab Four setlist. The track was revived in 1986 when it was included in the movies "Back to the Future" and "Ferris Bueller's Day Off."
Sarraf performed "Yesterday" solo just as McCartney did on the Ed Sullivan show on Sept. 12, 1965.
After a costume change, the Fab Four returned to the stage clad in Sgt. Pepper uniforms. All four sported new moustaches. After opening with "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band," Fidel sang Starr's "With a Little Help From My Friends." The psychedelic masterpieces "Penny Lane" and "Strawberry Field Forever" came next with McNeil adding Lennon's "cranberry sauce" to the latter song for authenticity's sake.
A version of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise) was followed by "A Day in the Life." McNeil played an impressive array of sounds on his synthesizer to bring that Lennon-McCartney composition to life.
Sarraf sang "Got to Get You Into My Life" in McCartney style to close the segment. The song from the 1966 "Revolver" album became a Top Ten hit six years after the Beatles disbanded.
McNeil returned to the stage dressed in a white suit to depict Lennon in the "Abbey Road" era. McNeil explained how Lennon stood for "peace, love and understanding," but had to fight for a visa to stay in the United States. McNeil played a poignant solo version of Lennon's "Imagine" as the audience remembered Lennon's assassination outside his New York City apartment in 1980.
Joined by the others, also dressed like the Beatles on the "Abbey Road" album cover, Pring sang Harrison's classic "Here Comes the Sun."
Following "Get Back," McNeil added Lennon's "I hope we passed the audition" comment from the Beatles Jan. 30, 1969 roof-top concert at band's Saville Row headquarters in London.
To close the show, the Fab Four performed "Revolution" and "Hey Jude," the Beatles' double-sided smash from 1968. Sarraf played the keyboard for the final number, just like McCartney did, the audience swaying their hands in the air as the song faded.
McNeil, the John Lennon impersonator, founded the Fab Four in 1997. Sarraf is also an original member of the tribute band. In 2005, the group landed a deal to perform in Las Vegas six nights a week. Consequently, additional impersonators joined the cast so the group could appear in Las Vegas and tour at the same time.
The Fab Four have performed at many Las Vegas venues including the Hilton, Alladin/Planet Hollywood, the Riviera and the Sahara.
Gavin Pring, who looks strikingly like George Harrison, founded an act called George Harry's Son to perform songs composed by the Beatles' lead guitarist. Pring was born in the Beatles' hometown of Liverpool.
Ardy Sarraf, meanwhile, formed Wingsband, which performs many of Paul McCartney's biggest post-Beatles hits. Wingsband has played with Denny Seiwell and Laurence Juber, former members of McCartney's 1970's band, Wings.
Trying to look and sound like the original group, the first Beatles tribute bands emerged in 1964 with the British Invasion.
Over the years, my wife Sue and I have seen more than a few Beatles tribute bands. We've seen a group called Liverpool, the house band at Beatlefest (now called Fest for Beatles Fans), three or four times. Liverpool consists of Drew, Glen, John and Chris. Their Harrison impersonator even plays sitar as featured in the Beatles song "Norwegian Wood."
Sue and I have also enjoyed attending a number of Battle of the Band contests featuring amateur Beatles impersonators. Believe it or not, we've even witnessed a couple of Yoko Ono look-alikes perform on stage.
Now, we've added the Fab Four to the list. Considering their perfect imitation of the Beatles, the Fab Four actually belong at the top of that list.