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In concert: The Fab Faux at Lisner Auditorium

By John Kelly

About 15 minutes into the Fab Faux's show Saturday evening at Lisner Auditorium, bassist Will Lee said, "This is a song that if you do have a Beatles band, we suggest you play it" and then launched into a number that no basement amateurs could ever hope to pull off: "Strawberry Fields Forever." It was the sort of thing the Fab Faux specialize in: painstaking live recreations of songs the Beatles themselves never played before an audience.

The Faux are actually five: five veteran New York studio musicians (Lee is in David Letterman's band) who in 1998 set themselves the task of reverse engineering the Beatles' late catalogue, obsessively learning every guitar figure, every drum fill, every lush harmony, every tap of the cowbell and shake of the tambourine, until the songs could be played in concert - without the mop top wigs and collarless suits that are the vestments of the typical Beatles tribute band.

These are songs - "I Am the Walrus," "Dear Prudence," "Nowhere Man" - that reside deep in the marrow of music fans and the enjoyment from a Fab Faux show isn't just from hearing the Beatles' oeuvre live ("our classical music," Lee called it), it's also from wondering, as one does when watching a bunch of guys on unicycles spinning plates, can they pull it off?

The answer at Lisner was yes. The marvel was that even though the concert required all the planning of a NASA space walk - a small army of roadies stood by to swap instruments in and out mid-number, like operating room nurses providing scalpels and retractors - the joy wasn't leached from the songs. Jack Petruzzelli and Jim Boggia traded off on keyboards and guitars, Boggia filling in for founding Fauxster Jimmy Vivino, who is on tour with Conan O'Brien. Guitarist Frank Agnello seemed a little stiff on stage (the Pete Best of the Fab Faux?), but had a nice turn on George Harrison's "Something."

Most impressive was drummer Rich Pagano, who sang lead on many of the songs, added backing vocals on others and throughout the evening gave life to Ringo's deceptively tricky drumming and his loping fills. The band was augmented by the Crème Tangerine Strings and the Hogshead Horns.

Lee was the ringmaster, flinging picks into the crowd like a human Pez dispenser, bouncing around the stage (even tripping and falling hard as he jumped over a riser) and putting down his bass at the end of "Strawberry Fields Forever" to grab some drumsticks and pound a tom tom next to Pagano.

Wait: Extra tom tom pounding on "Strawberry Fields"? Yes, said Lee. An alternate version exists.

"How do we know that?" he asked. "Because we're nerds to the core."

By David Malitz  |  May 24, 2010; 12:25 PM ET
Categories:  In concert  | Tags: The Fab Faux  
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