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Syracuse Meets the Beatles Music Again, and It's a Celebration

Syracuse opened its arms wide to embrace its finest musicians performing the work of arguably the most popular band ever.

So Todd Hobin sat behind the keyboard Saturday night in the Landmark Theatre and shared his thoughts about the anniversary celebration.

One day hence was the half-century mark from the evening very wise CBS variety show host Ed Sullivan knew he must put the four lads from Liverpool, England, in front of America.

This year, the Todd Hobin Band is celebrating its 40th anniversary. Hobin also teaches the course The History of Rock 'n' Roll at Le Moyne College.

As techs scooted about the stage in Syracuse's downtown gem, Hobin knew what he wanted to say to the crowd of 1,200.

"These students follow the Beatles," Hobin told the very happy and attentive audience. "And almost every single person here will know every song, all the lyrics, and where they were when they first heard it."

Beatles music is everlasting, he said, putting it in perspective. When they appeared on "The Ed Sullivan Show" in 1964, he said, music fans were certainly not singing songs from groups from 1914. The Beatles softened those generational lines.

 "Frank Sinatra thought it was OK to sing a Beatles love song," Hobin said. "I just can't imagine Bruce Springsteen singing a Justin Bieber song."

Founding band mate Doug Moncrief added his sublime voice and guitar work as he and Hobin sang that very song Frank so happily covered, "Something," and added an equally gorgeous version of "Let It Be."

Two dozen Syracuse Area Music Awards hall of famers and a couple dozen more that may earn that designation someday gathered to pay tribute to the music and the men that made it. Film clips and photographs of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr filled the video screen behind the musicians as they marched out in various combinations to play from that cherished songbook.

Special moments piled up like Beatles' songs on the charts. About 50 songs were delivered, so many that I lost count. 

My favorite was the Dean Brothers' a cappella rendition of the song "Because." Holly Gregg told the crowd that he and the brothers Dean -- Peter, John and Bob -- got the idea from the "Love" album, the soundtrack remix put together in 2006 for the Cirque du Soleil show of the same name.

The voices-only masterpiece was another reminder of the longevity of the Fab Four's glorious words and melodies. And it also drove home another important message.

The Syracuse music scene has the chops to make these songs memorable all over again. The Beatles gave the world soft songs, melodic songs, fast songs, edgy songs. The Central New York musicians were ready for it all.

Paul Davie, the whirling dervish who organized the show and jumped in to perform on many of the selections, told the audience he was proud to host musicians who were there and paying close attention when the magic started a half century ago, as well as two more generations of players and singers who also consider the Beatles musical gold.

The veterans came through. Guitarist Mark Hoffman laid down golden riffs.

Gary Frenay and Arty Lenin dazzled in a couple of formats, with drummer Tommy Allen from Screen Test and the Flashcubes. They paid homage to the vocal harmonies the Beatles loved to mine that was their emphasis in the Neverly Brothers. And they rocked in the reunion of the original Fab Five cover band with Davie, Dave Novak and Dave Miller.

The ensemble work was cool. Skip Murphy blew his harmonica, doing his best Delbert McClinton. Joe Whiting showed up to sing and play sax exactly one minute before the start of his appearance. He's been in a head-on collision on the say to the show. His car was totaled. She showed up shaken, but still thoroughly stirred the crowd.

The Notarthomas brothers, singer and guitarist Jamie and upright bass player Chris, were excellent together and with others. Chris was part of one of two fantastic string sections.

Singer Jeff Gordon and guitarist Kevin Farrell, of Hard Promises, owned the stage in their group setting.

Davie started the second half of the show with a fun sing-along, just he, his guitar and 1,200 backup vocalists.

The crowd had a good time through the four-or-so hours at the Landmark. Fans stood in line for the Beatlemania, a drink-of-the-night that could be had for five bucks. They stuck their heads into the open holes of the famous "Abbey Road" cover, a big mural brought by the folks from Syracuse radio station The Rebel 105.9 -- which also contributed the distinguished host for the night, Dave Frisina. And, guess what? This year also marks the 35th anniversary of Frisina's Central New York-music show "Soundcheck."

Camaraderie ruled.

On stage, Moncrief shouted out for Mikey, "who couldn't make this gig." Many in the crowd hooted. They knew he meant Mike Casale, the veteran bass player who's in the hospital battling pneumonia.

This 50th anniversary was a special event everywhere.

I put a call out for memories on my personal blog,

This came in from Little Miss Wordy, from Puerto Rico: "I remember being a kid, singing along to The Beatles from the back seat of my dad's car. One day, he turned to me and asked why I knew all their songs. I said, 'Because you do,' " she wrote.

This was offered by http://coulddoworse.wordpress.comlundygirl, from London: "I'm too young to have any anecdotes, I just know that somehow I know loads of their song lyrics so when they are on the radio I can sing along. ... My parents were from Liverpool and got married there, so my mum, who is classical all the way, likes the Beatles."

From http://ididnthavemyglasseson.comksbeth, of Michigan: "I was a little girl, and my friend's older sister was going to see them at Olympia in Detroit. We sat outside all summer and helped her make the world's largest gum chain to present to them at the concert. I was so excited, and I wasn't even going."

And, from Sandra, of California: "I can't imagine there ever will be another time as electric and memorable in music history than the time when the Brits came round to show us what's worth falling in love with and fainting over, simultaneously. To be in the crowd at that very first show when the boys set foot on U.S. soil right before lighting the whole place on fire. If only I had a time machine."

Now that's lasting fame, across the universe, you might say.

But on Feb. 8, 2014, Syracuse was the place to twist and shout.

What's your favorite Beatles moment? Who is your favorite Central New York musician or band?

Mark Bialczak has lived in Central New York for 30 years. He's well known for writing about music and entertainment. In 2013, he started his own blog,, to comment about the many and various things that cross his mind daily.