BEATLEMANIA: A little help from some friends

  • Article by: RANDY A. SALAS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 7, 2009 - 10:45 PM

Today brings the entire reissued catalog of the Fab Four's albums, followed by their video-game debut in the latest "Rock Band."

If you're pretending to be the Beatles in a video game, why not get some help from a few guys who actually pretend to be the Beatles?

So I invited over members of the Twin Cities-based tribute band Rubber Soul (www.rubbersoulthetribute.com) to try out "The Beatles: Rock Band," a highly anticipated video game that comes out Wednesday for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and Wii.

"From what I've heard, it's just amazing," said Brian McGuire, who plays Paul McCartney in the band, when he accepted my offer.

He and two other chaps from Rubber Soul -- Michael McDonough as John Lennon and Roger Jaworski as Ringo Starr -- came prepared for the task in authentic costumes from the Fab Four's Sgt. Pepper's period. Groovy.

They ooh-ed and aah-ed as a three-minute montage opened the game. It's impossible not to be blown away by the dazzling animated display, which takes the Beatles from their early days at Liverpool's Cavern Club through their psychedelic period -- riding atop the head of a gigantic, tuba-toting elephant-rhino beast accompanied by an army of other trippy creatures.

The Rubber Soul guys aren't video-gamers, but even they couldn't wait to dive in after such an intro. McGuire and McDonough donned the guitar controllers, and Jaworski settled in at the fake drums. They opted for the game's story mode, which makes stops at famous venues along the band's career, from the Cavern to "The Ed Sullivan Show" to Abbey Road studios. (As with other entries in the "Rock Band" series, players also can pick any song in a quick-play mode or go online to play with other Beatles fans around the world.)

After a few hours of playing along with some of the game's 45 original Beatles classics such as "Twist and Shout" and "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band," they had a good idea of what "The Beatles: Rock Band" was all about.

"I'd give it four stars and then some," McDonough said. "I'm not a gamer, but playing it was exciting."

Each song's unique animated visuals -- showing the Beatles singing and other scene-setting imagery -- make the game special, the lads agreed. Coupled with original studio chatter, introductions and even song count-offs, they put the gamer in another place and time like few other video games.

"Rock Band" veterans will want to boost the difficulty on some tunes, especially the early ones, because they're fairly simple in structure.

But the vocals are another matter. Sure, you can go solo, as in other "Rock Band" games, but this one lets three singers (with three microphones) sing at once to re-create the Beatles' three-part harmonies. It can be tough. But, hey, six people playing the game at once? That's cool.

The only downer of "The Beatles: Rock Band" is that it can't be combined with songs from other entries in the "Rock Band" series because of licensing issues and its completely different structure. But that's a nit.

All the guys in Rubber Soul have to say about "The Beatles: Rock Band" is yeah, yeah, yeah.

"It's a great introduction to the Beatles, great fun and a good challenge," Jaworski said.

McGuire added: "I think it's perfect. The greatest band and a fun game -- it's a win-win at a party."

And you don't even have to wear the Beatles costumes.

Randy A. Salas • 612-673-4542

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