A band of local musicians, led by Spencer Albee, will once again resurrect the sound and spirit of The Beatles for two shows over Thanksgiving weekend at the State Theatre in Portland. The annual Beatles Night performances have become a holiday tradition in which the magic of guitars, drums and musical devotion conjures up the long-defunct group for faithful followers of the Fab Four.
Albee organized the first Beatles Night 13 years ago at the Big Easy. It sold out. The show then grew out of a series of progressively larger venues until three years ago when organizers were asked to put it on in the State Theatre.
“We totally would have been happy if we’d done 700 people, here at the State Theatre because it would have been more than we’d ever done before,” said Albee, sitting in a row of red folding chairs down front by the stage. “But we ended up doing 1,400 people our first year in here.”
Two years ago, the show’s second year at the State, they sold it out. In 2014, they added a second, matinee show. It was a shrewd move.
The Beatles broke up 45 years ago but the public still can’t get enough of them. A new album, “On Air — Live at the BBC Volume 2,” debuted at No. 7 on the Billboard albums charts in 2013, selling 360,000 copies in its first week.
And since the ticket-buying public has zero chance of ever seeing the fab four band live, Albee and crew can give them the next best thing: an-all star cast of local musicians recreating Beatles songs, exactly as they sounded on the records they love.
Joining Albee (who plays keys, guitar and sings) are drummer Jonathan Truman (of The Band Apollo), guitarist Sean Morin (of The Cambiata, Mai Mai), bassist Jon Roods (of Paranoid Social Club, Rustic Overtones), singer Sara Hallie Richardson (of her own band) and guitarist Dan Capaldi (of Sea Level).
Albee points out, though the show’s are popular, no one’s getting rich.
“Even after 13 years of doing Beatles Night, there’s still no way that I have made as much money doing this as I have spent on Beatles stuff,” he said, laughing. “So, they’re still ahead.”
For him, and his fellow musicians, it’s more about the love of the music than the paycheck. John, Paul George and Ringo, he said, helped shape them all.
“It’s all definitely still in there. We have a lot of admiration for the group and for us it’s about performing songs live that not even they did,” said Albee.
The Beatles stopped touring in 1966. So, Albee and friends have to puzzle out the various overdubs and studio tricks the group used on their records. To help, they’ll have a string section from the Maine Youth Rock Orchestra and horns from The Fogcutters big band joining them, as well as several guest vocalists.
“Obviously, we’re not them, so we can only get so close. But we get pretty close,” Albee said.
They’ve hand-picked a selection of well-known Beatles songs as well as some rarities and gems from the band’s solo work. They will also play the album “Abbey Road” in its entirety, without stopping.
Though they’re paying homage to pop’s most influential band, they’re not dressing in costume and mimicking the group.
“We’ve never used the word ‘tribute’ in any of our messaging,” he said. “It’s Beatles night, it’s a celebration, it’s a holiday event, it’s a family event.”
Albee shrugs when asked how many more years they can keep Thanksgiving Beatlemania alive in Portland.
“It’ll go, I think, until people stop wanting to see it,” he said.
Given The Beatles’ legions of devoted fans still buying their records, I doubt that will be anytime soon.
Beatles Night at the State Theatre in Portland
Saturday Nov. 28 at 8 p.m. and Sunday Nov. 29 at 4 p.m.
Both shows are all-ages
Buy tickets online, in person at the Cross Insurance Center Box Office or charge by phone at 800-745-3000.