For the 10th year, guitarist and Beatles enthusiast Chuck Credo IV has pulled together a number of New Orleans musicians to celebrate the music and mood of the Beatles at the New Orleans Beatles Festival. Jeff “The Dude” Dowd and Twelve Years a Slave hero (and my beau on the premiere episode of this season of HBO’s Treme), Rob Steinberg, joined us for a night of singing and swaying to familiar hits at the House of Blues. The evening started much as it had last year, with soulful Jimmy Robinson alone with his guitar playing a couple of tunes.
Next up was 80’s tribute band, the Molly Ringwalds. The trouble with the 80’s is that there were no Beatles then, only former Beatles. That said, each of the fab 4 did release plenty of popular tunes during that era and the Molly Ringwalds brought many of them to life while videos and images featuring Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson flashed on screens behind them. I’ll admit that Say, Say, Say is not my favorite Beatles offering but it’s a fun song that the Ringwalds played the heck out of.
Next up were the Topcats. As I said last year, “The Topcats do what Beatlemania attempted, give me the sensation of seeing the Beatles live but as they might play today, as older, seasoned men.” Before we arrived, The Dude said he hoped the night would have lots of singing along, a sense of celebrating our gathered love for all things Beatles. The Topcats did not disappoint, diving right into a series of songs from the band’s “mop top” era that got everyone dancing and shouting lyrics through big, nostalgic smiles.
The crowd ranged from 21 to 70’s and, funnily enough, my favorite audience member was a 20-ish guy who knew almost every word and alternated between air guitar and air drums. That he was young enough to be the child of most of the people there (and the grandchild of a few) is a testament to the endurance of the music of the Beatles and their continuous impact on culture.
Every year, the format changes a bit while some things remain the same. Rather than the parade of different flavors of bands (with set-up breaks between) that we were treated to last year, this year, the rest of the musical acts joined in with the Topcats who held the stage through an entire retrospective. Though I missed special treats like John Gros’ Randy Newman-like take on Maxwell’s Hammer and his Cajun reggae version of Yellow Submarine, I loved that the evening flowed along through era after era. Though there were fewer songs the musicians “made their own,” the evening allowed for pure Beatles music played mostly as the band originally imagined it and brought to life by amazing musicians.
Chuck Credo’s solo on While My Guitar Gently Weeps was beautiful. I was thrilled to see that Susan Cowsill was indeed invited to join in the evening along with bass player, Will Langford. I would love to hear another woman or two take on the tunes. My picks for next year are Margie Perez, who adds something special to all of the many bands she sings with and I continue to hope they consider the perfect synergy of having Cajun angel, Sarah Quintana, sing Michelle in French.
Bayou favorite, Marc Broussard, joined the ranks and, after singing favorites like Long and Winding Road and Good Day Sunshine, he dove into a rousing rendition of George Harrison’s My Sweet Lord, complete with a choir. Twist and Shout got the crowd dancing with abandon. Beatles Fest perennial, Rockin Dopsie, Jr. took the stage by storm during Get Back then launched into his annual rendition of Come Together.
The evening ended as it had last year, with all the musicians crowding the stage for a singalong of Hey Jude. Arms waved in the air as bodies swayed and everyone wailed la la la‘s. The Dude couldn’t have been happier. It was exactly what he had hoped for and a new excuse to return next summer. I can’t wait to see what magical mystery Credo has in store for us next year.