When the Beatles played for audiences nearly a half century ago, listeners were lucky to hear a small handful of songs, and that's if they were lucky enough to hear the music through the screaming masses.
But regular followers of Chicagoland's premier Beatles tribute band American English are treated to continuously diverse setlists, which John, Paul, George and Ringo couldn't offer onstage at the height of Beatlemania nearly a half century ago.
"You might get a lot of 'Rubber Soul' one show and the next day you'll get 'Revolver,'' said American English co–founder Eric Michaels. "We always change it around so people aren't seeing the same thing every time. And the fans replenish themselves over and over again because they're not seeing the same thing every time."
Coming through the region for a performance Feb.12 at Merrillville's Star Plaza Theatre, Michaels, who performs onstage as Paul McCartney, has led American English on stages throughout the globe in covering the Fab Four from their manic days of "Yeah, yeah, yeah" and concluding where the band stopped on "Abbey Road" for the last two decades.
Longtime favorites of local Beatlemaniacs young and old, Michaels and his fellow Americans – Frank Cantino as John Lennon, Doug Couture as George Harrison, Tom Gable as Ringo Starr and Ken Zemanek as the George Martin–esque musical jack of all trades – have been embraced over the years by fans as far away as Japan, Guam, Hawaii, Columbia, Mexico and throughout Europe.
Starting in the 2000s, American English were guided behind the scenes by Sam Leach, who served as the Beatles' promoter before manager Brian Epstein propelled them from the Liverpool and Hamburg halls to worldwide prominence.
About six years ago, the band, through Leach, were blessed by McCartney, who saw and heard the band during a performance on WLS–TV's weekly Chicago arts and entertainment program "190 North."
"After he got to hear us, he said for us to carry on, good job," Michaels recalled. "A thumbs–up for me from Paul McCartney is awesome."
While American English regularly performs at larger halls regionally such as Star Plaza, the band, Michaels says, also enjoys wowing crowds – and each other – at smaller clubs and pubs.
"On our off nights (from the larger venues), we get to play some wacky stuff, a lot of B–sides and things like that," he said. "We kind of treat these (smaller venues) like the Cavern Club and places where the Beatles would try different things. And it's at those places where the Beatles became great."
American English's next show closest to home is slated for March 4 at Sam Maguire's Pub in Tinley Park.