Last night was a chance to relive a part of the '60s or, for
those who are short a few decades, to get a taste of what could have
been, as Beatles tribute group "American English: The Complete
Beatles Experience" held the first of three benefit concerts for the
Edward M. Calvo Cancer Foundation.
"Come Together -- A Beatles Tribute" will continue tonight with
two more shows. Tickets for Thursday's festivities were $75 and
included a '60s-themed cocktail gala and a wide array of hors
d'oeuvres. Tonight's shows, which are straight-up concerts, are $35.
This is the group's first
trip to Guam, though American English has been around the world to
put on shows, including to Tokyo and the birthplace of The Beatles:
Liverpool, United Kingdom. The group's second Liverpool show as
headliners of International Beatle Week in 2002 was one of its most
memorable concerts, says front man Eric Michaels, who plays the part
of Paul McCartney. "We played to about 50,000 people and we
closed every night," says Michaels. "There were bands from all over
the world, and we had such a great time. There is nothing like
50,000 drunken English people singing along."
Michaels' favorite song to perform is "Golden Slumbers."
"It was on the last album the Beatles ever recorded together,"
says Michaels. "It's one of Paul's favorites. We do the encore with
that song. It's a beautiful song because it exposes one of the great
things about Paul, his amazing vocal range. It was always one of my
mom's favorites too, so it has a special place for me."
However, songs that get the biggest crowd reaction are a toss-up
between "Twist and Shout" and "Hey, Jude," he says.
"The crowd would go crazy because it's a wild type of song," says
Michaels of "Twist and Shout." For the slower, sweeter melodies of
"Hey, Jude," Michaels noted "people join in and sing in the end, in
"It's awesome -- we love that," he added.
A lot of work went in to becoming a Beatle, says Michaels. Tom
Gable is Ringo Starr, Doug Couture is George Harrison, Young Hines
is John Lennon and their fifth member, Ken Zemanek, fills in for
Beatles producer George Martin as keyboardist and sound architect.
American English studied video and audio to get the speech,
movements and mannerisms down pat. Clothing for every period was
tailored to the Beatles' signature looks.
"We became actors," says Michaels. "I wanted to make (American
English) into an act rather than just be a band."
Like a play, the concert has several acts, covering different
periods of the Beatles' career, from their start in Liverpool to
their rise to worldwide fame. Michaels says he favors the early
years "because it was such madness. It woke up a generation of
people," but that the last period, when the double album "The
Beatles," commonly known as the White Album, was released, struck a
chord with him as well.
"They were saying things that needed to be said and at the
pinnacle of their creativity," says Michaels.
The concerts aren't just about good music, though there was
plenty of that. The events are also about good will, as all proceeds
go to benefit the Edward M. Calvo Cancer Foundation. The foundation
was formed after Edward Calvo's death from liver cancer in 2004,
according to a press release.
Grants from the foundation help cancer patients and their
families to provide for treatment, airfare, and other special needs.
To date, more than 280 grants have been awarded.
Michaels has had his own painful experiences with cancer. His
parents passed away from the disease.
"It's a terrible disease," says Michaels. "I think we really need
to concentrate more as a human race on getting rid of it."
Freelance reporter Sun Mi Kang in Chicago contributed to this