By Ben Rodgers
There are certain songs that stick with a person throughout life. These songs bring back memories, either good or bad, but the one constant is that the music stays the same.
When Billy McGuigan and his brothers Ryan and Matthew wanted to put together a show, they decided to focus on the one band that brings back memories for nearly everyone, The Beatles.
“Our dad was a military guy,” Billy said “and even though we seemed to be constantly moving all over the world, the one constant in our lives were his Beatles records. Dad had his guitar and he would teach us Beatles songs. So there isn’t a Beatles song I hear that doesn’t remind me of a certain time in my life with my dad and my brothers.”
But “Yesterday and Today: The Interactive Beatles Experience,” coming to the Grand Opera House in Oshkosh isn’t your typical Beatles tribute show. The guys don’t dress like the Beatles, talk like the Beatles nor do they perform sets as the Beatles did. At this show the audience picks the songs they want to hear after explaining why they want to hear them.
“When the audience comes in they have a chance to fill out request cards in the lobby,” Billy said “and we ask for their favorite Beatles song and the importance behind why they chose it. Then we sort out the cards and put together a set list based on the audience requests. We do that about two minutes before the show starts and we use the reasons as the stories we tell throughout the show,”
This means that no two shows are the same, and every night there’s an opportunity to see something special.
Billy said one of the most moving times was when a 10-year old in Omaha, Nebraska wanted to hear “Revolution,” because his grandmother, who had just passed away, had introduced him to the Beatles, and he wanted to dedicate it not just to his grandmother, but to all grandmothers. And during another memorable show Billy, Ryan and Matthew witnessed a marriage proposal to The Beatles ‘When I’m 64.’
“There are so many people that have a special attachment,” Billy said “whether they saw The Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show, they remember how old they were, what they were doing. The fact that Beatles songs have touched people at a much deeper level than simply musically, that’s really the engine that drives this show.”
The McGuigan brothers had to learn all of the songs from the twelve Beatles studio albums.
“When I say we don’t dress like them, or look like them, that’s not to say we don’t sound like them,” Billy said. “We go to great lengths to run through these songs, so we do know every song in the catalog even the solo catalog.”
Billy’s favorite is “Abbey Road,” but growing up he was hooked on “The White Album.”
“When I was maybe 12, my uncle had a vinyl copy of The White Album,” Billy said “and I listened to that in the summer of ’86 or so, and I played that album every day, memorized every word, I was obsessed with it. Now at 41, ‘Abbey Road’ just sings to me, its one of those things top to bottom, its perfection.”
That’s what “Yesterday and Today” is about, the love of the music and what it means for different people.
“The Beatles didn’t like their persona,” Billy said “they didn’t like their mop tops, and what they had become, so much so they dressed like Sgt. Pepper. This show proves their music stood on its own, and the fans love of their music is what’s important.”
Tickets range from $20 to $44 and can be purchased at grandoperahouse.org or by calling (920) 424-2350 or 1-866-96GRAND.
“If you’re a Beatle freak this show is for you,” Billy said “but even if you’re a casual Beatles fan, you’re going to have a great time. What’s great about all these songs, and we don’t choose them, the only thing we pick is which songs make it into the show, but its truly all over the place.”
Yesterday and Today: The Interactive Beatles Experience takes the stage at 7:30 p.m. January 20th at The Grand Opera House in Oshkosh.