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Fab Four at Winnipeg's McPhillips Street Station concert review

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The Fab Four made a triumphant return to Winnipeg by popular demand on Dec. 12 for the first of a two-night stand at McPhillips Street Station.

The casino once again booked the California-based Beatles tribute band in conjunction with the start of the holiday season, a time fondly remember by fans when The Beatles often released studio albums and issued Christmas greetings.

The Fab Four set list varied only slightly from last visit, but this is understandable in that the multi-media production is intended more as a Broadway production than as a traditional rock n' roll concert. The Fabs' show is a multi-media production, which employs video screens, period film footage capturing the spirit and historical context, vintage 60s instruments, costuming, live cameras along with state of the art sound to provide the audience with a taste of the magic that was Beatlemania.

The show was opened by “Pulp Fiction” comedian Jerome Patrick Hoban, who impersonates the late TV host Ed Sullivan. "Mr. Ed" recreated the famous introduction from the Liverpuddlians' Feb. 9, 1964 TV debut on “The Ed Sullivan Show," inserting a few fresh gags into the intro and throughout his intermittent appearances during the show in his ongoing role as comic relief.

The stage faithfully recreates The Beatles early live performances with the band employing Vox amps, Ludwig drums, a Hoffner bass, as well as a Gretsch, Gibson SG and Rickenbacker guitars.

Attired in the The Beatles famous Pierre Cardin suits and Cuban heel boots, and with the help of arguably the most beloved back catalogue of hits on the planet, The Fabs faithfully performed one early Beatle hit after another, opening with “I Want to Hold Your Hand." Castmembers Ron McNeil (“John”), Ardy Sarraf (“Paul”), Erik Fidel ("Ringo") and Gavin Pring ("George"), proceed to faithfully recreate hits including: "Please, Please Me," ,“All My Loving,” "Do You Want to Know a Secret," “A Hard Days Night,” “I Should Have Known Better,” “Eight Days a Week,” “Help,” “She Loves You, “I Saw Her Standing Their," "Twist and Shout."

The cast interact readily with the audience throughout the show while remaining in character, but maintain a "nudge nudge - wink wink" spirit. characterized by humorous one-liners such as McNeil's, "We're glad you love the songs, otherwise we might have found ourselves having to impersonate The Monkees."

The show is loosely broken into four acts: The Beatles' Ed Sullivan show appearance, "Help"/Shea Stadium era, Sgt. Pepper era and "Let It Be" era with "Mr. Ed" entertaining the audience while the cast execute costume changes for each set.

Show highlights include Sarraf's Shea Stadium era Beatle "Paul," performing MCartney’s blockbuster ballad “Yesterday," sounding eerily like Sir Paul and playing bass and acoustic guitar left-handed a la Macca, as well as McNeil's touching rendition of Lennon's "Imagine," the only non-Beatles song played in full during the night, performed in honour of the recent anniversary of Lennon's tragic assassination on Dec. 8, 1980.

Although most of the majority vocals were handled by the band's closest Beatles look and sound alikes, McNeil (“John”) and Sarraf (“Paul”), drummer Fidel "Ringo" and real-life Liverpuddlian, guitarist Pring "George," both acquitted themselves well on their lead vocal turns, Fidel on "A Little Help from My Friends," and Pring on "Do You Want to Know a Secret" and "Here Comes the Sun."

The Fab Four wound up the night with the 1970 "Let It Be" Lennon-McCartney hit "Get Back” and, following a well deserved standing ovation, capped the night with The Beatles all-time biggest hit, "Hey Jude."

The Fab Four perform a second show Dec. 13 at McPhillips Street Station before making their final Canadian stop on Dec. 14 stop in Enoch, AB at River Cree Resort and Casino.

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