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Concert report: 'Get Back': Seattle celebrates 50th anniversary of the Beatles

Seattle paid tribute to the Beatles in Seattle Saturday night, August 23, 2014 at McCaw Hall at Seattle Center. "Get Back: The Northwest celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Beatles in Seattle" was a fundraiser produced and directed by Michael McMorrow, hosted by deejays Pat O’Day and Marco Collins. The program consisted of musicians performing the set the Beatles did August 21, 1964 at the Seattle Coliseum (now Key Arena.) This was followed by the full 1967 “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” album, plus an opera piece and encores.

Tracy Bonham
photo credit: Daniel McMorrow

Pat O'Day, who was the legendary deejay that introduced the Beatles at the coliseum fifty years ago, told the audience what it was like bringing the Beatles to Seattle. He told a funny story about the screaming being so loud by girls in the audience that George Harrison unplugged his guitar once and shrugged to Pat offstage.

The show was being streamed live to different hospitals in the area, and recognized the work of several non-profit agencies who promote music education in the northwest. The energy in the audience was electric as Pat invited the audience to scream like those teenage girls in 1964 as he introduced "John, Paul, George and Ringo!"

HIGHLIGHTS:

Part 1 of the show was the 12-song set the Beatles performed at Seattle Coliseum on August 21, 1964. Four different bands took turns, each doing three songs. The Kingsmen's Barry Curtis and Friends performed "Twist and Shout," "You Can't Do That," and "All My Loving." The Nowhere Men, a seasoned Seattle area tribute band, nailed their performances of “She Loves You,”, “Things We Said Today” and “Roll Over Beethoven.” The Rangehoods did "Can't Buy Me Love," "If I Fell", and "I Want to Hold Your Hand." Current band Tennis Pro finished up the set with "Boys", "A Hard Day's Night" and "Long Tall Sally." The Nowhere Men have been doing Beatles shows for twenty-five years and clearly stood out as the most proficient band. They were spot-on, tight, and showed the audience they knew exactly how to portray the Beatles with style and skill.

After a ten minute Intermission, the “Synergia Northwest Sgt. Pepper Band” conducted by Dr. Bret Smith was revealed as the backstage curtain parted, and the entire 1967 album of “Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band” was performed. The orchestra provided a stunning musical backdrop for the musicians and singers that came on stage to perform one song each. Singers included Choklate Moore, Kathy Moore, Kris Orlowski, Shawn Smith, Tracy Bonham, Jeff Angell of Walking Papers, Andrea Peterman, Tor Dietrichson, Brandon McIntosh, Kim Virant, Spike O’Neill (of Spike and the Impalers) and Funky 2 Death Horns, Michael McMorrow, and Justin Davis as well as young prodigy Caspian Coberly.

Audience favorites were Kathy Moore’s performance of “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”, Tracy Bonham with “She’s Leaving Home”, both of which were incredible, as well as “Within You and Without You”, sang by Andrea Peterman. Sitar and percussion on the spiritual Harrison song were done flawlessly by Tor Dietrichson and Brandon McIntosh. They could have made even a stronger impact had they been brought out to center stage, but instead they were behind equipment on the far side, making it difficult to appreciate the full range of their work. Young guitarist Caspian Coberly was also amazing and shows a high level of promise for his future career as a musician and singer.

Spike O’Neill of Spike and the Impalers did a rousing and strong rendition of “Good Morning Good Morning” along with the horn section. After the Sgt. Pepper Reprise, Nate Mendel of the Foo Fighters and Ben Smith of Heart along with others were introduced, to do “A Day in the Life” with Spike O'Neill. The break in between the two songs was disconcerting, but the performance was excellent with the orchestra backing.

Next, opera singers Gayla and Torrance Blaisdell came on stage to perform Paul McCartney’s classical piece from “Standing Stone” called “Celebration.” Unfortunately they were not introduced first, which caused confusion with the audience, who didn’t realize (or forgot) that the McCartney classic was an opera piece.

Encores followed and included “All You Need is Love/The End”, “Get Back”, and “Hey Jude.”

SUMMARY AND OPINION:

"Get Back" was not intended to be a perfectly staged recreation of the Beatles. It was a fundraiser that featured dozens of local artists from the 60's all the way to current day. It was great that they all came together to celebrate this important Beatles anniversary. However, I was surprised that more of the local Beatles tribute bands were not invited to participate in the show. They could have lent strong proficiency, performing skill and knowledge of Beatles music to the program, and really made this a night to remember. Instead, some performances were a little rough, and a few performers even brought lyric sheets on stage with them, making it appear that they had no time to practice. The mixing was off at times. Harrison’s guitar work on “Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” disappeared, as well the opening harp on “She’s Leaving Home,” for example.

It would have been nice to see some videos or photos of the Beatles on the screen, although none were ever shown. Footage exists of the Beatles in Seattle, and it’s still very exciting to watch, along with their stay at the Edgewater Hotel and their press conference, but none of this was included, which seemed to diminish the significance of the anniversary.

The show certainly highlighted how much the Beatles evolved between 1964 and 1967. Any audience member unfamiliar with the Beatles would not have believed it was the same band that wrote all that material. Bill Stainton (Seattle based ‘Almost Live’ comedian) said, “They did a respectable job of pulling off a lot of diverse songs with a lot of diverse singers.”

For other Seattle celebrations this week, please see below links to the Creme Tangerine Show. Besides Creme Tangerine, British Export is playing at the Edgewater Hotel Friday night August 29th where the Beatles stayed. In addition, MOHAI has a great photo exhibit.