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Concert review

"Classical Mystery Tour: A Tribute to the Beatles" by the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra

Conducted by Ron Spigelman.

Friday night in Kleinhans Music Hall. Program repeats at 8 tonight.

This could be a harsh truth for many to swallow, but Mozart is bigger than the Beatles. Anyone who caught both the Mozart Requiem last Saturday and the Magical Mystery Tour on Friday couldn't help but notice that while the Beatles show drew a very large crowd, the crowd for Mozart was bigger. Younger, too.

"If you remember the '60s, you're probably in your 60s," cracked Jim Owen, who portrays John Lennon in the Magical Mystery Tour, which continues tonight at Kleinhans Music Hall.

And speaking of age: The Magical Mystery Tour boasts of having been together eight years. Isn't that almost as long as the Beatles were together?

After eight years, they definitely have the Fab Four down pat. Jim Owen, especially, is uncanny as Lennon. He has all his mannerisms down, every nuance. He even walks the way Lennon walked. When he changed into that trademark white suit, the kind Lennon sported, the crowd went wild.

Tony Kishman strongly resembles Paul, too, even if he can't quite hit those high notes the way Paul could. (Who can? I'm not blaming him.) He even took us into the Wings era, with "Silly Love Songs" and "Someone's Knockin' at the Door" (with the BPO's fine trombones putting in their say, too).

Carmine Grippo somehow hints at the endearing awkwardness that Ringo projects, and his takes on "The Yellow Submarine" and "With a Little Help From My Friends" sounded alarmingly close to reality. "Good Night," which he sang with a cushioning of strings, was sweet and touching.

And Thomas Teeley, without trying too hard, makes a convincing George and brought an appropriately dreamy quality to "Here Comes the Sun" and "Something."

The musicians, all real pros, keep things moving. Their accents are good, but they keep banter to a minimum. Endlessly entertaining, they gave us two sets of songs, from the crowd pleaser "Ob-la-di, Ob-la-da" to the raucous "I Am the Walrus" (with key words omitted, this being a family show).

While we heard a few early Beatles numbers, the group seemed to revel in the more hallucinogenic songs which, after all, make better use of the orchestra. "She's Leaving Home," with its trailing lines, and "A Day in the Life," with its shocking buildup of sound, spotlighted the BPO. The orchestra, led by the grooving Associate Conductor Ron Spigelman, did a good job of duplicating the complex audio effects the Beatles incorporated into those songs and others, like "Strawberry Fields Forever."

It's amazing how well the orchestra fits into this music. The Beatles might have made a fuss when strings were introduced into "The Long and Winding Road," but we've gotten used to them, and they never sounded better than they did Friday. Cellos added a rich tone to "Live or Let Die." "Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band," sung with the appropriate uniforms, was set off by marvelous brass fanfare.

Funny, the Beatles haven't changed at all. Could it be that only the rest of us have? Imagine.


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