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Abbey Road LIVE! Review
Saturday night, the Music Farm was filled with a diverse audience of people united by the shared bond of the love for the Beatles’ timeless music. To play such a legendary act, the pressure was on, especially from the scrutinizing eyes and ears of hardcore Beatles fans, like myself. But I must say, they delivered.
The energy of the room made it nearly impossible for anyone to keep from tapping their toes and singing every song word for word. The band proceeded to play every song on the “Abbey Road” album and kept the audience enraptured with timeless classics as well as lesser-known masterpieces, which were much appreciated by the genuine Beatlemaniacs.
It’s said that imitation is the greatest form of flattery, and the Beatles themselves probably would have been quite flattered had they been present to witness the extraordinarily transcending sounds produced by this talented quartet.
Abbey Road LIVE! stayed true to the essence of the Beatles’ music while incorporating their own style and interpretation. They showed the utmost respect for the music while playing these renditions. Rather than replicating the Beatles exactly, they managed to play the entire album with their own spin, while still sounding like something the Beatles would have played. The band’s passion and energy was almost tangible as they rocked out with incredible guitar and drum solos. Abbey Road LIVE! put on a great show, dazzling their audience with their exuberance and antics. They were a joy to watch and a dream to listen to.
Abbey Road LIVE! knew how to work the crowd; one band member even commented that this was probably one of the best shows they had had in Charleston.
Keeping an authentic Beatles vibe and staying true to the band’s music, they made the crowd go wild when band member Michael Wegner pulled out the sitar, an Indian stringed instrument employed in many Beatles’ songs, especially George Harrison’s. Their voices were eerily accurate in their renditions, bringing us as close to the real thing as we could get. The fact that Abbey Road LIVE! was able to bring together people of all ages, colors and sizes for the common purpose of experiencing and appreciating truly ingenious music, is a testament to the greatness and immortality of The Beatles.
Abbey Road Comes Alive At The Pour House – Ballard Lesemann, Charleston City Paper
A healthy mix of music fans packed the Pour House on Sat. Sept. 29 to check out the Athens, Ga., tribute band Abbey Road Live! — a quartet of veteran players more interested in celebrating the music, guitar licks, harmonies, and dynamics of the 1969 Beatles album than in putting on some sort of wig ‘n’ costume cabaret act. From the opening triplets of “Come Together” through the “Aahhhh’s!” of “The End,” they nailed it all.
On his vintage Silvertone six-string (and playing the part of John Lennon), guitarist Tim Conley’s soulful guitar work pushed the band’s sound to high levels, adding tasty stuff to the lengthy outro of “I Want You (She’s So Heavy),” the solo section of “You Never Give Me Your Money,” and the string-bending verses of “She Came in Through the Bathroom Window.”
Drummer Andrew “Silver Hammer” Hamner (pictured) sang on Ringo’s “Octopus’s Garden,” sounding just British and flat-toned enough to fit perfectly. Bassist Dave Domizi’s voice was shot from cold symptoms, so he couldn’t quite handle everything that McCartney sang on the album. Conley stepped in for the high-pitched “Oh! Darling,” but Domizi did well with the calmer duties on “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer,” “Golden Slumbers,” and “Carry That Weight.”
Guitarist/keyboardist Michael Wegner (“George Harrison” on stage) switched back and forth between instruments and even whipped out a clarinet for the horn solo of “You Never Give Me Your Money” — a surprise move that earned loud applause, as did his rhythm guitar work and singin’ on “Here Comes the Sun.” They nailed it all and even started the second set off appropriately with the hidden ditty of “Her Majesty.” It was an impressively tight and vigorous performance.
Abbey Road Live! Brings Beatles Show to Haunt – Jim Catalano, Ithaca Journal
The Beatles are probably the most popular band of the past half century, so it’s no surprise that their music continues to resonate today.
One band that has taken the Beatles’ sound to heart is Abbey Road Live!, hailing from Athens, Ga. As its name implies, the group performs the Beatles’ “Abbey Road” album in its entirety. But that’s not all—the band also performs many other Beatles classics, especially from the late 1960s, when the Fab Four had stopped touring and focused on the recording studio.
