Tribute band goes
back to the source
It's the reaction of Beatles fans that keeps "Get Back!" cast member Jack Petrilla standing stage right in character as Paul McCartney, but the veteran bass player admits that he's a fan of the original Fab Four, too.
"Their music is such a huge volume of great stuff. We grew up with this stuff and it's a lot of fun (to play). Not everybody gets to have that much fun on their job," Petrilla said last Friday, on the phone somewhere in frigid Tennessee shortly after performing in New England.
Where: Hawaii Theatre
When: 8 p.m. today and tomorrow, and 2 p.m. Sunday
Petrilla and his partners -- Joe Gallo (John Lennon), Tom Telley (George Harrison) and Carroll Parker (Ringo Starr) -- open a three-show return engagement at the Hawaii Theatre tonight. The four are alumnae of the London and Broadway casts of "Beatlemania" and play vintage guitars of the types that Lennon, McCartney and Harrison used in the '60s.
Act I in the two-hour show is devoted to the Beatles' middle period (1963-66), when they were no longer working in cellar clubs like the Cavern, but were still playing classic rock 'n' roll as a basic quartet. Act II includes an overview of the "Sgt. Pepper's" period and a look at what came afterwards. This act contains most of the music the Beatles never played in concert, having stopped touring to concentrate on working exclusively in the recording studio.
"Part of our job is to make it come out sounding like the record," Petrilla said, working with both reissue models of the Beatles' guitars and basses, as well as 40-year old originals. The use of various electronic effects in Act II is essential, he explained, because when people come to see "Get Back!," they're not necessarily expecting the songs to be performed the way that the Beatles would have done them circa 1963.
"You have to know how (the Beatles) got a particular sound on the record because it wasn't necessarily the sound they had in that (recording studio) or on the stage when they performed it. There's different versions of 'the truth' out there ... and (our performance) is live, but we're trying to replicate something that wasn't live, but doing it in front of a live audience to make it come alive. We don't embellish, but we do animate to make it a night of entertainment."
PETRILLA SAID that the release of posthumous recordings as "Live at the BBC" and the "Beatles Anthology" set has had little impact on what people expect to hear at a "Get Back!" show.
"We still have to go with the hits within the time frame of a two-hour performance -- that hasn't changed. The body of material that the public is aware of now has changed to that degree, but still their favorites are (there) and I don't think that's going to change. We go with that flow, but it's nice to know though that if we did pull 'Cry for a Shadow' out on an emergency ... the audience wouldn't be completely oblivious to what we're doing."
(By the way, "Cry for a Shadow" is one of the songs that the Beatles recorded in Germany when they were still unknown in much of southern England, let alone the United States. It is also the only known Beatles instrumental written by John Lennon and George Harrison, instead of either Lennon-McCartney or Harrison by himself.)
And yes, if technical problems knock out the vocals, Petrilla and his bandmates can add "Shadow" to their set.
"It happened one time when we were in the middle of our early set. The PA equipment went down and we had a choice -- walk off, stand there and tell a joke, or play an instrumental. That's what we did, it filled the time until the PA came up again, and people thought it was really great. Maybe not everyone knew it, but enough did."
Petrilla's personal favorite Beatles album is "Revolver" because "it was the opening salvo to 'Sgt. Pepper.' I think it could have almost fit into that jacket, too."
Petrilla says that although the Beatles' original fans are now in their 50s or older, he sees "three generations" of people coming out for "Get Back!"
"I never would have expected something like that, but I think it speaks to the phenomenon of the Beatles."
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