Not that any Beatles album is easy, but Rubber Soul would surely seem to be among the most difficult to reproduce—even for New York’s star-studded Beatles tribute band the Fab Faux.
The 1965 album was a giant step in creativity and complexity both in song structure and arrangement, and heralded the period of experimentation that would bloom with the 1966 follow-up Revolver and especially the 1967 masterpiece Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.
The Fab Faux performed Rubber Soul in its entirety for its early New Year’s Eve show at City Winery (the fifth of a six-show, five-night year-end run), in the order of the English version of the album—which like all of the early and mid-Beatles’ albums, differed slightly in their U.K. and U.S. release forms.
The true tour de force started at the beginning, of course, with "Drive My Car," which was marked by swinging bass play from Will Lee, the Late Show With David Letterman stalwart who plays the four-string like it’s a six, even windmilling it like Townshend. Conan show counterpart Jimmy Vivino’s (real) sitar work predictably took the honors on "Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown),” kudos here, too, to Frank Agnello’s acoustic guitar play—along with keyboardist Jack Petruzzelli’s acoustic guitar and drummer Rich Pagano’s vocals.
Versatile guitarist Vivino switched to percussion for “You Won’t See Me,” and sang the chorus on “Nowhere Man.” After “Think For Yourself” (Agnello played the fuzz-bass part) and “The Word,” Lee beautifully sang one of The Beatles’ most beautiful ballads, “Michelle.”
Petruzzelli approximated Ringo Starr’s vocal on “What Goes On”--which opens Side Two of Rubber Soul—with Lee and Agnello crowding a single mic stand in backing him vocally while Vivino turned in his best twang guitar. Vivino shifted to electric mandolin for “Girl,” and after “I’m Looking Through You,” Petruzzelli scored with his keyboard solo on “In My Life,” after which he revealed that “every time I play it I feel like I’m a seven-year-old at a recital.”
After “Wait” came “If I Needed Someone,” with its gorgeous harmonies. Regarding them, Petruzzelli noted that Rubber Soul was “a happy record, with only happy songs,” perhaps, it was suggested, because The Beatles were smoking pot at the time—progressing to acid by the time of Revolver. Be that as it may, Rubber Soul ends with “Run For Your Life,” a most rare vicious and vengeful Beatles’ song, for which Petruzzelli took a stinging guitar solo while Vivino played slide and then Lonnie Mack style after the performance broke off into a guitar jam.
The Faux closed the show with a few odds and ends, including “Long Tall Sally,” which put the lie to any thought that Lee is only the World’s Most Dangerous bass player, when in fact he’s an excellent, variable vocalist whose gritty high pitch here was diametrically opposed to his job on “Michelle.”
Lee later came out into the crowd while playing along to “Me And My Monkey,” at one point climbing onto a table in the back and soloing.
But Lee also gave it up to fellow late-nighter Vivino—“the one and only Jimmy Vivino”—for his stunning work on “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.”
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