Fabulous. Fantastic. Phenomenal.

This month marks the thirteenth anniversary of the faux five, which puts them a couple years past what the fab four were able to manage.  What is it that keeps them together, and has kept their fans coming back for well over a decade?

The Fab Faux played Lisner Auditorium in Washington, DC last Friday — here’s how one fan described the show on Facebook:

Last night was my fifth Fab Faux show and it was the best yet! Not only did they do the entire Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, they opened with an incredible set including “Little Child” and “Anna” (performed live by them for the first time!). Jimmy (Ravi-oli) Vivino is a god! His “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” and “Within …You/Without You” left me breathless.

Will’s “She’s Leaving Home” made the poignant (if cliched) song remarkably moving. Frank, Rich and Jack (loved the quirky “When I’m Sixty-four”) proved once again that the Fab Faux consists of five of the greatest musicians playing today. Great strings! Great horns!! Great harp!!! Great show!!!

~ Rosalyn Vergara – The Fab Faux Fan Page

Deconstructing this brief review will reveal five elements that make that Fab Faux fabulous:

1. The Songs – At the end of the show, Will Lee gave thanks to the the players, the crew, the audience, and most of all, the Beatles: “for creating this wonderful music for us to share with you.”  Without the Beatles catalog of over 200 songs, produced in just over a decade (1960 – 1970), none of this would be possible.  Of course it’s not just the number of songs, but the quality, breadth, depth, and variety that makes the Fab Faux shows work.

If these same musicians devoted themselves to the works of Hamilton, Joe Frank, and Reynolds (1970 – 1980), would anyone be going to see them for the fifth time?  Didn’t think so.  Thank you, Beatles!

2. Musicianship – In other hands, this material could be (and has been) a disaster.  Imagine that the Beatles were still around and looking for a group of established studio musicians to serve as sidemen for their live shows.  Extend that to its magical conclusion and you have the Fab Faux.

Just as conductors study the scores of past masters and hire the finest musicians to recreate their works, the Fab Faux have studied the Beatles and carefully create note-for-note, tone-for tone, effect-for-effect, and perfectly timed versions of their studio recordings.   And although they don’t attempt to mimic accents, they do put together transcendent harmonies and moving lead vocals for each song.

3. The Show – When the Beatles went into the studio to record Sgt. Pepper’s, they were fed up with touring and had no intention of performing the songs live.  Which makes it all the more impressive that the Faux can pull off the Beatles most ambitious works in concert.

It’s one thing to hear the horns, bells, whistles, blocks, and alarm clocks on the Beatles’ recordings, but it’s something else to see them brought to life with uncanny precision on stage.

Erin Hill joins the Fab Faux on stage for "She's Leaving Home"

4. Supporting Cast – The five core members of the Fab Faux can (and do) deliver the Beatles straight-ahead rock and roll on their own, but a larger ensemble is required to faithfully recreate some of the songs with dance-hall, classical, and psychedelic elements.  So we have the Hogshead Horns and the Creme Tangerine Strings joining in as needed, and a harp rolled out on stage when it’s time for “She’s Leaving Home.”

Sure it would be easier (and a whole lot cheaper) to pull up the harp patch on a synthesizer, but would it sound or look as good?  Same for the piccolo trumpet solo on “Penny Lane,” the strings on “I am a Walrus” and the misery sticks on “When I’m 64.”

5. Respect – For some, the Beatles music is a like a sacred trust that should be preserved and kept pure.  To others…well, here’s how Nathan Rabin described the ending of Peter Frampton and the Bee Gee’s film version of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band: “The closing number is a maraschino cherry of awfulness atop a ten-scoop Sundae of pure crap.”

The Fab Faux have found the perfect balance of respect and joy for sharing the Beatles music, and possess the chops to deliver a fun and meaningful musical experience.  In a world of machine-made, auto-tuned, and mass-marketed music, the Faux (ironically?) provide a more genuine handcrafted alternative.  And we <3 them for that.  Peace and love.  Peace and love…

Click here for pictures from the show, and here for our review of the 2010 Fab Faux concert in DC.

photo: David D’Agostino