A Night in the Life
The Fab Four helps CalPhil kick off summer with ‘Beatles, Beethoven & Beach Boys' Saturday at Santa Anita
By Carl Kozlowski 06/26/2013
Ardy Sarraf may have been born right-handed, but he's such a big Paul McCartney fan that he taught himself to play bass guitar left-handed so that he could imitate his favorite rocker. That hard-won skill has paid off, with Sarraf managing to make his living for the past 15 years as a member of one of the top Beatles tribute bands in America, The Fab Four.
The lifelong Angeleno performs up to 140 shows annually across the country, but he'll play a show Saturday at Arcadia's Santa Anita Park when The Fab Four joins the California Philharmonic for the kickoff concert of CalPhil's 2013 Festival on the Green series. The show's theme, "Beatles, Beethoven & Beach Boys," promises an evening that should please fans of great pop and classical music alike.
"The music is timeless, and so is their message about peace and love," says Sarraf. "All they were writing about was understanding and love and making the world better. It's all about the music, but the movies like ‘A Hard Day's Night' helped make their personalities stand out. Every time we do a show we see kids, their parents and grandparents all going to the same show. You throw in ‘Yellow Submarine' for kids and adults like it too. You can't get that from almost any other band."
While some Beatles tribute acts, like the band 1964, focus on the early phase of The Beatles' career, Sarraf takes pride in the fact that The Fab Four plays music from both the group's early, straightforward-pop days as well as their late-period psychedelic phase. What really sets them apart, however, is their incredible attention to detail.
For instance, the band's "George Harrison" is an actual Liverpool native named Gavin Pring. The Fab Four hired him eight years ago when the group was playing a six-year residency at a Las Vegas theater and found that Pring takes his role so seriously he wears brown contact lenses onstage to mirror Harrison's.
But most importantly, Farrar is excited to note that The Fab Four literally pull off their performances completely on their own.
"We treat the records like the Bible for us, and so we make it accurate to the real thing," says Sarraf. "A lot of bands play with tracks and computers, even on harmonies, or have extra members hiding backstage. These days, technology is on our side, because we can produce all the complex ‘Sgt. Pepper'-style sounds from the keyboards. But we're just the four of us onstage, and we're proud of that and that has gotten us kudos around the world."
The Fab Four keeps busy playing everything from performing arts centers and fairs to corporate events and special occasions, such as when KISS co-leader Paul Stanley hired them to play at his 50th birthday and Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl hired them to perform at his wedding. They also just returned from their first overseas tour, in Japan, but they did suffer a disappointment when their motion-capture work performing as The Beatles for director Robert Zemeckis in a 3D reinvention of The Beatles' animated film "Yellow Submarine" was shelved due to studio infighting.
To keep things fresh for themselves, The Fab Four offers a variety of approaches to The Beatles' catalog when the band travels. For instance, they sometimes do tribute shows focusing on the tunes of one particular Beatle such as George or Paul, or a show featuring each member's hits from their post-Beatles careers.
That eclectic approach is fitting for Sarraf, who loves every stage of their careers. He believes that audiences tend to prefer early-era Beatles because they have sharper memories from the pre-1968 years when the original band played live shows, but he loves the challenge of pulling off "Sgt. Pepper" tracks like "Strawberry Fields Forever" as a quartet.
"People say how hard could it be, but I say let's see you do it, playing left-handed and singing. We're the only band that does ‘A Day in the Life' live as a four piece," says Sarraf. "They only recorded eight years together and what they did was amazing. Hard to do them justice, but we take audiences through the same show. We take the audience through their greatest hits in two hours, about 26 songs."
At Saturday's show, they will play such songs as the title song from "Sgt. Pepper," "Hey Jude," "Imagine" and "Penny Lane" with the backing of CalPhil. Meanwhile, the orchestra will also present the Beach Boys' "Good Vibrations," "I Get Around" and "California Girls," in addition to Beethoven's "Pastoral Symphony."
All told, it's a fab evening indeed.
The Fab Four performs "Beatles, Beethoven & Beach Boys" with the California Philharmonic at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the Santa Anita Park race track, 285 W. Huntington Drive, Arcadia. Tickets are $20 to $88. Call (626) 300-8200 or visit calphil.org.