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American English pays tribute to area fans
Beatles imitators return for sixth year at Rialto Square Theatre

April 13, 2007

Man I was mean but I'm changing my scene

And I'm doing the best that I can.

I admit it's getting better

A little better all the time.


-- "Getting Better," the Beatles


Turn out the light, and what do you see? "I get by with a little help from my friends."

Strawberry fields and marmalade skies, or tangerine trees and marshmallow pies? "Nothing is real and nothing to get hung about."

But Sunday morning you go for a ride and see a "girl with kaleidoscope eyes." And a fool on a hill "sees the sun going down, and the eyes in his head, see the world spinning around."

Those strong images linger.

And the accompanying music lives on, as it all comes to life, again and again, with the look and the sounds of the Fab Four when the Beatles tribute band American English hits the stage again Saturday for the sixth year in a row at the Rialto Square Theatre in Joliet.

"We have a special love for" the Rialto, says Eric Michaels, who has been playing Paul McCartney with American English for the past 17 years.

"The atmosphere, the surroundings, the theater itself, the audience's reaction make it a perfect place for us to perform.

"People in Joliet expect the absolute best, so we have to fine tune ourselves all the time. We're constantly making (our shows) better."

With such a strong fan base in Joliet, in 2005 the band recorded a CD called "Live at the Rialto," says Michaels, a resident of Chicago's Southwest Side.

Although the band performs all over the country, Michaels says about 80 percent of the group's 135 gigs per year take place in the Chicago area.

"We have a great following here, and people know what they're getting."

And while there are some 500 Beatles tribute bands in the United States, only four our five of them take it seriously, Michaels says.

"And we're one of them. We handle it in the correct way, from an acting and musicianship" standpoint.

"You have to be an actor as well as a musician" to be in a tribute band, Michaels says. "It's a pretty hard thing to do, but you become that person (you're paying tribute to) that night."

In addition, the band mates carry all the vintage instruments just like the Beatles did.

"We even painted our guitars for (the Beatles') psychedelic period," Michaels says. "If you're going to do it, you have to do it right. That's what people expect" from American English, as the lads cover the entire career of the Beatles from 1963 to 1970.

A typical American English performance takes audiences on a trip through time, starting with the Beatles' earliest performances, including the early years of "The Ed Sullivan Show," with such hit songs as "She Loves You," "Twist and Shout" and "I Want to Hold Your Hand."

Next, American English re-creates the psychedelic era of the Beatles with selections from "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" and "Magical Mystery Tour," followed by the years and songs of "The White Album," "Let It Be" and "Abbey Road," with such songs as "Hey Jude" and "Let It Be."

Besides Michaels, who plays a left-handed Hofner bass just as McCartney did, as well as the piano and guitar, the group includes Young Hines, of Nashville, as John Lennon, Dave Couture, of Detroit, as George Harrison and Tom Gable, of Chicago's south suburbs, as Ringo Starr.

And the south suburbs' Ken Zemanek, keyboardist and sound architect, fills the role of Beatles producer George Martin.

"Ken is like a virtuoso," Michaels says. "He's what helps set us apart from other Beatles tribute bands. He makes us sound exactly like the Beatles."

Michaels says that sound will carry on, promising the band will tour until people stop coming.

"We love turning people on to Beatles music."


American English

When: 8 p.m. Saturday

Where: Rialto Square Theatre, 15 E. Van Buren St., Joliet

Tickets: $30 to $50

Information: Call (815) 726-6600 or visit