Carry that weight

Fab Faux re-creates late-period Beatles with a fierce obsession for sonic purity

From left: Rich Pagano, Frank Agnello, Will Lee, Jimmy Vivino, and Jack Petruzzelli are devoted to re-creating the Beatles’ studio gems as accurately as possible. From left: Rich Pagano, Frank Agnello, Will Lee, Jimmy Vivino, and Jack Petruzzelli are devoted to re-creating the Beatles’ studio gems as accurately as possible. (Courtesy of Seth Cohen Pr
By Geoff Edgers
Globe Staff / October 23, 2009

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They don’t don wigs or Sgt. Pepper uniforms. What the Fab Faux do wear on their sleeves is a musical obsession with the world’s most famous band.

“I would never go see a tribute band,’’ singer and drummer Rich Pagano admits in an interview ostensibly aimed at explaining why people should go see his Beatles tribute band tomorrow at the Wang Theatre.

But the Fab Faux, he insists, is different. Its five members are Beatle obsessives with regular (well-paid) day jobs who can devote themselves to re-creating on stage the band’s studio gems as accurately and legitimately as possible. Saturday night, the group will play all of the music from a pair of Beatles albums, “Abbey Road’’ and “Let It Be.’’

Pagano needs two drum sets for gigs. The first is tuned to Ringo, circa 1963-’67. The second kit is for the later Beatle years. There is also the matter of sonic purity. Instead of re-creating studio sounds on a synthesizer - a standard concert practice even for genuine Beatle Paul McCartney - the Fab Faux keeps it real. That means somebody has to ring the fire bell during “Penny Lane,’’ play a bass harmonica on “Fool on the Hill,’’ and blow into an Indian instrument called a shehnai on “The Inner Light.’’

“As far as the correct inversions, the correct harmonies, I think we’re the first to sit in a circle and go through every bootleg, every actual mix and come up with the actual versions,’’ Pagano says.

The Beatles, in case you hadn’t heard of them, broke up in 1970 and last toured in 1966. In the decades since, countless tribute bands have emerged. The Fab Faux, though, formed to fill a specific void. They want to emphasize this later period when John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr were making their most acclaimed music - from “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’’ to “Let It Be.’’ So fans eager to hear the band’s most acclaimed work live either had to settle for cover bands or snippets offered on solo McCartney tours.

Then the Fab Faux arrived.

The band was born in 1998 when bassist Will Lee, longtime member of Paul Shaffer’s band on “The Late Show With David Letterman,’’ played a tour as part of Hiram Bullock’s backing band with Pagano. Lee had been impressed by the drummer, particularly at how well he captured Starr’s style.

Not long after, Lee was at a club in New York listening to another band when he ran into the venue’s booking agent. “I said, ‘If I put together a Beatles band, would you hire us to play here?’ ’’ he remembers. “He said, ‘Yeah, I’d give you a gig.’ ’’

The band added three others, including guitarist Jimmy Vivino from the Max Weinberg Seven on “Late Night With Conan O’Brien,’’ well-traveled guitarist Frank Agnello and keyboardist Jack Petruzzelli, a member of Joan Osborne’s band, and began to play small clubs. The Fab Faux are far from alone on the Beatles tribute circuit; the London Independent newspaper recently estimated there are nearly 2,000. The Fab Faux, though, may be the only group to have successfully performed a live version of “Revolution #9,’’ the 8-minute, 22-second sound collage on the Beatles “White Album.’’

“Doing it right meant to me we couldn’t be a four-piece band, but would have to be at least a five-piece band,’’ Lee says. “It really does take a lot of musicians to pull this stuff off. At times, the Fab Faux adds the Hogshead Horns and Creme Tangerine Strings on stage. A harpist also performs on some songs.

“The way technology is now, we have sequences where we can play “I Am the Walrus’’ or “Strawberry Fields Forever’’ but there’s an impact if there’s an orchestra behind you,’’ says John “Muzz’’ Muzzy, the drummer for the Boston-based Beatles tribute band Beatlejuice. “One of the reasons the Beatles themselves stopped touring is because they could never re-create this music they did in the studio.’’

The challenges of re-creating those studio moments live is not lost on even the Beatles. Lee has occasionally played in McCartney’s backing band and remembers mentioning the Fab Faux to Sir Paul a few years ago.

“I was aware of his disdain for Beatle bands and felt threatened to come clean and say, ‘Look, I have a band and want you to know about it. We don’t wear wigs and we don’t pretend to be you. But we do honor the great recordings,’ ’’ Lee recounts. “His first question was ‘Do you do “Tomorrow Never Knows’’?’ and I said, ‘Of course.’ ’’

Geoff Edgers can be reached at

THE FAB FAUX Perform Saturday at 8 p.m. at the Wang Theatre, Citi Performing Arts Center. Tickets: $45-$125. 617-482-9393 or event/3281

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