The Grant Campus recently welcomed the Beatles tribute band Strawberry Fields to the Van Nostrand Theatre. Students from all three campuses joined together with friends and family to sing along with the four musicians who vividly recreate the Beatles — from authentic costumes to the sound of instruments. Every show is a carbon-copy reproduction of the real deal.
Playing shows all over the United States andthe world, is amongst the most commonly-known Beatles tribute band. They also won the first place ribbon at Beatlefest ‘97 – the battle of the Beatles bands.The group has been performing for more than a decade portraying one of the most recognized bands in music history. Originally part of Beatlemania on Broadway, Tony Garofalo (John Lennon), Billy J. Ray (Paul McCartney), Preston Elliott (George Harrison), and Gerard Barberine Jr. (Ringo Starr) studied the mannerisms, costumes, playing styles, and vocal techniques of the original members. They also speak in Liverpoolian accents for even more emphasis and similarity.
Strawberry Fields took its audience on a musical journey starting in 1964 when the Beatles first arrived in the U.S. It performed songs from the first four albums that included classics such as; She Loves You, Hard Days Night, I’ve Just Seen a Face, and Twist and Shout. The audience got up off their seats when the band said, “Everybody get up, it’s a rock and roll concert!” Gerard Barberine Jr. (Ringo Starr) even sang a solo while he and his bandmates were dressed in dark suits with thin ties and shaggy hair.
The group then moved onto the next two stages of Beatles music. For the 1967 era of psychedelic music, they were dressed in Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band costumes. The songs that were included in this set were favorites like Strawberry Fields Forever, All You Need Is Love, Penny Lane, and I am the Walrus. The audience swayed along to the music that reminded them of the times of peace and love.
The four then changed costumes yet again and said to the audience, “Let’s take it to the roof!” – which was in reference to the final performance of the Beatles that occurred in the Let It Be documentary in 1970 when the group unexpectedly held a concert on a rooftop in London. The more politically-involved albums were part of the last set including songs from Abbey Road, The White Album, and Let It Be. Also, Preston Elliott (George Harrison) played a beautiful acoustic “bootleg version” of While My Guitar Gently Weeps that really wowed the audience.
Strawberry Fields performed an encore with Back in the U.S.S.R and Revolution. This got the entire audience up and out of their seats singing along and dancing to these classic songs.6
The audience consisted of people ranging from toddlers to grandparents, students and faculty, and families joining together to celebrate the music of John Lennon and Sir Paul McCartney. Strawberry Fields members cracked jokes in-between songs just like the Beatles would have done because they were known to be quite the kidders.
The members of Strawberry Fields are devoted Beatles fans who have chosen an interesting career that requires intense training to become the look-alikes to the real thing. Tony Garofalo (John Lennon) has been playing guitar since he was 5 years old. His mother was constantly listening to the Beatles and was always surrounded by their music. He eventually started to learn the guitar and singing styles of John Lennon and became quite good at it, “I enjoyed playing that character,” he said.
Garofalo joined the Broadway cast of Beatlemania in the late 1970s playing John Lennon. When the Broadway rendition ended, the company toured as a traveling cast and when it was over he decided to create his own Beatles tribute band. He asked his fellow actors from Beatlemania to join him and in 1991, Strawberry Fields was formed.
With the initial break-up of the Beatles in 1970 and the deaths of John in 1980 and George in 2001, “[Strawberry Fields] gives everyone a chance to see the Beatles,” said Garofalo. “Especially the kids.” “The music of the Beatles,” he said, “is never going to die so it gives them a chance to see the experience.”
And although the men have an uncanny resemblance to the original four, it takes much more than to just look and sound like them solely. “It’s not only for one guy to sound like the part but as a group you have to sound like the Beatles as a whole,” said Garofalo. In order to fully grasp the impression of the original Beatles, Strawberry Fields must study everything from the way the original members played their guitars, to the detail of their costumes. “Putting everything together is really difficult. We have to watch many hours of videos and learn as much as we can,” he said. And they are constantly learning new things that they never noticed before in different footage and they study it to really give off an authentic Beatles impression.
All four men are New Yorkers and are currently Suffolk County residents. They have also been performing as the Beatles at B.B. Kings Blues Club in Manhattan for 13 years.
In case any Beatles fan missed out on this amazing performance, Strawberry Fields plays every Saturday at B.B Kings Blues Club on 237 W. 42nd St. People of all ages are welcomed to watch Strawberry Fields perform as one of the most historic bands in history and partake in an allincluded buffet. Tickets are available at the door or online.For more information on Strawberry Fields, visit their website athttp://www.strawberryfieldsthetribute.com/