At 8:31 p.m. on Feb. 11, 2014 the “Beatles” took the stage in Washington -- a cover band called BeatleMania Now reenacted the beginning of the British invasion, as it was the District of Columbia, not New York City, that hosted the fab four’s first American concert in 1964.[SPECIAL REPORT: The Beatles, 50 Years Later]
[PHOTOS: The Beatles Arrive in the United States]
Tuesday's show took place where the original was held 50 years before, on a stage in the Washington Coliseum, also known as the Uline Arena, a beast of a brick building adjacent to D.C.’s Union Station. Besides the Beatles, the building was the other star of the story, as the Coliseum, which in more recent years has been used as a parking garage, is set to be renovated into a four-story office and retail space. (Called, aptly, the Coliseum.) Tuesday night was the final night to see it in its former concert hall glory. And while the show marked a musical milestone, it also served as a fundraiser for the D.C. Preservation League, who worked to get the Uline saved. All 2,700 tickets sold out.
As attendees snaked through security and a row of food trucks, the original Coliseum marquee, announcing the sold-out Beatles show, was beamed onto the building’s exterior. A more modern stage -- instead of the repurposed boxing ring the original Beatles performed on -- was found inside. That also meant that the concert of today would be played with the band up front, the audience in the back. The Beatles played in the round and thus they turned -- Ringo with his drum set included -- to a different section of the crowd every couple of songs.
At 8:30 p.m., four Beatles doppelgangers stepped on stage. A minute later they began to play “Roll Over Beethoven,” replicating the original Washington Coliseum set exactly. They even used vintage chatter when talking to the crowd, announcing that a song was “off our latest LP” or from the newest record to hit the states.
The crowd, made up of more baby boomers than screaming teenage girls, swayed and sang, wrapping their mittened hands around $5 beers and hot chocolates. Washington on Tuesday was a nippy 28 degrees, but that didn’t stop some folks from “crashing” the concert, sitting on a hill across the street from the venue and watching the action through the Uline’s huge open doors.
After 30 minutes, the members of BeatleMania Now paused, concluding the original Beatles half-hour-long set. But it’s 2014 and these tickets cost $45 tickets, after all. So, after a brief break, the band continued to play, with a lineup that included more contemporary Beatles songs like “I Am the Walrus,” “Revolution,” and John Lennon’s powerful ballad “Imagine.”