JERSEY CITY, NJ—At this year’s Fest For Beatle Fans, performers and fans all gathered to tell the tales, sing the songs and relive the Fab Four’s unique place in the hearts and minds of the faithful. Beatle castoffs like George’s sis Louise Harrison shared the stage with DJ Ken Dashow of Q104.3 FM as she spun the tales about the so-called “quiet Beatle” who really wasn’t so quiet after all. Badfinger guitarist Joey Molland talked about seeing the Beatles in the Cavern in Liverpool where they played “loud and in your face.” Dealers sold museum quality memorabilia as Beatles karaoke, photo exhibits and trivia contests kept the crowd entertained.
Klaus Voormann, who played in the Plastic Ono Band and designed the cover for the Revolver album, took the crowd on a magical mystery tour on the iconic cover’s creation, adding that he was paid 50 pounds for his work on it. He talked about working with Lennon and Clapton on the Live Peace in Toronto show and album that the band rehearsed en route in the back of an airplane. He proudly added that Ringo claimed his finest hour working as a trio was with Lennon and Voormann on the Plastic Ono Band album, the rawness and stark beauty of which still sounds fresh today.
Performances by Beatles cover band Liverpool, who played Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band in its entirety, former members of Wings, and Jeff Slate’s Birds of Paradox, including Elephant’s Memory members Gary Van Scyoc and Adam Ippolito, who backed up Lennon at the original One to One benefit concert from 1972, were the icing to this honey pie. The Pig Light show provided the eye candy that was psychedelically delicious.
Wings alumni Denny Laine put in an appearance at the autograph tables. Denny Seiwell, who played on the Ram, Wild Life and Red Rose Speedway albums, and Lawrence Juber and Steve Holley, who played in the final version of Wings on the 1979 album Back to the Egg, rounded out the Wingmen.
With drummer Seiwell and Holley laying down the booming rhythms to Juber’s stinging leads, their set paid homage to Paul McCartney’s post-Beatles ’70s output that the Wingmen culled into a muscular mix of dense melodies and booming rock. The combined unit of McCartney sidemen, along with cover band Liverpool, were a rock and roll blowout to the naysayers out there who claimed Beatle Paul got soft in the ’70s.
The Wingmen took on “Live and Let Die,” “Getting Closer,” “Rockestra Theme” and ended their set with “Band on the Run.” In between they played a gorgeous instrumental version of “My Love” that Juber dedicated to Wings guitarist Henry McCullough that soared to the heavens and on back.
Jeff Slate’s Birds of Paradox were a 50-minute showdown that took on Lennon’s early ’70s solo work as well as his politics as they replayed the entire set from the historic One to One concert. “New York City” went down like a welcome mat to all. On “Mother” Slate channeled Lennon’s pain into a cathartic wail to John’s Julia.
Combining the gutsy yank of the driving rhythms over a crunchy fix on “Cold Turkey,” Slate and guitarist Mark Bosch’s twisted and contorted leads molted into a slinky dirge. On “Imagine,” that Ipolitio played a stunning and beautiful arrangement of, and “Instant Karma,” the spirit of the times shined on as shout-outs to peace, love and revolution.
Wings Juber and Holley added some polished thunder to the Birds of Paradox Lower East Side rumble for a once in a lifetime reunion of Lennon-McCartney sidemen on their final number “Come Together,” ending their all too brief set.
Between sets, Lawrence Juber played his magical arrangements of some Beatles numbers including “Day Tripper,” “Hey Bulldog” and “If I Needed Someone” that were soothing and meditative.
Gene Cornish, who was introduced by Billy Joel saxophonist Mark Rivera as having shared the stage at the Garden with fellow Rascal Felix Cavaliere the night before, played guitar on “Good Lovin’.” Ringo producer/songwriter/Beatles musicologist and all around fun guy Mark Hudson took to the crowd on the choruses and thrust the mic into this writer’s face who belted out, “Got to Have Lovin’!” Hudson smiled and chimed in, “This guy looks like Art Garfunkel and sings like John Lennon!” ending yet another Beatle fest and a splendid time guaranteed for all.
Jeff Slate’s latest is Secret Poetry featuring members of Wings and David Bowie’s backup band. You can catch him monthly at Hill Country Live! on West 26th Street in Manhattan. Stay tuned for his next one, Slick & Slate, featuring Bowie/Double Fantasy era guitarist Earl Slick.
Show date: March 4, 2017