When any foursome takes the stage and starts playing as John, Paul, George and Ringo, one false note can ruin the magic. Fortunately, four guys from Georgia aren’t just playing around – they’re serious as Sunday about the sound, look and mannerisms of the Fab Four.
EVERY LITTLE THING
The Return – Michael Fulop (“George Harrison”), Shane Landers (“Paul McCartney”), Richard Stelling (“John Lennon”), and Adam Thurston (“Ringo Starr”) – has been playing Beatles’ music since 1995.
“When we first started, it was just for the fun of it,” said Fulop. “It took many, many years for this to evolve into what it has become today.”
When Fulop and his bandmates began making an effort to replicate The Beatles’ performances, they had no idea what they were in for.
“We didn’t realize just how difficult reproducing some of the finer details would be,” Fulop said. “We figured we already knew the songs – although mostly incorrectly – so we just needed to get some black suits, comb our hair down, and we’d be ready.
“Boy, were we wrong!”
I WANNA BE YOUR MAN
Part of The Return’s appeal is their attention to detail. They’ve managed to outfit themselves both visually and musically in a way that captures much of The Beatles’ sound and image.
“Off stage, we don’t look like them at all,” Fulop said. “But I think the audience cuts us some slack – the look definitely matters, but they know we’re not The Beatles.”
Yet the polish they put on their act shows off both their fandom and musicianship.
They use exact replicas of the instruments that The Beatles used, and went back through their set list of Beatles songs with a fine-toothed comb, learning each part note for note.
They also spent countless hours practicing the signature movements and details of each Beatle, right down to Lennon’s habit of chewing gum onstage.
WITH A LITTLE HELP FROM MY FRIENDS
But even with all of that careful curating, it’s really the four Return bandmates, Fulop says, that incorporate John’s wit, Paul’s singular vocals, and Ringo’s quirky style.
“And as for myself as George, I’ve been playing music longer than the rest of the guys, so I’m able to help break down the songs and figure out some of the final details,” he said. “I think we have a great mix of guys in the group - as musicians, individuals, and friends.”
WHEN I’M 64
Songs like “Twist and Shout” and “Hey Jude” are The Return’s favorite songs to play live because of the crowd participation, Fulop said.
But even though those are probably easy tickets to ride as far as getting fans to love their sound, The Return remain their own toughest critics, often recording video of their shows so they can go back and review.
“It’s difficult to sound like someone you’re not – but it’s nice to see how much better we’ve gotten through the years,” Fulop said.
Though the care and attention the group gives to their act attracts multiple generations, Fulop said they sometimes worry a bit about their future longevity.
“In the back of our minds sometimes that fear pops up: Are people still going to be crazy about the Beatles in 10 years?” he said. “But all I have to do is listen to a Beatles record, and that reassures me that the answer is yes, yes they will.”
The Return will be in concert on Friday, July 18 at 8pm in Gaylord as part of Alpenfest. For more, visit thereturnonline.com. For a complete Alpenfest schedule, visit gaylordmichigan.net.