The lineup of Abbey Road Live! includes Tim Conley (guitar, vocals), Dave Domizi (bass, vocals), Andrew Hanmer (drums, vocals) and Michael Wegner (keyboards, guitar, clarinet, vocals). Earlier this week, Wegner talked with Soundoff about the upcoming show.
Q: When was the first time you heard the Beatles?
Michael Wegner: When I was growing up, I had three older brothers who were into all kinds of music, and Beatles music was playing all the time in our house. It was sort of passed down to me. By the time I was 8, I knew almost every Beatles song.
Q: Do you have a favorite Beatles song or album?
MW: That’s an impossible question. Too many favorite songs, I wouldn’t know where to start. As far as albums are concerned, I have to say I am fond of “Abbey Road,” the album that we built this band around. There’s something conceptual about it that is just perfectly executed. It’s like a symphony. I also like the “White Album” a lot, because it covers so much ground with the different song styles.
Q: Why do you like the Beatles so much? Why do you think they’ve remained popular after all these years?
MW: It’s a perfect balance. Beatles music rocks just enough, it’s also melodic, they sang great harmonies… They were equally comfortable playing catchy pop music or bizarre psychedelia…. And the songwriting is just transcendent. They appeal to so many different types of music fans. We can play for college kids just as easily as for a middle-aged crowd.
Q: What spurred you to put this band together? Was the original concept just to cover “Abbey Road”? How have things changed since its inception?
MW: Back in the 1990s, we had an original music band called Fuzzy Sprouts. We liked to experiment with different kinds of shows, and try to give our fans something different. So we decided one year to learn the “Abbey Road” album start-to-finish. Well, it turned out to be a big hit, and a lot of fun for us, so we wound up doing it again. And again. We started to get offers to do the Abbey Road show, so we thought, why not? Eventually we started learning more Beatles material, and other complete albums as well. Currently the band’s repertoire includes more than 100 songs, and we’ve done three complete albums (“Abbey Road,” “Sgt Pepper,” and “Magical Mystery Tour”).
Q: What have been some of the biggest challenges in covering later-60s Beatles material?
MW: A lot of their later material included extra instrumentation and orchestration. For most of our shows, we have just four guys. So it is always a challenge to get the right sounds to blend together. Also, the vocal harmonies can be really hard to work out. Some times they would put 12 tracks of vocal harmonies on a recording, and we only have four voices to work with at our live shows. They did a lot of tricks in the studio that are not easily recreated on a stage. So we try to capture the feel as best we can.
Q: What kind of liberties do you take to translate some of the more complex studio versions to a live setting?
MW: Sometimes we have to “interpret” the music, to make it work live. This band is less about recreating every last audio nuance as we are about bringing the music to life. I mean, what would the Beatles have done if they had toured in 1969? (Their last public performance was in 1966, and most of their later material was never performed live). Would they have re-created their albums exactly or would they have adapted the music for a live setting? Something tells me they would have gotten creative.
Q: Any actual Beatles ever see your show?
MW: Not yet. But we almost played a show with Pete Best once.
Abbey Road Live at Woodstock’s Downtown City Park – Andy Shaughnessy, Gophertunes.com
It might as well have been a Fab Four reunion in Woodstock Saturday night. Abbey Road Live put on the next best thing to a Beatles concert, until the skies opened up and drenched hundreds of fans of John, Paul, George and Ringo.
At least the rain came during “Lucy in the Sky.”
Abbey Road Live was slated to perform Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band in its entirety in honor of the 40th anniversary of that bellwether album’s release on June 1, 1967.
But first the Athens band treated us to a set of tunes that weren’t on Sgt. Pepper. I was damned glad to be there for what would be a transcendental experience. The Beatles can do that to you.
Abbey Road Live opened up with the sound of jet engines signaling “Back in the USSR,” the perfect opening song. I was back in seventh grade again, trying to learn to play “Revolution” on an acoustic guitar and hoping the Beatles would quit suing each other and get back together. (How much money did Apple Records lose or have stolen? Tens of millions of dollars?)
Then they went into “Something,” and they just nailed it: Absolutely wonderful harmonies meet meticulous attention to musical detail. When the crowd sang along, you’d swear a chorus of angels was singing.
