AlliedNews.com - Grove City, Pennsylvania

Community News Network

February 12, 2014

Beatles fans take magical history tour 50 years later

WASHINGTON — Under the concrete ribs of the barrel-shell roof of a crumbling coliseum, the capital awaits the Beatles. Or, rather, the Beatles tribute band. The real thing is exactly 50 years gone on this Tuesday night, in this exact spot in Northeast Washington, and Washington must make do with imitation, with nostalgia, with the reverb of the past.

"I'm listening to the Supremes and then all of a sudden on my transistor radio: 'I sawww herrr staaan-ding there,' " says Steve Daugherty, 59, who's in from Chantilly, Va. with his wife, Chris. They're wearing Lennon-esque spectacles and holding tall-boy beers, their breath fogging in the meat-locker air of the Washington Coliseum, the site of the Beatles' first North American concert, on Feb. 11, 1964. The Daughertys are here for the music, they say, but might they also be here to recapture a long-ago feeling?

"Oh, yeah," he says.

Behind the stage, in a cramped trailer that's 40 degrees warmer an hour before showtime, four men from America spray their wigs, pencil their eyebrows and button themselves into black-lapelled gray suits until they are four mop-headed lads from Liverpool. Beatlemania Now, the expert imitators of that night 50 years ago, are being watched by a man who was there, opening for the Beatles: the singer Tommy Roe.

"It's kind of spooky," says Roe, who will now open for an imitation, half a century later. Also, says Roe: "Surreal."

"They're Lennon-colored but when you get older, they're not as bushy," says Scot Arch, aka John, as he pencils away in front of a mirror.

"And I wonder how Paul and Ringo keep their hair so brown," Roe says with a glint in his eye, his hair a distinguished and well-adjusted gray.

"Ringo definitely dyed it recently," says Ringo, aka Eric Smith, 37, who adds that when he's on stage, "I'm not Eric Smith. It's not my interpretation. I'm trying to replicate. [Ringo's] mannerisms have become my own."

Roe exits the trailer, lopes through the cold, black backstage area, mounts the stage and plays "Sheila," as he did 50 years ago, when there was a thick vibe of anticipation.

Now, there are comb-overs in the audience, and Styrofoam cups of hot chocolate. The shrill hysteria over something new has been replaced by polite applause for something old. The national addiction to nostalgia continues, and the present stays bearable. The coliseum tonight is a physical place to hide away.

Oh we believe/

In yesterday.

Reality intrudes occasionally. After Roe'sset, there is an AARP sweepstakes drawing.

There are indeed young people here, people who were born years after the Beatles broke up, years even after John died. Legal assistants Jon Campbell, 24, and Daria Kasparek, 23, are here because of their parents, whose musical touchstones became theirs.

"In a sense, it's nostalgia," Kasparek says. The music "reminds me of driving to school in the morning and my mom playing the Beatles' greatest hits."

The re-creation isn't total, of course. The boxing-ring stage from 1964 is gone. The audience capacity in 1964 (about 8,000) is now about half that. John, Paul, George and Ringo were between 20 and 23 years old at the time. At least two of the men of Beatlemania Now are older than 30. Seats in 1964 were $2 to $4. On this Tuesday night, that won't get you a drink ticket ($5), let alone a seat ($100).

A competing Beatles tribute band called the Fab Four is scheduled to perform at the same time at the Howard Theatre in Washington. The coliseum — originally used for hockey, these days for parking, and in between for roller derbies, rodeos and the Ice Capades — will soon undergo a $77 million renovation and revert to its original name, the Uline Arena, thanks to the D.C. Preservation League and Douglas Development.

Where once there were music-driven riots and teenagers losing their minds, there will soon be a boutique honeycomb of offices and retail. The future wins, always.

But on this night, for one night only again, the Beatles haunt the coliseum in shadows and echoes.

"What time is it?" asks George, aka Chris Colon, from the backstage steps.

"8:27," says a stagehand. "No, 8:28."

"I have 8:29," Colon says.

They have to go on at 8:31, because that's when the Beatles went on.

And they do, as they did, and they bang out the hits that were banged out before. "I Saw Her Standing There," "I Want to Hold Your Hand," "She Loves You." Ringo has that hangdog wince. Paul, aka Graham Alexander, is doing that guppy-mouth thing that Paul does, or did.

A lone redhead in the audience is standing and dancing during the first few songs. The rest of the crowd slowly joins her, until nearly everyone is shimmying upright for "Twist and Shout," and wiping their runny noses in the cold.

With the theatrical fog hazing the tableau, with the golden spotlights blurring the hard edges, with the right amount of beer in your gut — you can almost believe it was then and not now.

1
Text Only
Community News Network
  • Wal-Mart to cut prices more aggressively in back-to-school push

    Wal-Mart Stores plans to cut prices more aggressively during this year's back-to-school season and will add inventory to its online store as the chain battles retailers for student spending.

    July 21, 2014

  • Hospitals let patients schedule ER visits

    Three times within a week, 34-year-old Michael Granillo went to the emergency room at Northridge Hospital Medical Center in Los Angeles because of intense back pain. Each time, Granillo, who didn't have insurance, stayed for less than an hour before leaving without being seen by a doctor.

    July 21, 2014

  • Starved Pennsylvania 7-year-old weighed only 25 pounds

    A 7-year-old Pennsylvania boy authorities described as being so underweight he looked like a human skeleton has been released from the hospital.

    July 21, 2014

  • Malaysians wonder 'Why us?' after second loss of airline jet

    It was all too familiar. Grieving families rushing to airport. The flashing television graphics of a plane's last radar appearance. The uncomfortable officials before a heavy thicket of microphones.
    For many Malaysians, the disappearance of Flight 370 in March has been a long trauma from which the nation has not yet recovered.

    July 18, 2014

  • A quarter of the world's most educated people live in the 100 largest cities

    College graduates are increasingly sorting themselves into high-cost, high-amenity cities such as Washington, New York, Boston and San Francisco, a phenomenon that threatens to segregate us across the country by education.

    July 18, 2014

  • Your chocolate addiction is only going to get more expensive

    For nearly two years, cocoa prices have been on the rise. Finally, that's affecting the price you pay for a bar of chocolate - and there's reason to believe it's only the beginning.

    July 18, 2014

  • Facebook tests button to let people shop from its website

    Members on desktop computers or mobile devices can click a "buy" button to make purchases through advertisements or other posts on the world's largest social network, the Menlo Park, California-based company said Thursday in a blog post.

    July 17, 2014

  • The terrible history of passenger planes getting shot out of the sky

    What is more clear is that, if initial reports are true, this would be the deadliest incident of a civilian passenger plane being shot down in modern memory. In some instances, the causes of the disaster are still shrouded in mystery. Here are some of the worst events.

    July 17, 2014

  • 130408_NT_BEA_good kids We're raising a generation of timid kids

    A week ago, a woman was charged with leaving her child in the car while she went into a store. Her 11-year-old child. This week, a woman was arrested for allowing her 9-year-old daughter to go to the park alone. Which raises just one question: America, what the heck is wrong with you?

    July 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • web_starbucks-cof_big_ce.jpg Starbucks sees more Apple-like stores after Colombia debut

    This week Starbucks opened its first location in Colombia — a 2,700-square-foot store with a heated patio, concrete columns, mirrors on the ceiling and walls of colorful plants.

    July 17, 2014 1 Photo

Featured Ads
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide