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September 5, 2008

Interview with American English, Beatles tribute band

All you need is love. Plus really well-made Beatles wigs, authentic Beatles boots (purchased in Liverpool, no less) singing voices to match those of the original Fab Four, the ability to play guitar, bass, drums, piano or any combination thereof, and slip into pithy Beatle-ese with the greatest of ease. Accomplish all this (and more) and you can become one of the best and most enduring Beatles tribute bands in the world -- otherwise known as American English.

The fabulous foursome (currently Eric Michaels as Paul McCartney, Young Hines as John Lennon, Tom Gable as Ringo Starr and Doug Couture as George Harrison) is in town this weekend to headline the YEA! Highland Park Benefit at Ravinia. The annual concert benefits numerous youth arts, education and social outreach programs in Highland Park.

The Sun-Times spoke with Michaels, who has portrayed Paul McCartney for more than two decades in American English.

Q. What's the best part about being a "Beatle"?

Eric Michaels: That when you get up on that stage, it just all comes together -- the singing, the acting, the playing -- and the applause from the crowd that means you've nailed every aspect of it.

Q. What's the first Beatles song you ever learned?

EM: "She Loves You," when I was 13.

Q. The most challenging Beatles music you had to learn?

EM: We'll be playing the entire "Abbey Road" album as part of the Ravinia show, and that has been the most challenging thing for us by far.

Q. How important was it for you guys to play this particular gig?

EM: As a Chicago musician, Ravinia is the most coveted place to play -- to be taken as a serious performer.

-- Miriam Di Nunzio

• • American English, 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Ravinia Festival, Green Bay and Lake-Cook, Highland Park. Benefit tickets, $250 (includes reserved concert seating with a pre-concert buffet dinner beginning at 5 p.m.). Regular tickets: $45 pavilion, $15 lawn; www.ravinia.org or call (847) 266-5100