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Fab Four tribute band brings iconic look, sound


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Singer Jim Owen is perfectly fine being upstaged by nostalgia at his concerts. Sentiment triggered much of his passion for a British band whose jangly guitars, fuller arrangements and sweet harmonies caught his heart as much as his ear.

As a child of the 1960s, how could he turn off the turntable that turned his musical world upside down? When Owen’s dad procured a Super 8mm copy of the February 1964 musical explosion called the Beatles on television’s top-rated “The Ed Sullivan Show,” Owen understood all the fuss.

“Dad knew what a Beatles nut I was in the 1970s,” Owen said, mentioning that he was born two years after the show that made crying girls as fashionable as moptop haircuts. “Yes, there was a lot of screaming, but you certainly could get a pretty good appreciation of the kind of live band they were.”

Same for the video he got soon afterward of the group’s classic Shea Stadium show before 55,600 fans in New York City on Aug. 15, 1965.

The 47-year-old Owen and his band mates, known as the globetrotting Classical Mystery Tour, will take a Columbus audience back to yesterday. The audience will have a chance to hear at least 20 songs from the Beatles tribute band in a 90-minute performance with the Columbus Indiana Philharmonic. Showtime is 7:30 p.m. Feb. 1 at Judson Erne Auditorium, 1400 25th St.

“What first got me into the Beatles was the sound of the guitars and the production quality,” he said, highlighting “I Feel Fine” and “Norwegian Wood” as prime examples.

Owen, who lives in Los Angeles, first began performing publicly as John Lennon at age 16. He put together Classical Mystery Tour both for solo dates and shared concerts with orchestras in 1996.

Come together

Who: Beatles tribute band Classical Mystery Tour with the Columbus Indiana Philharmonic, performing more than 20 Beatles classics

When: 7:30 p.m. Feb. 1

Where: Judson Erne Auditorium, 1400 25th St., Columbus

Tickets: $15 to $50, at thecip.org

Information: 376-2638, thecip.org

Band members also played the Beatles in Broadway’s “Beatlemania.”

Copying the nuances of the music, featuring everything from soaring horns to energetic strings, posed a challenge since music charts are not available. Arranger Martin Herman listened to the Fab Four’s songs repeatedly to catch nuances. Classical Mystery Tour’s presentation captures three eras, complete with detailed outfits: the black-suit early and mid-1960s; the Sgt. Pepper segment; and the Abby Road period.

The fact that the concert is unfolding eight days before the 50th anniversary of the Fab Four’s first television appearance in the United States is a booking element that David Bowden, Columbus Indiana Philharmonic music director, wanted as part of the evening.

And the sound while imitating Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr?

“I think they sound and look so similar to the Beatles,” Bowden said. “But no concert by the actual Beatles was ever this broad or included this many of their hit songs. It’s like you’re in heaven.”

Bowden already was performing as a very advanced fourth-grade piano student in his native North Carolina the first time he heard his first Beatles tune, “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” over the gym loudspeaker at halftime of a local basketball game. He liked what he heard, even though his parents usually forbade him from listening to rock radio because they feared it would lead him into trouble.

When the conductor backspaces through the Beatles catalog of tunes, he always lands on one particular favorite, “The Long and Winding Road.” He jumped into a soft and smooth a cappella version of it with no prompting during a recent chat.

“It is probably one of the finest ballads ever written,” Bowden said. “I love the overall beauty of it. It has such a poignancy. And it touches the heart. That’s what great music does.”

Owen and his mates long have faced one great challenge with attracting new audiences to their shows.

“People love the real Beatles so much,” he said, “they don’t want to be disappointed.”

But when some finally attend, they admit to him after the concert that they cried during the set.

All things considered, not all that different from the young girls of 1964.

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