Just as there will always be an England, there will always be the Beatles. The former may have lost a bit of her regal luster, but the latter reigns eternal. This is something you can count on. No matter how fast we develop, mutate, discard, improve upon, blow up…there will always be the Beatles. This is because the Beatles sit atop an ideological, sociological, and generational shift that occurred during the Cold War era and which affected the largest population demographic–the Baby Boomers–to that date. The Beatles as a band lasted for a decade before imploding, but their music has moved forward through the last fifty years to sound as fresh as it did on first listen.
That is no small accomplishment. The decades since have seen metal, disco, punk, pop, New Wave, grunge, Britpop, indie rock, gothic rock, Nu metal, Rap core, soft rock, country, and hip hop feed the Billboard Hot 100. The Beatles are something about which humankind in general has become helplessly enamored; we are as giddily in love with their catalogue of music as we were when we first saw the Beatles, which for some of us was on February 9th, 1964. On that historic day, the Beatles appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show, watched by forty percent of the American population. Will forty percent of us sit down together today to watch Justin Bieber?
The Impostors are the Beatles tribute band made up of men who are of an age to have recalled the momentous Ed Sullivan appearance. This gives them some unrivaled cred in my book; fifty years ago there simply wasn’t as much music as there is now, so the cultural impact of any one band or performer could be tremendous. You remember where you were when Kennedy was shot and you remember when and where you first heard the Love Me Do.
The Impostors started out as a Lennon/McCartney tribute project back in 1999 and has now grown into a full-fledged band that plays not just Beatles music but also some Hollies and Hendrix. They played the Plaza on Friday night and drew nearly 1,200 concertgoers, including, I am assuming, people out to dinner nearby drawn by the familiar melodies.
The band stayed mostly in the Beatles early-to-mid-range catalogue, starting with Please Please Me and moving forward through the White Album. Unlike California-type tribute bands that go full-blown camp, the Impostors simply got up and played. Friday’s version of the band comprised some of Gainesville’s finest musicians: Mike Boulware, Don David, Michael Derry, Ron Thomas, and Rob Rothschild. If you want to hear top-notch playing you will hear it with them; listening is like attending a master class in rock fundamentals. Without getting lost in a Beatles reverie, each musician brought his own personality and sense of fun to the mix, along with some mega-chops that were especially in evidence with Michael Derry’s blistering leads and Don David’s way with a piece of chewing gum.
Aside from some tykes who ran around yelling in front of the stage, the rest of the audience sat silent for Mike Boulware’s valentine turn with “Yesterday,” a song brilliantly performed without the modern irony with which it is sometimes imbued. That big teddy bear of a man, blonde mustache drooping, sang the song as it had originally been written, as a paean to lost romance.
Without getting overly metaphysical, the concert felt like a reflection of the self, if one defines the self by the emotional resonance of certain popular songs. This type of tribute could easily become overblown or warped into the shape of the band’s ego, but the Impostors kept it honest. There was no finer concert for a late-summer’s night than this. Make sure to see the Impostors the next time they play out; miss them and you’re a nowhere man, baby.
CORRECTION: Michael Derry says The Impostors started in 1984 as a 14- piece band that played a two-show night at the Thomas Center to a rave response. Ron Thomas and Michael were there with the co-founder Mark Loveland and 11 other musicians. Don David joined in 1985, Mike Boulware joined in the early ’90s and Rob Rothschild subsequently. Mark Loveland and Michael Derry hatched the band in 1984.