Bassist Dave Domizi sings a lot like Paul McCartney, and guitarist Tim Conley has the John Lennon tone down. Michael Wegner plays keyboards, guitar and clarinet, and sings like a bird as well. They’ve been playing Beatles tunes live for years, and it shows. They wore some flamboyant clothing, but didn’t try to look exactly like each Beatle; they concentrated on the sound.
When it came time for “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da,” the band was joined by the Magical Mystery Horns. But the horns really shone in “Strawberry Fields.” That was the best live rendition of “Strawberry Fields” that I’ve ever heard. Just shake-your-head unbelievable. They had it down to a science, with Michael breaking out the clarinet for that weird ending part.
“Penny Lane” and “Revolution” drew applause aplenty. But the high point of the night, for me, was “Dear Prudence.” Again, just unbelievable. The band members used their voices like instruments, creating this incredibly lush tapestry of sound. I think everyone in the crowd over 40 was singing along with “Won’t you come out and play?”
Then the band took a break and came back to play Sgt. Pepper, joined by the Lonely Heart Strings. They pulled out all the stops for that title song. I could almost imagine the impact that song would have had in 1967 – punchy and hard-rocking, but still psychedelic and nonsensical. No wonder the “squares” were freaked out by the cheeky Liverpudlians.
“With a Little Help From My Friends” had the crowd singing along again. But when they launched into “Lucy in the Sky,” Tim broke a string and the rain started – a sprinkle at first, then a torrent. That was that.
Still, we had more than an hour of great Beatles tunes, free of charge. Thanks, Woodstock. I’ll say nice things about you.
The rained-out ending was almost fitting, in a sense. We can’t go back in time, and there will never be a Beatles reunion. I’m still mad at Paul (and Yoko, to a lesser extent) for breaking up the band. The Irish can hate forever, as my dad says.
But if you get a chance to see Abbey Road Live, do it. It’s just like seeing a Beatles concert, without Yoko and Linda sniping at each other backstage.
Sgt. Pepper Takes The Stage Friday Night: Beatles Cover Band Plays Asheville – Amy Jones
When it was all said and done, the Beatles toured in their heyday for about as long as it takes most bands to design an official T-shirt. Now, thanks to the great blitz of tribute bands, you just may get your chance to relive a Beatles-inspired memory. Athens, Ga.-based Abbey Road LIVE! will perform Sgt. Pepper LIVES! on Friday night at The Orange Peel. We talked to band member Michael Wegner.
Question: There are a lot of great rock ’n’ roll bands to emulate that have come and gone, why the Beatles?
Answer: To me, the Beatles have always been in a class of their own. Even when I was 7 years old, I knew there was something different about the Beatles. The other great classic rock bands —The Stones, The Who, Led Zeppelin, etc. — although unique, they could always be categorized as “classic rock.” But the Beatles crossed so many boundaries and had so many different sounds and styles.
Q: Doesn’t picking such an iconic act to cover, particularly with such scrutiny as you guys allegedly use, bring extra pressure than, say, covering a less legendary act?
A: You bet it does…. I guess we like a good challenge. But we are not necessarily trying to re-create every last nuance of the original studio recordings. I would say we hit at least 90 percent of it (enough to appease the purists), but we like to allow some room for interpretation. That’s the “LIVE” part of Abbey Road LIVE! We like to imagine what the Beatles might have sounded like if they had done a concert tour in 1969. They played their last public concert in 1966, so much of their later material was never performed live.
Q: Who exactly is in this band?
A: Tim Conley’s on guitar and vocals. Dave Domizi plays bass and lends vocals, Andrew Hanmer is on drums and vocals and me, Michael Wegner, on guitar, keys, sitar, clarinet and vocals. We are all in our 30s.
Q: Is there a John, Paul, Ringo and George or are the division of powers different in this band?
A: With a few exceptions, we do stick to our roles when it comes to lead vocals — mainly because we each have a natural tendency toward an individual Beatle personality. Dave (our bass player) has a lot of pop sensibilities, and he sings most of the Paul songs. Meanwhile Tim is more left-of-center, the artist of the band, and he sings the John songs. Being the “quiet one,” I sing the George songs.
