Hosting a tribute concert for the Beatles last Sunday, Sir Mutha Venkatasubba Rao Concert Hall was filled to the rafter — at the outset. In the second half, there were vacant seats looking around wistfully for occupants who had deserted them for the aisles, where they formed human trains that merrily chuffed in and out of the doors.
Not just plain, old Beatlemania, the celebration of what is arguably western music’s most famous quartet ever had descended into something akin to totally mindless delirium.
A European band dedicated to playing the music of the Moptops from Liverpool, Help! A Beatles Tribute was orchestrating this impromptu workout. In fact, the entire performance that evening was analogous to a fitness regimen, with “sets” that exercised most aural muscles. (On November 18, they had put an audience in Bengaluru through a similar workout. The band had been brought to India on a whistle-stop tour by Neil Ribeiro International Events)
When they burst on the 1,920 sq.ft stage, the musical doppelgangers of the Beatles had a neat warm-up package tucked into what resembled suits the Moptops wore in the 1960s. A farrago of hits that even superficial Beatles listeners would have picked up somewhere, sometime, included ‘A hard day’s night’ (1964), ‘I feel fine’ (1964) and, ‘Ticket to ride’ (1965).
Magical Beat music
The recreation of the Moptops’ magical Beat music is not just about sounding Beatle-like; but also looking the part. The four members have their roles cut out, each having a pair of impossible size-12 musical shoes to fill: Ernie Mendillo (Paul McCartney), Alen Kovse (John Lennon), Ziga Stanonik (George Harrison) and Anze Semrov (Ringo Starr). The impersonation is marked by some detailing. On stage, the personnel take the positions the real McCoys used to; ape their sartorial choices; and style their hair just right for it to be scruffy bobs that allow for some flip-flop movement. Nature has evidently allied with them: Imagine one or more personnel having to deal with a mane that is roller-screw curly, before show time.
The ice-breaker song list was followed by ‘sets’ that loosely traced the Beatles chronology. The first set traced Beatlemania from incipient phenomenon to a full-blown addiction, roughly from 1962 to 1966. It was also the time the Moptops would tour the U.S. They would later give up touring, gifting themselves more studio time to do justice to their craft. The line-up included ‘Love me do’ (1962), ‘Eight days a week’ (1964), ‘Please please me’ (1963), ‘We can work it out’ (1965) with its addictive refrain by the same name, ‘You can’t do that’ (1964). An insertion during ‘From me to you’ (1963) gave their percussionist Anze (addressed by the rest of the band as ‘Ringo’) undivided air time. After the audience had been encouraged to synchronise their clapping with solo drum playing, the four launched back into the song.
‘Yellow submarine’ (1966), which had Ringo assuming vocal duties, is essentially a children’s song, as the Beatles meant it to be. Goaded, the audience — “the young and the old” (Ernie specifically called on both) — sang along. ‘Can’t buy me love (1964) and ‘I want to hold your hand’ (1963) followed. After intermission, the hall came alive once more with the loud yelps of someone advanced in years seeking ‘Help!’ (1965), a song that underlines the thematic breadth and repertoire of the Beatles. The next stage of the performance was largely centred around 1967. ‘All you need is love’, and persisting with the theme “summer of love”, the four, however, dug deep into the Beatles knapsack, and retrieved ‘She loves you’ from 1963. The next capsule packed the creativity harvested out of troubled soil. It was 1969; disenchantment had set in, and the Beatles were falling apart as a unit. The package included ‘Don’t let me down’ (1969), ‘Get back’ (1969), ‘Let it be’ (1970), Paul McCartney’s tribute to his mother, Mary McCartney. Songs from the album The Beatles (also known as White Album), many of which were written during a stay at Rishikesh in India, were presented.
Everything under the sun is remembered by its ending, and Help! A Beatles Tribute managed a memorable denouement punctuated with ‘Hey Jude’ (its extended outro — na-na-na-na-na-nah — employed effectively to enhance audience participation), ‘Yesterday’, and ‘Here comes the Sun’’.