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Beatles tribute band BritBeat perform anniversery show in Anchorage

Mike Dunham
Professional Beatles cover band BritBeat will perform Friday and Saturday in Anchorage. Loren Holmes / Alaska Dispatch News

On June 28, 1966, John, Paul, George and Ringo spent the night in Anchorage. They did not perform.

This weekend, Eli, Chris, Geoff and David will do their best to make up for that oversight when they present three shows as a Beatles tribute band called BritBeat.

Can you really make a living by channeling a music act that broke up before most readers of this article were born? Apparently, the answer is yes. Nationally touring BritBeat is booked well into fall. They just finished playing the Waupaca Beatles Bash and will be heading for the Hammond, Indiana, BeatlesFest after performing in Anchorage.

“This year, being the 50th anniversary of their first appearance in America, has been quite a busy year for us,” said Paul, er, Chris Getsla.

Getsla got into the Beatles business in a talent show as a high schooler. “We put together some black turtlenecks and black pants and played ‘She Loves You.’ The faculty was all baby boomers. It went over very big.”

The BritBeat boys are not boomers. Getsla is 32. “We’re all young guys, which helps with the look of the tribute,” he said. “But the main thing is, first and foremost, we’re all Beatles fanatics.”

It’s one thing to know the songs; it’s another to create the illusion that the audience has somehow been transported back 50 years. The band pays close attention to the instruments and costumes. They study the videotapes of performances and interviews. They work on their Liverpudlian accents.

“Authenticity is extremely important,” Getsla said. “The tribute takes a lot of attention to detail and you put in a lot of time.”

One authentic detail that has to be challenging is playing bass guitar left-handed, as McCartney did. Virtually all guitar players, including left-handed players, strum with the right hand and finger with the left, similar to the deployment for violins, banjos and other string instruments. Most players would find it impossible to switch with any degree of facility.

“I was fortunate in that I’m ambidextrous,” Getsla said. “I started playing right-handed, but when we started to do the tribute I was able to just order a left-handed bass” -- it’s strung opposite a regular bass guitar — “and I just switched.”

BritBeat has performed in Anchorage several times. Unlike the real Beatles, who sealed themselves in the Westward Hotel (now the Hilton) until they could fly out, the tribute band works in road trips and excursions. “We love Alaska,” said Getsla.

This time around, they’ll present three shows. The first two, at Tap Root on Friday, June 11, focus on the foursome playing the hits. The really big show -- as Ed Sullivan would have said -- will be at Wendy Williamson on Saturday and is more of a full-blown Broadway-style production than a simple concert.

“We cover all the eras of Beatles music history,” said Getsla, “from the beginning to ‘Abbey Road.’ There are video screens behind the band. We do all the costume changes. It’s a multimedia presentation, an immersive, complete Beatles experience.”

The band -- Eli Echevarria as John, Geoff Allen as George and David Robinson as Ringo, in addition to Getsla -- is augmented by keyboardist Rick Sladek, who supplies the additional instruments and orchestra backup heard in the Beatles’ later recordings.

In honor of the 50th anniversary of the famed “Ed Sullivan Show” appearance, the act includes impressionist Fred Whitfield as the television host. “He does this amazing Ed Sullivan impersonation,” Getsla said.

“The show opens with the music from ‘The Twilight Zone.’ It’s meant to stay, ‘You’re taking a trip back in time. We’re all together in a time machine.’ By the end of it, you feel like you’ve been on a journey. Like, ‘Wow! I went from 1961 to ‘69 and that was intense!’”

“We’re fortunate to be making this a full-time gig,” Getsla said. But he adds that it’s the enduring power of the original group that makes it all possible.

“We provide a vehicle for people who were around at the time to relive some of their memories. We’ve been told by people who saw the Beatles that our shows are close to what it was like. And for people who weren’t around, it’s a chance for them to get a sense of the energy.

“The music is definitely cross-generational. It’s timeless.”

BritBeat

7 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. Friday, July 11, Tap Root Public House, $20 and $15 at taprootalaska.com

50th anniversary tribute concert

7 p.m., Saturday, July 12, Wendy Williamson Auditorium, $50 at brownpapertickets.com