By Doug Koztoski
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Fifty years after the Beatles’ first concert in the United States, tribute band Beatlemania Now paid homage to the Fab Four with a re-enactment of the historic event at Uline Arena.
Even the weather played its part for the sell-out crowd.
“I think it was this cold here 50 years ago,” quipped Tommy Roe, who opened the 2014 show and had played a similar role at the 1964 concert. Roe sounded solid as he sang his hits including, “Sheila,” (No. 1, 1962), “Everybody (No. 3, 1963) and “Dizzy (No. 1, 1969).
At 8:31 p.m. on Feb. 11, 2014 — fifty years right down to the minute — Beatlemania Now plucked the first notes of “Roll Over Beethoven” before an audience of roughly 2,700. the band went on to play The Beatles’ entire 12-song set from 1964, when approximately 8,000 people watched John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr in person, just two days after the group’s historic first appearance on “The Ed Sullivan Show.”
Back then, Uline Arena was known as The Washington Coliseum, and it was used for hockey and other sports. Lately, it has been a parking garage, essentially gutted of its seats. The locale will soon be renovated.
The members of Beatlemania Now channeled their counterparts’ mannerisms and looked appropriately fab in gray suits with black lapels, mop-top wigs and a little makeup. The look was good, but the music for the concert dubbed “Yesterday and Today” was excellent. Among the tunes in the set: “I Saw Her Standing There,” “All My Loving,” “Please, Please Me,” “She Loves You,” and “I Want To Hold Your Hand.”
After the 35-minute set, which ended with “Long Tall Sally,” the group returned to the stage to perform various tunes from “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” “Magical Mystery Tour,” “The White Album,” and “Abbey Road,” with quick breaks between each album’s performance for costume changes. Beatlemania Now concluded its roughly 100-minute performance with “Oh! Darling.”
Mike Mitchell attended the 2014 event, but he was not snapping pictures as he did in 1964, when The Beatles performed at the former sports venue with the curve-shaped roof. As an 18-year-old amateur photographer a half-century ago, Mitchell garnered a press pass from a local magazine and took hundreds of images of the shaggy-haired rockers.
“It was an amazing day,” Mitchell recalled. “The girls were screaming like crazy, and if you were more than five or 10 rows back you couldn’t hear anything,” he recalled.
Nineteen of Mitchell’s images from that evening in 1964 were on display at the anniversary concert. One of those pictures, a group photo shot from behind, with The Beatles standing shoulder to shoulder, basically in silhouette, was the main image featured at the arena for the 2014 celebration.
Mitchell also photographed The Beatles at a Baltimore show later in 1964, but the second event couldn’t hold a candle to the first he had attended.
“The DC concert was so much more energetic, the band and the crowd,” Mitchell said.
Maryland sisters Patty Hutchinson and Margie Riordan attended The Beatles’ Baltimore concert decades ago and also showed up for the 2014 Washington, D.C. tribute event.
Riordan remembered the Baltimore performance with joy. “They really played well, even with the noise,” she said.
The D.C. crowd sang, clapped and danced along with Beatlemania Now. If you squinted just a little at the stage, you could say to yourself, “I (almost) saw them stand-ing there.”
Riordan smiled as she revisited The Beatles’ music 50 years later at the tribute concert.
“It takes you back,” she said. GM