It's 1968 all over again at Fab Faux's City Winery Beatles gig

December 31, 2016

Fab Faux performs "Everybody's Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey"

 

Opening with "Back in U.S.S.R." from the Beatles 1968 two-disc The White Album, last night's Beatles in 1968—Back to Roots show by the Fab Faux at City Winery couldn't have been more timely—let alone politically ominous.

 

FF guitarist/vocalist Jimmy Vivino quickly added injury to irony.

 

"Welcome to 1968," he said. "Everything was different then: We'd just elected a president we didn't like!"

 

Nothing more needed be said on a night—the third of the ultimate Beatles tribute band's seventh annual end-of-the-year four-night stand at the club—that focused on the Beatles' joyous music of '68, mostly taken from the White Album (actually titled The Beatles, but usually referred to by its all-white album cover).

 

As Vivino has explained, the Fauxs, together now 18 years, have approached the Beatles like archaeologists, subjecting each newly discovered recording and other source of information to mircroscopic analysis, such that the expanded range of sounds and production techniques contained in the White Album tracks are replicated with as much accuracy as the Fabs' first recordings. Hence, Vivino's guitarwork on "While My Guitar Gently Weeps," to pick a standout, was perfect in sound and solo, while allowing him ample room to improvise within context.

 

Then again, Vivino, and Fab Faux basist/vocalist Will Lee, are two of the most versatile and high profile New York musicians of the last quarter-century, what with Lee's long stint with the Late Show with David Letterman house band and Vivino's continuing role as Conan bandleader. While not as widely known, the other group members—drummer vocalist Rich Pagano, guitarist-vocalist Frank Agnello and keyboarist-vocalist Jack Petruzzelli—are no less responsible for FF's continued success.

 

Other high points of the set included Lee's vocal on "Blackbird," his soft blend with Agnello on "Long, Long, Long" within a tightly controlled dynamic arrangement, and Pagano's "Happiness Is a Warm Gun." Pagano, incidentally, is recovering from heart surgery and is limited to vocals; subbing for him on drums is Clint de Ganon, who played with Lee in late jazz guitarist Hiram Bullock's band and miraculously learned the Fab Faux's catalog of over 140 songs in time to fill in.

 

The set ended with the Beatles' two-sided 1968 non-White Album single "Hey Jude," exquisitely sung by Petruzzelli, and "Revolution"—perhaps another ironic sign of the times. For encore "Please Please Me," the hit titletrack of the Beatles' 1963 English debut album, Vivino added the harmonica part to the repertoire in bringing it all back to the beginning.

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