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'Beatles vs. Stones: A Musical Showdown' at the Armory

Two of the foremost bands of the British Invasion — The Beatles and The Rolling Stones — will be celebrated when tribute bands Abbey Road and Satisfaction take the stage at the Historic Ashland Armory in Ashland.

The Beatles and The Rolling Stones swept the airwaves and the shores of America in 1964, and a lively debate carried on — fueled by myth, publicity stunts and inventions of the press — about which was the greater band of the two.

"In the early days, there was some friendly competition between all of the groups in the British Invasion," says Chris LeGrand, founder and executive producer of Beatles vs. Stones: A Musical Showdown.

"The Beatles and the Stones were not direct rivals, but they were the most popular bands," he says. "So there was a little bit of back and forth between the two groups. The Beatles got rollin' first, and then the Stones came in. The Beatles were more pop-oriented, and the Stones were more blues. They were friends, but I think there was some competitiveness."

Abbey Road and Satisfaction will face off at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 18, at the Historic Ashland Armory, 208 Oak St. A string quartet from South Medford High School will join the bands for seven songs: "Eleanor Rigby," "Yesterday," "A Day in the Life," "Hello Goodbye," "Hey Jude," "As Tears Go By" and "Ruby Tuesday." The bands will play three alternating sets before they come together on stage for a finale. Tickets are $30 in advance, $35 the day of the show, and can be purchased at liveatthearmory.com. The show is open to all ages.

LeGrand, who plays the role of Mick Jagger in Beatles vs. Stones, and eight other musicians in the show's cast have taken the show on the road for 18 years.

"I started it in 2000," he says. He's based near Dallas, Texas. "Four of us play Beatles, and five play Stones. We have a guy who plays Brian Jones, Mick Taylor from the mid-period of the Stones, and Ron Wood, who's been in the Stones since 1975. The guy's a total chameleon. He changes from set to set."

The show begins in '64 and '65. Abbey Road plays songs from the days The Beatles appeared on "The Ed Sullivan Show," then Satisfaction plays songs from the Stones' early days.

"You can't have that era of the Stones without Brian Jones there with his vintage look, his instrumentation and the things he brought to the early songs," LeGrand says. "Popular songs like '19th Nervous Breakdown,' 'The Last Time,' 'Time Is On My Side,' 'Let's Spend the Night Together,' 'Get Off My Cloud.'"

Then the show segues into the mid '60s. Abbey Road performs music from "Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band" dressed in authentic-style costumes, followed by Satisfaction playing songs from '68 and '69, dressed for that particular time period.

The third part of the show, Abbey Road appears as the Beatles did for their final concert together on the rooftop of Abbey Road Studios in London, followed by Satisfaction performing "Start Me Up," "Miss You" and other material from '78 to '81.

"The finale features both bands performing a surprise ending together, and I won't give that away," LeGrande says.

"What makes this show work is its progression through the different time periods. What happens in the history of rock 'n' roll — not just with the Beatles and the Stones — is that bands tend to play to the period of time they are in. If you look at '64, '64 and '66, there were The Animals, the early Who, The Kinks. There was a lot of similarity in their sounds, in their instrumentation and in their recording processes.

"As they moved into the mid '60s, there was a little bit of the psychedelic stuff, with the Beatles and their 'Sgt. Pepper' stuff, the Beach Boys' 'Pet Sounds,' and then the stuff from Haight Ashbury came in. Bands migrated toward those sounds. The Stones released 'Their Satanic Majesties Request' in 1967. It was their attempt at psychedelia.

"The later '60s got even heavier," LeGrand says. "All of a sudden there were The Doors, Hendrix, Cream, Santana, and the Woodstock era. If you listen to the last few albums by the Beatles, 'Abbey Road' and 'The White Album,' and the Stones' 'Beggars Banquet' and 'Let It Bleed,' there's heavier guitar and heavier music. The popularity of the early '60s was gone. All of the bands played to the times. I think that's still happening today with music. Whatever rushes in with the time, the style and fashion of whatever's goin' on, a lot of bands migrate to it. When disco became popular in the '70s, the Stones came out with 'Miss You.'

"That's kind of the history of rock 'n' roll in general," LeGrand says. "The music has progressed since it started way back with Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis and Elvis Presley with that raw, stripped-down sound. I think as the times changed, the Beatles and the Stones evolved. That's it. I think evolution would be the best word to describe it."

The Beatles stopped touring in '66 and stopped recording together in 1969. In January of this year, The Stones' "Blue & Lonesome" received a Grammy Award for Best Traditional Blues Album.

'The Stones are still holdin' on," LeGrand says. "That's pretty impressive for a band that's been around for over 50 years, and one who's kept audiences interested and still fills stadiums. There's something to be admired. But when people come to see them live, they want to hear the big hits. They want to hear the glory years. When they finally decide to be done, we're just gonna keep on carryin' the torch. Our show is a replication of the vintage eras of the bands. I've no desire to come out on stage and play a 75-year-old Mick Jagger.

"Beatles vs. Stones is a journey. It's two hours of nonstop fun."