N.J. native Jimmy Vivino rocks for Beatles tribute band set to perform at State Theatre in New Brunswick
BY ANTHONY STOECKERT
Ask Jimmy Vivino about Ringo Starr's talents as a drummer, and get ready for a passionate response.
During an interview about the Fab Faux — the Beatles' tribute band Vivino plays guitar and other instruments for — it's mentioned that Starr is usually left out of discussions about great drummers.
"I would say this, OK, who was the greatest drummer in a band if not Ringo? Tell me?" Vivino says during a telephone interview from California.
The Who's Keith Moon comes to mind, with his endless supply of rolls, fills and solos. "It would have been hell in the Beatles," Vivino says."The Beatles were the best, and Ringo played the parts that were required," Vivino says. "And yes, he could rock better and harder than anybody."
It's this kind of passion that drives the members of The Fab Faux, who will return to the State Theater in New Brunswick Oct. 10 for two shows - a family-friendly afternoon performance and an evening concert of the Beatles' landmark Rubber Soul album. The shows mark the sixth consecutive year the band has performed at the venue.
Vivino and his bandmates have a terminal case of Beatlemania, and have been performing the music of John Lennon, George Harrison, Paul McCartney, and Starr in front of live audiences for more than 12 years, about twice as long as the actual Beatles played live concerts.
Vivino says he never thought the group would last this long, but there's always something to spark new interest in The Beatles' music. These days it's the bestselling video game The Beatles: Rock Band and the release of re-mastered versions of the group's catalogue in both mono and stereo versions.
"It's all over Starbucks," Vivino says of the music. "You can't buy a cup of coffee without hearing a Beatles song, which I love."
In addition to Vivino, who's also a member of The Tonight Show band, the Fab Faux consists of bassist Will Lee of The Late Show with David Letterman, drummer Rich Pagano, guitarist Frank Agnello, and keyboardist/guitarist Jack Petruzzelli. All five members share vocal duties depending on whose voices best fits each song.
You won't see any Beatle wigs or Nehru jackets at a Fab Faux show. The band is devoted to presenting accurate, live recreations of the Fab Four's music. The group started when Lee saw Pagano playing in a band, and noticed the drummer's Ringo-like beat and Lennon-esque voice. The Fab Faux plays the entire Beatles catalogue, but is known for performing later songs the actual Beatles never played live.
One of the amazing things about the Beatles is that they went from "Please, Please Me" to Revolver to Sgt. Pepper's Lonely hearts Club Band to Abbey Road in about six years. That's a lot of growth and change, and it allows The Fab Faux to explore different instruments and styles of music. As Lee puts it, the band needs five members to do justice to the Beatles' music.
Vivino says Rubber Soul was a turning point for the Beatles, where they turned from being a four-piece rock band to experimenting with instruments like the Sitar, which Harrison famously played on "Norwegian Wood." There's also a harpsichord-like piano solo on "In My Life," and some challenging harmony structures.
While Fab Faux members specialize in specific instruments, Vivino says musical duties change often during a show. "We just all play whatever instrument is needed," he says. "If there's a hole we'll fill it. Whether we play the instrument or not, we'll learn to play it for that one song."
Vivino is a Jersey native, raised in Paterson, Point Pleasant and Glen Rock. He relocated to California this year when Conan O'Brien graduated from the New York-based Late Night show to take over The Tonight Show from Jay Leno. Vivino acts as The Tonight Show's bandleader when Max Weinberg is touring with Bruce Springsteen. His brother, Jerry, is also in the Tonight Show band. Another brother, Floyd, is best-known as local TV legend Uncle Floyd.
"It's pretty much the same job in a different city," Vivino says of working on The Tonight Show. "I love it, I love this job. I lived on the East coast for my whole life, and this is a great place to be."
Playing the State Theatre gives him a chance to return home and perform music he loves. It's music that he says will never go away.
"It's clichéd to say it's lasting like Mozart and Beethoven, but it is," he says. And just as orchestras keep the music of the great composers alive, he adds, there will always be bands playing Beatle tunes.
"Hundreds of years from now, it's still going to be out there," he says. "I think it justifies what we do, also, artistically. It's not just a cover band, we're presenting this music. Other people can do what they like with it, that shows how much diversity there is within its uses."
The Fab Faux will perform at The State Theatre, 15 Livingston Ave., New Brunswick, Oct. 10, 4, 8 p.m. Tickets cost $40-$110. 732-246-7469; www.statetheatrenj.org. For information on the Fab Faux, go to www.thefabfaux.com