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Ultimate Beatles tribute band coming to Crown Point

Friday, April 13, 2007 12:51 AM CDT

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BY TOM LOUNGES
Times Correspondent

That American English has accumulated glowing testimonials from British Invasion survivors and real life pals of the Beatles like Eric Burdon of the Animals, Spencer Davis of the Spencer Davis Group and Joey Molland of Badfinger, gives credence to the Chicago-based group's claim to being "the best Beatles Tribute of our time."

Together longer than the Beatles themselves lasted, American English is composed of Eric Michaels (Paul McCartney), Doug Couture (George Harrison), Young Hines (John Lennon), and Tom Gable (Ringo Starr).

All four are lifelong Beatles fans. "When I was just a kid I became a big Beatles fan. My voice fit songs like 'She's A Woman' and 'Long Tall Sally,'" said Michaels, who spent years learning to play bass, organ and piano, the same instruments used on stage and in the studio by the real Paul McCartney.

"We have a lot of fun with it, but we keep it on a level where it is always respectable," continued Michaels, who also has a striking physical resemblance to the real McCartney.

"We take what we do seriously. Like any other (tribute) band, you have to be a musician and singer first and foremost. Then you need to learn how to be an actor."

American English has mastered all three, having studied Beatles film and video footage to learn the individual Beatles mannerisms and quips.

From mimicking the voices to the trademark guitar tones, to faithful "in the pocket" drumming that defined the "Mersey Beat" sound, to the Liverpool accents used when speaking to their audience, American English captures the sound of The Beatles.

To ensure authentic sound, the band even employs its own "Fifth Beatle," the honorary title given to both the late Billy Preston and to Beatles producer George Martin. Preston often contributed keyboards and piano to latter-day Beatles albums, while Martin masterminded the experimental process and the orchestration of those sonically advanced albums.

American English's "Fifth Beatle" is the Korg-endorsed synthesizer guru, Ken Zemanek, whose nimble digits manage to fill both roles.

Zemanek not only fills in all the necessary piano and keyboard sounds originally done by Preston, but also the famous horn, string and chorus parts that so indelibly color so many great Beatles recordings.

"We couldn't do it without him," Michaels says of Zemanek. "We call him the 'great one,' because Ken makes it possible for us to have all the instruments."

And one need not close one's eyes to transport themselves back to the 1960s, because American English recreate the visual experience as well as they do the music.

Stage props, vintage instruments from every era of the Beatles career, wigs, multiple costume changes and special lighting complete the total Beatles experience at their concerts.

Their uncanny ability to recreate the full experience of seeing the world's most famous rock band ever, has allowed American English to have exclusivity to many prestigious claims that leave other Beatles tribute acts green with envy.

"For those who have never seen American English, you are going to see the Beatles live," said Sam Leach, who nearly half a century ago promoted many of the Mersey bands during the 1960s, including The Beatles, and now promotes and manages the band.

"The first time I saw them was just like that first night I saw the Beatles."

The concert begins at 8 p.m. with a salute to the "Ed Sullivan Years" when the Beatles conquered America's teens in 1964; then moves through the psychedelic years that yielded such albums as "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" and "Magical Mystery Tour," before ending with the Abbey Road-era and the Beatles' infamous Apple Building roof top final performance as captured on the film, "Let It Be."

"The show builds, and be the end of the night, by 'Hey Jude,' everyone is standing up and singing along," Michaels said.

ifyougo

American English

When: April 21 at 8 p.m., all-ages family show

Where: On The Square Sports Academy, 105 N. Court St., Crown Point

Cost: $15 General Admission, $20 Reserved main floor seating

FYI: (219) 226-1130 or www.otssportsacademy.com

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