DC at Night

DC at Night

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Beatles Get Back with a Historic Night in DC

Crowd outside DC venue for The Beatles' 1st American concert
The Beatles on stage in their first American concert in DC in 1964
On a cold, snowy February 11, 1964 night, the Beatles and 8,092 screaming, shrieking, mostly female fans joined to make rock music history. For on that night, with "I Want to Hold Your Hand" at the top of the American music charts, the British group played their first American concert, a presentation which took place just 2 days after the Beatles had been introduced to this country on an Ed Sullivan Show seen by a then-record audience of 73 million viewers.

Tonight, that historic event was recreated as the touring cast of Beatlemania Now, wearing replicas of the suits John, Paul, George, and Ringo wore on that night, performed the exact 12-song, 35-minute set that the Beatles played 50 years ago. And, in a nod to history, the Beatles tribute band's performance in the same Washington Coliseum as the original concert, began at 8:31, the identical start time of the 1964 show.

The reenactment was a fundraiser for the DC Preservation League, which has led a fight to keep the dilapidated Coliseum, also known as the Uline Arena, from being torn down. This would be the last performance ever in the venue, which has been used as a parking lot for the past few years. It will undergo a multi-million dollar renovation and reopen as a complex for offices and shops, but will still include the historic facade.

In another nod to history, the sold-out show, attended by 2,500 Beatles fans willing to brave the cold of the now open-air building, opened with a 5-song acoustic set by Tommy Roe, who also was one of 3 groups to open for the Beatles on the original 1964 date.

"It was great to perform on the same stage as the Beatles then and it's great to be back in DC tonight," Roe said as he encouraged the crowd to sing along with his hits.

Following Roe's well-received oldies performance, the crowd, about 100 of whom indicated that they had been at the original Beatles' show, was shown a short video documenting the history of the arena, which in its day featured everything from ice shows to basketball games to early concerts by Bob Dylan and the Rolling Stones.

The crowd surged with anticipation as the Beatlemania group took the stage and plugged their guitars into the same type of Vox amps originally used by Lennon, McCartney, and Harrison. And just like Ringo Starr had been seated 50 years ago, the tribute band's drummer was placed on a riser. However, the replica group played on a regular stage, not the stage-in-the-round that the Beatles had used. That configuration forced the Fab Four to keep turing their amps and Ringo's drum riser so they weren't always playing to only the same 25 percent of the arena's fans.

The excitement continued to rise as the band hit the first notes of the Beatles' cover of Chuck Berry's "Roll Over Beethoven." The complete set list featured:
  • "Roll Over Beethoven"
  • "From Me to You"
  • "I Saw Her Standing There"
  • "This Boy"
  • "All My Loving"
  • "I Wanna Be Your Man"
  • "Please Please Me"
  • "Till There Was You"
  • "She Loves You"
  • "I Want to Hold Your Hand"
  • "Twist and Shout" and
  • "Long Tall Sally"
Initially the crowd, obviously many decades removed from the age they were when the Beatles first invaded America's shores, were content to clap, smile, and sing along with the songs. But by "She Loves You," everyone was on their feet, dancing and swaying to the magic of history being replayed. 

The 31-minute concert proved you could indeed be filled with teen spirit once again. Yesterday was today and the Beatles' infectious music was just as thrilling as it had been 5 decades ago. For while you now might be too old to scream and shriek, when it comes to Beatles' music, you are never too old to twist and shout.

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