You Can’t Keep a Good Tribute Band Down

A great tribute band has to combine all the right elements to recreate the songbook of their inspiration and provide a good time that works on its own merits.

A great tribute band has to combine all the right elements: the clothes, the look, (in some cases) the moonwalk, and, most crucially, the sound and craftsmanship to recreate the songbook of their inspiration and provide a good time that works on its own merits. They’ll never be the original, but in taking the stage in front of audiences who might have seen the original in action, at least on TV or YouTube, the goal is what Beatles tribute player Steve Landes calls “the creation in recreation.”

“The Beatles could do the songs live however they wanted,” says Landes, John Lennon in Rain: A Tribute to the Beatles, the longest-running and most successful act of its kind, playing this month at the State Theatre. “They were the real guys.” Landes adds that people want Rain to sound as much like the original records as possible: “You have to keep it authentic from a listener standpoint.”

There seem to be as many tribute bands chasing that authenticity as there are worn-out copies of Abbey Road. Today the tribute business includes just about every classic act imaginable—the Australian Pink Floyd Show was even invited to play the 50th birthday party of real-life Floyd guitarist David Gilmour.

The Twin Cities are home to at least two Beatles tribute bands, a Tom Petty act, homages to metal, and the Bad Animals’ take on Heart. Locally, those hankering for the Michael Jackson experience might seek out Who’s Bad this month at Mill City Nights.

So what’s it like for a cover-band artist? “I’ve traveled the world, and I see what this music does for people,” Landes adds. “Five- and 10-year olds, kids and their grandparents—the happiness they have together.” The creation, then, of the sincerest form of flattery.

A tribute to the beatles, 4/11–12, hennepintheatretrust.org; who’s bad, 4/19, millcitynights.com

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