Q: As the years pass and more of music’s best-loved leave us, tribute bands have multiplied. Why play so much of someone else’s music?
A: I personally find it both satisfying and joyful to play the music of the Beatles. The fact is, (John) Lennon and (Paul) McCartney are some of the most talented songwriters ever, and there is a lot to appreciate and learn by playing their compositions. We write our own music, too, and play in other bands, but playing the Beatles music is satisfying in its own way.
Q: Do you think the fans see past their memories to appreciate what each of you do as your own? Does it matter whether the audience focuses on you versus the music?
A: That has always been an interesting question for me. We are not a look-alike band and have never tried to re-create the Beatle experience with wigs and British accents and such. Musically too, we try to add a creative element, even as we stay true to the original recordings. We have noticed that our fans strongly appreciate when we put our own stamp on a particular song.
Q: Is performing the solo work from the Beatles following their split allowed by Abbey Road LIVE?
A: Sure, we have experimented with some of the solo material. We would like to more as time permits. But we have spent copious amounts of time working up our signature albums — “Abbey Road,” “Sgt. Pepper,” “Magical Mystery Tour.” If we had the time, I would love to learn every Beatles song ever written, and the solo stuff too. It would never get boring, that’s for sure. But for better or worse, we do have lives outside of this band, so our repertoire will have some limitations.
Q: Has Abbey Road LIVE! ever been to the recording studios in London?
A: We have not been overseas as a band, but I did once visit Abbey Road studios. It was pretty special to be there. I got to play on the grand piano used on many Beatle recordings.
Noteworthy Live Gigs This Week – Jim Reed, Connect Savannah
While disbanded for more than three decades now, the back catalog of the Fab Four continues to be one of the strongest-selling libraries of popular music in the world and there are literally hundreds of tribute bands worldwide offering reasonable facsimiles of the group’s songs everywhere from tiny clubs and bars to large outdoor festival stages.
However, most of those groups concentrate on the band’s early years, when their Cuban heels, mop-top haircuts and matching suits-and-ties helped catapult them to superstardom. That particular era of Beatlemania makes for a wise choice to emulate, as the group had yet to immerse themselves in the sea of possibilities afforded them by almost unlimited time in some of the U.K.’s finest recording facilities. By the last third of their short but prolific career, the band’s increasing reliance on overdubbing, studio trickery and state-of-the-art sonic experimentation allowed them to craft some of the most amazing records of their generation (such as Magical Mystery Tour and Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band). However, that creative freedom drastically outpaced the ability of anyone (even The Beatles) to approximate those compositions in a live setting without carting around upwards of ten additional musicians and the sort of PA system that had yet to be developed something their fetishists ELO would do several years later.
In light of this (and the crippling fame that threatened their lives and sanity), the band gave up the road in August of 1966, and fans never got a chance to hear what their later period material might have sounded like live. That’s where this Athens-based tribute act comes in.
Since October of 2003 this group (featuring members of such well-known Classic City bands as the Grateful Dead tribute Cosmic Charlie and The Fuzzy Sprouts) has periodically dusted off 1969’s Abbey Road in its entirety, but over the last few months, they’ve been touring regularly, with a full evening’s worth of Beatles music that includes that famed album (often thought to be the band’s finest moment), and a setlist containing 70 other rarely-heard tunes from throughout the band’s lifespan.
These guys don’t dress up like their heroes; instead, they concentrate on pulling of the band’s more mature and musically complex arrangements with vitality without straying too far from the original, iconic versions. Many who have seen the group’s show rave at their devotion to the material, and word is that watching them air out these majestic rock gems only further cements one’s awareness of just how unique and transcendent some of this stuff truly is.
Beatles Cover Band Plays Lesser-Known Studio Songs – Caroline Ruse, The Red And Black
Athens band Abbey Road LIVE! is not the typical look-alike cover band.
The quartet, performing tonight at the Georgia Theater, will not don vintage threads or sport the characteristic mop-top haircuts of the Beatles.
