When rock music’s most iconic British bands battle for GOAT status Nov. 18 at Fox Theatre Redwood City in the national touring show Beatles vs. Stones – A Musical Showdown, everyone wins.
Alternating in three sets each and joining forces in a rousing encore, the Beatles tribute band Abbey Road and Rolling Stones band Satisfaction, find victory not only in fine musicianship but in the show’s longevity.
Having launched the touring show in 2011 and continuing to play more than 150 shows annually while piling up awards and other achievements, the tribute bands’ members are known to be impeccable professionals who seek and deliver in every appearance, not imitation or parody, but authenticity.
For audiences, a “win” comes with the furious, deep-seated passion the bands display for the renowned Brit groups. The Beatles and Stones catalogs and personalities inarguably presented the rock world with unforgettable songs and legendary performances while tipping the universe on its sonic ear and forever changing rock music’s trajectory.
Abbey Road is Axel Clarke (Ringo), Nate Bott (John), Chris Paul Overall (Paul) and Doug Couture (George). Satisfaction is Chris LeGrand (Mick), Trey Garitty (Keith Richards), Ron Nelson (Ronnie Wood), Dom Lanzo (Bill Wyman) and John Wade (Charlie Watts).
In an interview, LeGrand says the Stones song that first hooked him was 1965’s “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” which established the name of the Texas-based band he founded in 2001 and forever anchored the Grammy Hall of Fame song as the centerpiece in his life’s work. “It cut through other material out there and ripped my soul. I still enjoy performing it, even after 4,000 shows. The opening, that iconic guitar riff, when you hear it, it’s like a razor’s edge. Also, there’s the lyrical content that was controversial, with unsavory topics—sexual references—people didn’t want to talk about in 1965.”
In a separate conversation, Clarke points as most pivotal to a live version video of the Beatles in 1964 performing “I Saw Her Standing There,” at the Washington Coliseum (a boxing arena) in Washington D.C. “Ringo is just walloping the drums. He’s like a punk drummer and off the charts. It told me about the Beatles as a whole and who they were. They were innovative, great songwriters and very polite when they were on the Ed Sullivan show just before the live show. For me, that D.C. show confirmed what I will always appreciate most: they were a great rock band who could get onstage and just tear down the house.”
LeGrande and Clarke say in-common attributes and also distinct differences between the bands explain why audience members who may enter as Beatles or Stones fans universally depart as lovers of both. LeGrand says, “The most common thing was their eras, their timing. The Beatles opened the door, the Stones came right behind them, and both were huge when they came out, and still are today.”
Clarke says the commonality is the bands’ popularity and is easily seen “on the surface” and backed up by data. “You can’t deny facts, but how that serves a person depends on the person. The Beatles were pushing the front line of music; the Stones were honoring the legacy of the blues and the old, archaic starting points of rock.”
LeGrand admits that achieving and maintaining the voice of Jagger—let alone the physicality and multiple costume changes—requires constant vigilance. Without review, a performer over time defaults into their own vocal characteristics and stage movements. “I have three different portrayals, costumes and physicality for the three different eras the show covers. The bulk of the research happened 20-plus years ago when I started Satisfaction, but it’s ongoing,” he says.
Clarke says mastering Ringo’s unmistakable drumming style was challenging. Ringo has a sweeping, side-to-side motion with his right hand. His left hand tends to be locked and straight. “The drums he used at first were also smaller and his stool was set high,” says Clarke. “Because of that, in the first, earliest shows he looks like he’s hugely tall, which he wasn’t. He’s perched way up high and gravity means he can really crash down on the cymbals and drums.”
Asked about the rewards of performing the show, Clarke says audiences who are into the experience elevate everything and the feedback energy causes them to leave that kind of show buzzing. For LeGrande, “satisfaction” arrives on nights when “everything comes together as a band and the audience is along for the ride right there with us.”
Beatles vs. Stones
Nov. 18, 7:30pm