It was 50 years ago that the Beatles introduced perhaps their most iconic and beloved album “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” By the time the record was released, John, Paul, George and Ringo had ceased touring, so fans never got the chance to see some of the most beloved songs in the Beatles’ canon performed live by the band themselves.
On May 10, however, Toledo residents will experience the next best thing. The world famous tribute band the Mersey Beatles will present their Sgt. Pepper’s 50th Anniversary show at the Ohio Theatre at 7:30 pm.
“This year we’ve learned the whole of the Sgt. Pepper album for the 50th anniversary, so the first half of the show is performing the whole album, in full, live,” said Steve Howard, who plays Paul in the band. “And we also add in ‘Strawberry Fields’ and ‘Penny Lane,’ which were the related singles to the LP. And that stretches the first half to about an hour of just great psychedelic music.
“The second half of the show is twenty greatest hits from the early days, where we come on in our Beatlemania suits, and then with a quick transition, we end up in the Abbey Road suits, playing the hits such as ‘Let It Be’ and ‘Revolution’ and all that stuff. It’s something for everybody for this show.”
It’s wonderful to be here, it’s
certainly a thrill
For Howard and his bandmates, playing the music of the Beatles is a childhood dream come true, as well as a point of local pride. All four members of the group— Howard, his cousin David, Mark Bloor and Brian Ambrose— grew up in Liverpool, the same city where the Beatles were formed.
“We all came into secondary school at age 11. And so myself, Brian and Mark— who play Paul, Ringo and John— we were at school together at the same age and we went through the whole of school together. And when we left, we put a band together,” Howard said.
“It was roughly about 10 years later when we had the idea to become a Beatles tribute, so we were mid-20s. And we went to my cousin Dave who’d just become old enough to play in public, he was 17 at the time. We said to him, ‘Would you like to try out for George?’ And he was a revelation, he was just so natural. And we all fell into the parts so naturally.”
They’re guaranteed to raise a smile
They didn’t have to work hard to learn the lyrics— they’d essentially been rehearsing all their lives as dyed-in-the-wool Beatlemaniacs. The group’s love and respect for the original band comes through in every aspect of their performance. “We try to strike a nice balance between, not quite impersonation, but a real heavy nod to the Beatles, and then try to be ourselves with the costumes. So it’s an interesting balance we’ve struck since we first were a band,” Howard said.
Within one month of starting the group in 1999, the four found themselves quitting their jobs to become Beatles full time. For the ensuing 18 years, the childhood friends have made names for themselves as one of the quintessential Beatles tribute acts, including a ten-year tenure as the house band at the Cavern Club, where the Beatles got their start.
“To be honest, it never got old,” Howard said of the Club. “Even in the tenth year of it, we were there and the audience was back every time. … It was always a thrill.”
We hope you will enjoy the show
Now, as the band tours the world bringing the music and emotion of the Beatles to audiences who never had the chance to experience it first hand, Howard said his ambition is to inspire attendees in Toledo to remember just how special these songs really are.
“I just hope it reminds them of how great the original music is. That’s the point. We’re a kind of live mix tape,” Howard said. “I hope that people go away and say, ‘I want to play that album when I get home.’ Or if they brought their children along, they’ll say, ‘Oh, I have an album.’ We just want to keep the legacy going.”
The Mersey Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper 50th Anniversary Show
will take place at the Ohio Theatre on Lagrange St. at
7:30pm on Wednesday, May 10. Tickets cost $25.
For more information, visit OhioTheatreToledo.org.