Chuck Haralson and Ken Smith were inducted into the Arkansas Tourism Hall of Fame during the 43rd annual Governor’s Conference on Tourism
Mark, Gary, Tom and Terry may not have the same ring to it as John, Paul, George and Ringo, but 1964 … The Tribute sounded and looked an awful lot like those young Liverpool boys in bringing Beatlemania to Robinson Music Center on Thursday.
Taking the stage before a full auditorium, these guys proved they were pros from the get-go. Performing for more than two decades, the four-piece American band, led by Gary Grimes as “Paul McCartney,” has achieved the aura and appeal of the Beatles complete with mid-’60s mop tops and believable British accents. This night was no exception. Opening with “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” the group played tight, spirited renditions of pre-“Rubber Soul” classics.
Although all musicians were on point, Gary, as “Paul,” gave the best performance. Bathed in red-orange light, his round face resembled Paul’s. In a spot-on false accent, his voice became Paul’s, too, as he joked with “George” (guitarist Tom Work) and charmed the crowd. During a talkative first set, Gary drew big laughs as he teased us gleefully (“I got a feel you know the words to these new songs.”) before he and the band bobbed and be-bopped into “From Me to You,” “Nowhere Man,” “Can’t Buy Me Love,” “A Hard Day’s Night” and others. Delivering each song back to back, the four paused only to take a bow in unison in between songs during a well-rehearsed, well-choreographed show.
Slowing things down, the band did the low-key “This Boy.” Then “Paul” called upon “Ringo” (drummer Terry Manfredi) to sing a couple of tunes, including “Act Naturally.” Over the drums, “Ringo’s” voice came across muffled and monotone, but to this playful crowd, who clapped and sang along with – and sometimes over – him, “Ringo” could do no wrong.
For “Eight Days a Week,” “Paul” asked the audience for help. Scanning our row — from an older couple, to a group of teenage boys, to a young girl on her dad’s lap — everybody’s lips were moving to form “Hold me” (clap clap), “Love me” (clap clap).
After a short intermission, the band returned to loud applause. “Paul” announced the next song would be “as close as we get to eating the mushrooms,” and led the band into “Paperback Writer.” Hitting the three-part harmonies provided one of the best moments of a very special evening. “Yellow Submarine” followed this trippy number. Somewhere in the middle of the second act, the band sang the melodic “Michelle“ (with that great line: “I love you, I love you, I love you, that’s all I wanna say”). During “Day Tripper,” three older women ran down the aisle to dance in front of the stage, calling to mind images of young girls fainting over the Fab Four in its heyday.
Everybody stood and danced for “She Loves You,” the last song of the band’s two-part show. While the foursome was off-stage, the crowd whistled for an encore. During our short wait, a woman in front of me said, “They’re gonna do ‘Hey Jude,” causing a female friend to clutch her chest and exclaim, “Oh, God.” Instead, we got: “I Wanna Be Your Man” and “Rock and Roll Music,” concluding a fun-filled show that proved refreshing — even if you had heard it all before.