Why would dozens of Central New York’s finest musicians get together on a cold February night in the Landmark Theatre in Syracuse to play Beatles music?
Because they can.
I mean, they really, really can.
Beatlecuse 2015 on Friday night proved for the second year running that when you set these all stars of several generations onto the music of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr, it’s a Magical Mystery Tour, all right.
Bands and individuals put individual goals aside to pay tribute to the greatness that burst out of the Cavern Club of Liverpool, landing on “The Ed Sullivan Show” on CBS on Feb. 9, 1964 and into the hearts of America’s kids thereafter.
Syracuse Beatles lover, tribute musician and My Generation music marketing and show promoter Paul Davie made the first Beatlecuse happen last year as a 50th anniversary tribute to that Sullivan show phenomena and to raise money for the Carol M. Baldwin Breast Cancer Research Fund of CNY, Inc.
Attendance was off some Friday night in the beautifully restored downtown theater, and Davie decided to shut the balcony down to save in rental costs. But Davie said the count in the first level was around a thousand, and those folks sure savored the sizzle.
Band highlights were many and dazzling, as would be expected with a roster that included Syracuse Area Music Awards Hall of Famers Tommy Allen, John Danckks, Gary Frenay, Bob Halligan Jr., Todd Hobin, Mark Hoffmann, Arty Lenin, Skip Murphy, Dave Novak and the rich voice of Dave Frisina as between-act MC.
They mined the diversity and depth of the Beatles genius, right from the FabCats’ start with the pop “I Should’ve Have Known Better.”
Jeff Jones and Pale Green Stars took the joint to a rockabilly swing with great help from George Newton on lap steel guitar; and Magical Mystery Tour paid tribute to Tim Stone’s dad George with a psychedelic “Ballad of John and Yoko;” and Los Blancos got to the roots with Hoffmann joining in for an extremely hip rendition of “Kansas City;” and Salt City Chill with Sammys famers Dancks and Hobin revving up with Chuck Schiele, Phil Smith and Rhy Brigada and ripping backup singers Anna White and Kathleen Smith expanding on a notion that started at last year’s show; and Hard Promises invited keyboardist John Goodwin’s rising star daughter vocalist Julia to join them for a scorching “Dear Prudence.”
Talk about a generational torch.
And then there was the closing segment before intermission, with the names from the music world who left us since in 2014, with entertainment king Robin Williams added to Phil Everly, Paul Revere, Bobby Keys, Ian McLagan and Jack Bruce because, well, Robin was one of us.
Finally the screen settled upon a photo of the great Joe Cocker, and Band on the Run was joined by a vocal section called the Women in Black and lead singer Jamie Notarthomas to perform Cocker’s rendition of a song also forever tied to the Beatles.
What a tribute to Cocker it was. Notarthomas sounded and looked like the legend, voice deep, arms flailing, hand jumping to ear.
We will get by with our music and our friends, that’s what we will do.
Here’s a YouTube video I took of Notarthomas and the band’s tribute to Cocker. I came in halfway through.
Here’s a YouTube video I took of Goodwin with Band on the Run.
Here’s a YouTube video I took of Los Blancos with Hoffmann.
Here’ a YouTube video of the FabCats with Skip Murphy.
Here’s a YouTube video of Magical Mystery Tour.
I was shooting the music from the back of the theater with my iPhone 6 zoomed in to the maximum.
If you’re into the show, the good news is that the professionals from Syracuse’s SubCat Music Studios were recording audio and video, including the second half, which was an ensemble cast performing the songs from album “Abbey Road” in its entirety. CDs and videos will be available for purchase.
Here’s the link to the Beatlecuse site, where they’re available. The price is $10 for the CD and $30 for the DVD.
Syracuse photographer Juan Junco also wrote me later today and offered the videos he shot at the Landmark Friday night. Here’s the link to his YouTube channel with all of his videos from Beatlecuse. Thanks so much, Juan.
What period of Beatles music is your favorite, and why? If you weighed through my videos, which band and song was your favorite, and why? Which Beatle is your favorite, and why?