Beatles tribute celebrates their music with ukuleles
December is always a special time for Beatles fans, and this year didn’t disappoint. Disney+ is currently streaming a nearly 8-hour docuseries called Get Back, which covers the making of the Beatles’ 1970 album Let It Be. If that wasn’t enough, there are super deluxe versions of the original album and an accompanying 240-page hardcover book. But Big Island Beatlemaniacs got a little something extra.
After a two-year hiatus, Beat-Lele, the Oahu-based Beatles tribute band, returned to the Big Island for two performances at the Kahilu Theatre with shows last Thursday and Friday.
Beat-Lele’s humble beginnings date back ten years ago when they were performing as Day in The Life at Minato’s restaurant in Honolulu. They performed without costumes or mop-top wigs, and their focus was strictly on getting the music to sound like the original records.
In 2017, the band transitioned from electric guitars and a drum kit to an acoustic ukulele sound with an island twist. Beat-Lele remains the only Beatles tribute band within this niche.
So far, their career has led to a performance in the Cavern Club, where The Beatles got their start, and at Liverpool’s International Beatles Week Festival.
Beat-Lele features Sonny Aquino as “John,” Nolet Quiason as “Paul,” Alastar McNeil as “George,” and Dennis Muth as “Ringo.” Quiason couldn’t make the pair of Kahilu gigs, so Paul Curatolo flew in from Reno NV to fill in on electric bass as “Paul.”
Curatolo’s no stranger to playing Sir Paul—he’s done so in RAIN: A Tribute to The Beatles for eight years. Curatolo was coached by his father, who originally had the part, and taught him McCartney’s music and physical traits. It also didn’t hurt that the younger Curatolo could also play a left-handed Hofner bass.
Beat-Lele’s 24-song set spanned The Beatles’ career from 1963-1970, and the Kahilu crowd responded enthusiastically for their favorites with loud cheers and whistles.
Percussionist Dennis Muth told the audience he didn’t mind trading in his drum kit for a cajón box and a pair of cymbals. “It’s much easier to carry than three tons of brass cymbals, and we’re all getting a little older now,” joked Muth. He sang lead on “Boys.”
About midway through the show, the band transitioned to The Beatles post-Rubber Soul era, when they concentrated on studio work that was more experimental than their previous three-minute pop single format.
Beat-Lele took us on a trip back to ’67 with “Lucy in The Sky” and “Penny Lane” from the psychedelic music years. On “Hey Jude,” the house lights went up as the crowd joined in on the “Naa na na…” chorus. Those at the Friday show got to see Curatolo play “Hey Jude” and “Let It Be” on the theatre’s Steinway grand piano.
Other standout moments in their 90-minute concert included Alastar McNeil’s wild eight-string ukulele solo during “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.” Sonny Aquino’s vocals on “Come Together” and “In My Life” were spot on.
In our post-show interview, bassist Paul Curatolo explained why The Beatles’ popularity continues. “Their message of peace and love is timeless, and then you have their killer music. The lyrics spoke to the counter-culture then, and it does now.”
Beat-Lele has two CDs available – An Ukulele Tribute to The Beatles and Fab 4 on 4 Strings. Both were produced by Dave Tucciarone, a two-time Grammy award-winning producer/engineer and a 15-time Na Hoku Hanohano award winner.
Notes & Links
Show One: All My Loving | From Me To You | Roll Over Beethoven | I Saw Her Standing There | Please Please Me | Boys | Can’t Buy Me Love | I Wanna Hold Your Hand | PS I Love You | This Boy | I Feel Fine | Twist and Shout | If I Needed Someone | Norwegian Wood | And I Love Her | Come Together| Here Comes The Sun | Penny Lane | Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds | Something | Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da | In My Life | Hey Jude |
While My Guitar Gently Weeps
Show Two: From Me To You | Roll Over Beethoven | I Saw Her Standing There | Please Please Me | Boys | Can’t Buy Me Love | I Wanna Hold Your Hand | PS I Love You | This Boy | I Feel Fine | Twist and Shout | If I Needed Someone | Norwegian Wood | And I Love Her | Come Together| Here Comes The Sun | Penny Lane | Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds | Something | Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da | In My Life | Let It Be | Hey Jude |
While My Guitar Gently Weeps
Concert dates: 2-3/DEC/2021
Read a 2019 Beat-Lele review of their show at the Palace Theatre here.
About the author: Steve Roby is a music journalist and editor of Big Island Music Magazine.
Photos: Steve Roby