Three Rivers Commercial-News | Robert Tomlinson, Staff Writer
THREE RIVERS — When Mark Benson, founding member of the Beatles tribute band 1964… The Tribute, first started the band back in the early 1980s, he never thought it would get as big as it is, 36 years later.
“We thought this was going to be something we would do once, like a baby boomer thing, like we do oldies clubs or class reunions once every couple months just in town,” Benson said. “It just took off. Thirty-six years later, we’re doing 80 to 90 shows a year, every year.”
One of those 80 to 90 shows of 1964, which Rolling Stone has dubbed “the best Beatles Tribute on Earth,” will be coming to the Riviera Theatre in Three Rivers Saturday, Feb. 1 at 8 p.m. The band covers songs from the first seven Beatles albums released in the United States, all the way up to “Revolver.”
“The idea of 1964… The Tribute is to show you what it was like if you were lucky enough to get a ticket to see the Beatles when they were actually out on tour,” Benson said. “We try to show you what the Beatles actually performed. All the studio stuff, all the movie stuff, we do ‘Hard Day’s Night,’ ‘Help,’ ‘Twist and Shout,’ ‘She Love You,’ ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand,’ all the early rockers and ballads and things like that, stuff they actually played out on the road.”
The band is made up of Benson, who plays John Lennon; Mac Ruffing, who plays Paul McCartney; Tom Work, who plays George Harrison; and Robert Potter, who plays Ringo Starr. Each one is dressed as they would’ve looked during the years they toured, and the equipment is similar to what would have been used for a Beatles concert. To further demonstrate the accuracy the show portrays, Ruffing, a natural right-hander, spent the better part of a year training himself to play the bass guitar left handed, like McCartney did.
Benson said the inspiration behind starting the tribute band was watching a video of the 1970s Broadway musical “Beatlemania.”
“We’ve seen some footage of the Broadway show ‘Beatlemania,’ and seemed like it would be a fun thing to do to make it more of a show instead of just Top 40, and to actually get the suits, get the boots, do the hairstyles, and do the dialogue between the songs, get the right guitars and amplifiers and stuff like that,” Benson said.
Benson said each of the band members were influenced by The Beatles growing up in the era of anticipating the newest record or the next time they were on television.
“The Beatles had something nobody else had. It had four different guys in the band, all of whom could hold the spotlight,” Benson said. “Most bands are centered around a central figure or duo, like Mick [Jagger} and Keith [Richards] or Steven Tyler and Joe Perry, there’s a focus point in the group. Whereas the Beatles, any one of them could sing lead, and the other two could sing backup, so no one had to be Elvis all night long.”
It won’t be the first time 1964 has been on the Riviera stage, having performed a couple of times previously. Benson said the makeup of the Riviera looks like a theatre the Beatles would have performed in back in the day.
“The modern day performing arts centers are gorgeous, but when you see the old newsreels of them playing in theatres in England, when you have a place like the Riviera, it just adds to the look.” Benson said. “Whether people realize it looks right or not, it just does.”
Benson said the show will be a great time for the entire family, and is looking forward to performing in Three Rivers.
“You can bring anyone of any age to this show,” Benson said. “What they’re going to see is stepping back in the time as if they were lucky to see the Beatles when they were on tour.”
Tickets to 1964… The Tribute are $40 in advance and $45 the day of the show. Tickets can be purchased on the Riviera Theatre’s website or by stopping into the box office (open at 4pm). More information on the show can be found at www.1964thetribute.com.