The Fab Faux is a Beatles Tribute band. This is all I knew when my friend Mike suggested we see them at Webster Hall in the Bowery (NYC). I was expecting something good (tickets were $40) but I wasn’t expecting something so phenomenally over-the-top!
Imagine: Seeing a band perform all those really complicated (late era) Beatles songs that were so multi-tracked that it would’ve been impossible to play live! Time to confess: I’m not the world’s biggest Beatles fan. The White Album is the only one of their albums I ever bought. It’s certainly my favorite, perhaps because it was less poppy than most of the others. So this is perhaps the main reason I went to the show. I was totally unfamiliar with the masterful musicians who comprise the Fab Faux.
Imagine: Thousands of people, literally from all over the world, crammed into this amazing hall, to hear the ghosts of the Beatles. Webster Hall in the Bowery, with its 1920s-era Tropicana look, its giant terra-cotta-like South Seas sculptures adorning the walls, its ancient white marble staircase, its balcony bars with clear Plexiglas aquarium bars (yes, with fish swimming to the music), its blacklit bathrooms with green bottomlit ice in the… well, lets just say this is New York City!
Who is the Fab Faux?
The Fab Faux is essentially two high visibility TV star/musicians: Will Lee from David Letterman and Jimmy Vivino from Conan O’Brien, three more musician/lead vocalists – Rich Pagano, Frank Agnello, and Jack Petruzzell who play various instruments, a string quartet (Creme Tangerine Strings) and a horn section (The Hogshead Horns).
The Fab Faux is committed to the accurate reproduction of The Beatles’ repertoire. Imagine hearing the entire White Album (with a break in the middle) performed live – including complex material like Glass Onion, Martha My Dear, and even the bizarre Revolution 9, reproduced not only note-for-note, but thanks to the band’s vocal trainer, the songs were sung by the various band members in such a way as to sound very much like the originals!
The band ought to be called the Fab Twelve, as most songs needed two bass players, two drummers, two keyboardists, and three guitarists. Many other multi-tracked songs like Don’t Pass Me By, Happiness Is a Warm Gun, and Good Night also required multiple layered vocals as well as horn and string sections. Revolution 9 required laptop MacIntosh computers to loop the effects!
What was the Show Like?
Aside from Will Lee (dressed all in white) and the woman who played the harp center stage the band was not heavily costumed. They were passionate musicians having a great time. Their energy level was high and never dipped. The place was packed – the main floor plus the balconies must’ve held about 2,000 people.
What did they play?
The Fabs played the White Album in its entirety, song for song in the order they appear on the album.
There were a few exceptions. Right after playing While My Guitar Gently Weeps, the band stood in relative silence in respect for the last Beatle to leave us as the demo version of Harrison’s acoustic version was piped in. Generally, the band flowed from song to song without a break, if that was the way of the album. If there was a break between songs, a band member would offer some minimal comment or introduction. They were obviously quite fond of Sexie Sadie and did John Lennon homage with their rendition.
Let me just say this: Hearing the jet engine intro to Back in the U.S.S.R. gave me chills. And on it went. From the audience’s reaction, the showstoppers appeared to be: While My Guitar Gently Weeps, Helter Skelter, Glass Onion, Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da and Revolution 9.
Will Lee introduced ‘Revolution 9’ as the song “everyone leaves the room for.” I certainly wasn’t one of those. However, it was a nine-minute exercise in free-form music – reproduced note-for-note (“Number Nine… Number Nine… Number Nine…).
Personally, I thought the most powerful songs (maybe the most emphatically played?) were the Harrison pieces. The mostly acoustic (with well-placed bombast) Long, Long, Long was absolutely gorgeous. The long guitar solo in While My Guitar Gently Weeps was simply stunning. I apparently underestimated the genius of the quiet one.
Were there any Low Points?
Oddly, the acoustic material seemed weakest – Blackbird, I Will, Julia – which is weird because I really like those songs. I guess that while reproducing the multi-instrumentalism is technically feasible, emoting ala McCartney or Lennon could with stripped down musicianship is another thing altogether.
Prior to the band coming out for an encore, an older, largish and frumpy-dressed man came out on stage.
He said: “I was a friend of John’s…and he would’ve loved what these guys have done with the music. They have a loving respect for the Beatles and apparently, so do all of you…” Or something like that. Then he walked off. I don’t think many people knew he was Sid Bernstein, the promoter who organized those famous Shea Stadium show and other of the Beatles early U.S. appearances.
When they came back on stage after a long, thunderous encore, Lee said: “That’s the end of the album. That’s all there is…” They were good enough, however, to favor the crowd with the (fast) single version of Revolution and then the big audience participation piece, Hey Jude. The keyboard player (who also sang the jaw-dropping Helter-Skelter), Jack Petruzzelli, screamed in marvelous McCartney fashion on the final song.
The show lasted about 2.5 hours and it was well worth the money! The closing song, Good Night, was beautifully played with Erin Hill, the Creme Tangerine Strings’ harpist at center stage.
If you like the Beatles’ White Album, this will be a transcendent experience, I’m sure. Even if you’re a minor Beatles fan you’ll enjoy it. If you’re a purist and think this all borders on sacrilege, realize the band members themselves are in awe of the Beatles and are total fans of the music.