“The typical Beatles tribute band will come out on stage with suits and wigs and vintage instruments resembling those the Beatles used,” said Michael Wegner, guitarist/keyboardist.
“They are more likely to play only the better-known stuff, like ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand'”.
Conversely, Abbey Road LIVE! focuses on the Beatles’ later material, known as the “studio years”, Wegner said.
Most Beatles music released between 1967 and 1970 was never performed live because the group stopped touring in 1966, and this is the material that most intrigues the band.
When performing with Abbey Road LIVE!, Wegner said he likes to imagine what a Beatles show in 1969 might have sounded like.
He doesn’t think the band would have played all of its songs exactly like the studio versions during a live performance.
“We take a few liberties with some of the songs,” Wegner said, “maybe stretching them out a little or interpreting them.”
Fans of the Beatles well-known, feel-good pop songs, however, should not be discouraged.
Wegner said the band likes to throw in early material at the end of the show.
All members of Abbey Road LIVE! are also members of other bands.
“The Abbey Road LIVE! idea grew out of a huge love for the Beatles,” Wegner said.
Abbey Road LIVE! sprung to life after the band The Fuzzy Sprouts, of which Wegner, guitarist Tim Conley and bassist Dave Domizi are members, performed Beatles songs album at a show.
The guys now have a repertoire of nearly 100 Beatles tunes, Wegner said.
“One of the most enjoyable things for me is watching how many people sing along to every word,” Wegner said. “It’s amazing to me that 40 years after this music came out and with all the changes pop music has gone through, the music of the Beatles is still so popular.”
Abbey Road Live Hijinks Revive Fab Four’s finest – Michael Pucci, Daily Tarheel
The term “nostalgia” generally isn’t one with positive connotations, conjuring up images of 50-somethings romanticizing the past and trying to recapture their lost youth.
Of course, cover bands might be the biggest culprit in perpetuating this trend, plodding through second-rate versions of songs that everyone usually is sick of anyway.
Now Athens, Ga., bands Cosmic Charlie and Fuzzy Sprouts have taken this a step further, coming together and touring under the guise of a four-piece entitled Abbey Road Live, which performs the seminal Beatles album in its entirety.
The concept is laudable. After all, if you’re going to cover music better than your own, you might as well pick the absolute best.
Without a hint of hyperbole, Abbey Road is one of the greatest albums in rock ‘n’ roll history, not to mention the greatest album The Beatles ever made.
Indeed, a music collection without Abbey Road in it is no music collection at all.
So it was last Friday evening, as Cat\’s Cradle filled to half its capacity, mainly with people who were alive for the album’s initial 1969 release and were ready for the show to come down upon their heads.
Acting as Paul McCartney, Dave Domizi’s bass line announced the beginning of “Come Together,” sung by Tim Conley, playing the part of John Lennon, down to the white suit.
That led into the always-beautiful “Something,” George Harrison’s finest Beatles cut, which proved to be an informal tribute to the “quiet Beatle” whose 61st birthday would have been Friday.
Abbey Road Live’s attention to detail was a constant highlight, such as the lines of Italian included in “Sun King” or how the band suddenly stopped playing after several minutes of “I Want You (She’s So Heavy).”
“We need to take a few minutes to flip the album,” Wegner quipped after.
But, as on the album, the show reached its zenith with the second-half suite, a flawless collection of song fragments that never fails to give the listener that magic feeling.
For the album’s climactic moment, in “Carry That Weight,” Wegner pulled out a clarinet to reprise the horn line of “You Never Give Me Your Money,” drawing the biggest applause of the evening.
The band left the stage following “The End” but soon rushed back, cheekily realizing they forgot something: the silly “Her Majesty,” ending the performance on a high note.
There were natural limitations to a show of this nature. Since everyone in attendance knew exactly what the set list would be, spontaneity wasn’t much of an option.
Also, as exuberant and faithful to the music as Abbey Road Live was, the four men performing Friday night weren’t The Beatles. The fact remains that they’re a cover band, albeit an extremely capable one.
In the end, enjoyment of a concert such as this wasn’t based so much on the band’s ability to recreate the music but on the constant reminder of just how monumental the original material actually is.
It’s so heavy.