By Don Heckman
Northridge, CA. Memories galore resonated through the architecturally grand, acoustically captivating Valley Performing Arts Center on the campus of CalState Northridge Saturday night. Memories, that is, of an era dominated by the Beatles.
The performance, by the Fab Faux, was yet another display of the Center’s growing presence as the creative center for the arts that has long been missing from the San Fernando Valley. And the overflowing packed house, full of 1700 enthusiastic listeners, underscored Executive Director Thor Steingraber’s quest to prove VPAC’s “commitment to arts and entertainment experiences of every variety.”
Which is exactly what listeners experienced in the Fab Faux. There are numerous Beatles tribute bands and cover bands in various parts of the world. But the Fab Faux are unique. Neither dressing in period Beatles costumes nor wearing Beatles hair-dos (or wigs), they focused instead upon the rich creative density of the Beatles’ extraordinary catalog of music.
The Fab Faux consist of bassist Will Lee, guitarist Jimmy Vivino, drummer Rich Pagano, guitarist Frank Agnello and keyboardist/guitarist Jack Petruzzelli, backed by the Creme Tangerine Strings and the Hogshead Horns. All of the principal members also sang, doing so without resorting to attempts at imitating either the sounds or the accents of the original Beatles.
The first set was devoted to a broad selection of songs, mostly by John Lennon, Paul McCartney and George Harrison, reaching from “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “Paperback Writer” to “Nowhere Man,” with dozens of stops in between.
On the second set, climaxing a long, musically stunning evening, the Fab Faux and their accomplices performed the classic Beatles album Abbey Road in its entirety.
As noted above, this was not a collection of imitations, in any sense of the word. While the musical spirits of the Beatles were ever present in virtually every note, there was another aspect of the Fab Faux performance that was even more closely related to Lennon, McCartney, Harrison and Starr. And that was the persistent effort by the Fab Faux to find the creative potential that resides in the heart of the songs.
Guitarist Vivino may have described it best when he said, “This is the greatest pop music ever written, and we’re such freaks for it.”
In that sense, the Fab Faux and the Valley Performing Arts made the perfect pairing on this memorable night: classic pop music, played with the sort of creativity that inspired the original versions, in a setting perfectly framed for imaginative performances.