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Updated: Thursday, August 2, 2007 3:38 PM CDT 
Beatles tribute act American English pays attention to the music |  digg | newsvine | facebook
What makes a great tribute band?

"You have to take the music seriously," answered Eric Michaels, one-fourth of the Beatles tribute act American English, "and look the part as much as you can.

"You gotta sing like The Beatles and play like The Beatles and they were good," he said, emphasizing "good."

American English, which performs tonight at Decatur Celebration, is about as close to the real thing as they come. Sam Leach, an original promoter of The Beatles, has dubbed the band "The Beatles incarnate."

Members of the Chicago-based band include Michaels as Paul McCartney, Doug Couture as George Harrison, Tom Gable as Ringo Starr and Young Hines as John Lennon. They not only walk and dress like the Beatles, they even talk like them.

"Part of our job is acting," Michaels said. "You actually have to be a musician and be an actor."

As musicians, the band works hard to match the instrumentation of Beatles' songs, with the help of its fifth member, Ken Zemanek, keyboardist and percussionist.

"He's kind of our George Martin of The Beatles," Michaels said, referring to The Beatles' recording producer. "Everything sounds accordingly as The Beatles would play.

"We try to do everything picture-perfect," including their costumes, re-created to represent the Beatles' different time eras, including the psychedelic "Sgt. Pepper" era, with decorated guitars and flashy jackets.

"Our look changes right before your very eyes," Michaels said.

The band gained an inside source to the Beatles in 2000, when Leach became their promotions manager.

Michaels said Leach often tells the band stories of The Beatles, like McCartney's regular use of the proverb, "A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush."

"I almost feel like I know Paul," Michaels said, "though I never met him."

Averaging 135 shows a year, the band has performed worldwide including the Caribbean, Japan and England and "all over the bloody place," Michaels said demonstrating his English accent.

The band's crowning moment is when they headlined the International Beatle Week in Liverpool.

"The streets were filled with 50,000 people," Michaels said. "They love what you put into it.

"Also, we were in Japan, and they don't speak English, but they're singing every word. It's great to see The Beatles so universal."

WHAT: American English, a Beatles tribute act.

WHEN: 6:15 and 10 p.m. today.

WHERE: Show Stage.


Alicia Spates can be reached at or 421-6986.

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