The Fab Faux: All You Need Is Lennon
With the 70th anniversary of John Lennon’s birth less than two weeks away, you know the hype machine is one at the Concert Hall of the NY Society for Ethical Culture on his actual birthday, Oct. 9 (with The Quarrymen, Glen Burtnick, Marshall Crenshaw, and Pete Seeger, among others) and another at The Beacon on Nov. 12 (with Jackson Browne, Patti Smith, Taj Mahal, Aimee Mann, et al.), but it’s hard to believe anything could be more exhilarating than last night’s concert by The Fab Faux at Radio City Music Hall.
I’d always wanted to see the Fab Faux and never managed to do it. Thanks to my friend Effie I was not only able to see them, but from the 10th row (about 40 rows closer than I ever sat at Radio City)! You probably know the Fab Faux are five of NYC’s most talented session men, led by drummer Rich Pagano, bass player Will Lee (part of the Letterman’s CBS Orchestra) and guitarist Jimmy Vivino (in the band Max Weinberg assembled for Conan). They often tackle one of the Beatles classic albums and do an uncanny job of replicating it in concert. Unlike typical tribute bands, they don’t dress up in wigs and costumes. Instead of shtik they rely on their amazing musicianship to take the performance beyond slavish imitation to inspired heights. All five can sing lead, harmonize beautifully, and play multiple instruments.
Last night it was a smorgasbord of John Lennon songs, from both the Beatles and his solo career, and what a feast it was! Two and a half hours nonstop (with a two-song interlude by Lennon’s pre-Beatles band, The Quarrymen, who, unlike Paul, really look like old geezers). The straight ahead early tunes, like “No Reply,” “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away,” “I Feel Fine” (with Jimmy recreating the landmark opening feedback) and “Norwegian Wood” (with Jimmy hauling out a sitar). Plenty of solo tunes, too, including “Jealous Guy,” Mother,” “Watching the Wheels,” Instant Karma,” and, of course, “Imagine.”
The later Beatles songs really showcase their genius, when they somehow capture the production values of those complex studio arrangements, with the five Faux augmented by the Creme Tangerine Strings, the Hogshead Horns, and/or the Newtopia Choir. There was “Tomorrow Never Knows” (the show opener), “Rain,” “Come Together,” “Strawberry Fields Forever” (complete with the backwards coda and Lee and Pagano on dueling drum kits), “I Am The Walrus,” “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite,” and, of course, “A Day in the Life” as the finale. For an encore, you knew they’d have to come back with “All You Need Is Love” (which they did), and then they ended with “Give Peace a Chance,” which had the the whole music hall on its feet singing along. Truly a night in the life!