The Clash had it wrong: Beatlemania — phony or otherwise — hasn’t bitten the dust. Witness The Weeklings, journeymen Jersey Shore musicians whose mix of Beatlesque pastiche and Beatles covers drew a capacity crowd to Asbury Park’s House of Independents on Friday to celebrate the release of the group’s second album, Studio 2.
While the band’s own compositions hew to the simple, twangy sound of the early Fab Four, Lefty, Zeek, Rocky and Smokestack Weekling treated their gray-haired audience to a nostalgic journey through the entire Beatles catalog, frequently abetted by guest singers, backup vocalists and two go-go dancers in skimpy Union Jack outfits.
The Weeklings formed in 2014 with the stated mission of recording little known Beatles-written songs. With their fanciful stage names and a few of their own Beatles-inspired originals, this busman’s holiday quickly found an enthusiastic audience. So much so, in fact, that The Weeklings were able to crowd-fund a trip to the legendary Abbey Road Studios in England to record Studio 2, which includes eight originals and four Lennon/McCartney covers.
Throughout the evening, singer and left-handed bassist Lefty Weekling (Glen Burtnik, who played Paul McCartney in Broadway’s “Beatlemania”) and singer-guitarists Zeek Weekling (Bob Burger) and Rocky Weekling (John Merjave) thanked the crowd for its support, sometimes joined by fans who won the right to perform with the band in return for especially generous donations.
The Weeklings, also featuring drummer Smokestack Weekling (Joe Bellia), undeniably do the Beatles well, recreating the familiar riffs and tight harmony vocals that fans have adored for half a century. And while the arrangements and musicianship always remain meticulous, the band evinces a good-natured sense of humor about itself. They stared Friday’s show in matching sharkskin suits, then switched (with much ado) mid-set to the Nehru jackets worn by the Beatles in early publicity photos.
Catchy, upbeat tracks from Studio 2 peppered the set, from the infectious album opener “Morning, Noon and Night” to the jaunty, Carl Perkins-inspired “You’re the One.” But the high points of the evening came when guest vocalists joined The Weeklings for Beatles favorites like “Here, There and Everywhere” (beautifully interpreted by Asbury singer/songwriter Emily Grove), “If I Fell” (sung by Reagan Richards) and a fiery “Helter Skelter” (made new with a female lead vocal from Jillian Rhys McCoy.)
Singer/songwriter Richard Barone opened the show with a set that mixed tunes from his ’80s Hoboken band the Bongos and tracks from his new album Sorrows & Promises: Greenwich Village in the 1960s, a collection of songs written by then-young artists like Janis Ian, Dion and Buddy Holly. Barone also joined The Weeklings for “Cry Baby Cry,” from The Beatles’ White Album.
There were a few missteps, like a painfully overwrought version of “With a Little Help From My Friends” from soul singer Remember Jones, an out-of-place cover of the movie theme “That Thing You Do!” and a clunky take of “Hey Bulldog” (invariably at the top of any list of Worst Beatles Songs.)
The band finished up with lengthy versions of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” and “I Am the Walrus,” joined by the evening’s entire ensemble, then encored with a peppery “Twist and Shout” and a long, schmaltzy, singalong rendition of “Hey Jude.”
Here are a few videos from the show, posted by Cindy Jasgur Ferrier: