When Mark Benson founded 1964: The Tribute, he thought Baby Boomers would enjoy the act that honors The Beatles.
That was 36 years ago the audiences are all ages.
“We never intended for this to be full time,” Benson said with a laugh. “We thought it would be a Baby Boomer thing; you know, class reunions. We’ve played Carnegie Hall 14 times. We played Red Rocks in Colorado every year since 2004.
“The crazy thing was we were not really prepared for the fact there’s no age group that doesn’t like this.”
He chalked it up to The Beatles’ universal theme of love and happiness. “So many of the songs are positive and about love,” Benson said. “We can see three generations of a family sitting together there. No one’s complaining and no one’s leaving early.”
When 1964: The Tribute plays the Celebrity Theatre on Friday, November 15, it will focus on the seven American releases, before, Benson said, the psychedelic music or solo material—from “Meet the Beatles” to “Revolver.”
“We show you what it was like if you were lucky enough to see The Beatles when they were touring in the early ’60s,” he said. “It’s more of a replication of a Beatles concert than a Beatles story.”
Through his work with 1964: The Tribute, Benson had learned about the importance of pop music. Thanks to The Beatles, pop music was legitimized.
“It was never thought of as a ‘real living,’” he said. “Suddenly four guys were on the most popular television show of the time. None of them went to college and the place was packed with screaming girls. Many men thought, ‘This looks like a good job.’”
After that, creativity in music “took off,” Benson explained.
“With the British invasion, I remember you didn’t have to be good looking and talented, you just had to be English,” he added with a laugh.
Based in Akron, Ohio, 1964: The Tribute sticks with the Fab Four’s exact moves. Improvising is out of the question.
“It’s not easily understood by people who don’t do this for a living,” Benson said. “An actor studies a part. When they do it for a movie, they’re done. We have to learn a song and body and stage movements, and we can never change them. If you’re an artist of any sort—a dancer, photographer, painter—your natural tendency is to progress in some direction. Our challenge is to learn something a certain way and never ever change it. Some days, I just want to do a Pete Townshend windmill with my arms, but I can’t.”
The band’s process works. Benson said he was particularly moved by a 6-year-old girl’s thoughts after a show.
“This 6-tear-old girl was totally into meeting us—smiling, jumping up and down and excited,” Benson recalled. “She was 6 years old. She came up to the table and I said, ‘What is your name?’ She said Angel. I told her she looked really happy. She said to me, ‘It’s because of love.’
“I started thinking about all the music we played, the entire song list. I counted every time love, lover, lovely was used. If you watch our entire show, you hear that word over 100 times in one night. It brought into focus for me why people like this music so much. It’s filled with goodness. How can you not be happy?"