Fifty years ago this month, the Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart Club Band” hit record stores and changed the direction of pop music forever.
A concept album that had the fab four inhabiting the alter ego of a fictional military band, “Sgt. Pepper’s” erased and redrew musical boundaries for the summer of love with songs such as a “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” “A Day in the Life” and “With a Little Help from my Friends.”
Fans of the landmark 1967 record will have a chance to hear of some of those songs performed live Saturday, June 17, when Mania!, a Beatles tribute band, takes the stage as part of Roseville’s Concert on the Square series.
“ ‘Sgt. Pepper’s’ changed the way people looked at music,” said Aaron Linkin, who performs as the group’s Paul McCartney. “It was the first of its kind. It took music, at least in the popular realm, to a place it had never seen before.”
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Based in Northern California, Mania! performs songs that span the Beatles’ catalog – from their Beatlemania phase to the band’s more experimental stages – and takes the art of imitation seriously. Throughout the act, the four members change into different Beatles costumes, including mop-top wigs and collar-less suits for the early music and colorful, psychedelic outfits from the “Sgt. Pepper’s” period, which for David Vanderbout, the group’s John Lennon, includes round, wire-rim glasses.
On stage, the group pays close attention to the mannerisms of each Beatle. Vanderbout and Linkin, for example, work hard to recreate the distinctive energy of the Lennon-McCartney duo. Aaron Welch, who plays Ringo Starr, bobs his head in a familiar fashion as he drums.
The group, however, doesn’t want to put on a staged, theatrical performance, Linkin said. Instead, they want their shows to seem as close to a live Beatles concert as possible, spontaneous on-stage banter included.
It can be difficult to successfully recreate a Beatles performance, especially with the later music. In 1966, the group stopped touring altogether. There’s live footage from the Beatles’ early tours, but after 1966, they became a studio-only band. The only live footage that exists was edited and produced by the group.
“We try to emulate what they might have done had they performed at the time,” Linkin said. “We want to (put) across a legitimate idea of what it would have been like to be at that concert.”
In a technical sense, the Beatles’ music from the second half of the ’60s is much harder to perform than their earlier work. In the later albums, the Beatles used odd percussive instruments, full brass sections, synthesizers and a 40-piece orchestra to achieve their distinct sound.
Since the Beatles didn’t have to perform live anymore, they didn’t have to worry about producing music playable by just four people. If the Beatles had performed their later music music live, they likely would have brought out extra musicians on stage.
Mania!, however, performs all songs with just four members, imitating how the Beatles might have adapted their music. “Being able to play all the parts that the Beatles themselves played while also playing the extra stuff is the biggest challenge,” Linkin said. “We don’t have anything prerecorded. It just comes from our instruments at the time.”
Linkin said the group tries to entertain not only longtime Beatles’ fans, but younger audience members who may be less familiar with the music. “I don’t think I’ve had a night when the audience wasn’t wholly invested,” he said. “That’s the best part of the whole thing, absolutely.”
Jacob Sweet: 916-321-1052, @_jacobsweet
What: The Beatles tribute band is set to perform as part of the Roseville’s Concert on the Square series.
When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, June 17
Where: Roseville Town Square, 311 Vernon St., Roseville