FARGO — It’s an age-old debate. No, not the one about the chicken or the egg. The serious one that offers a glimpse into who you really are: Are you a Beatles or Rolling Stones fan?
The argument may spill out on the floor of the Fargo Theatre on Friday night, Jan. 18, when "Beatles vs. Stones — A Musical Showdown" takes the stage.
The night pits two tribute acts, Abbey Road and Jumping Jack Flash, against each other as they recreate their respective band’s work in alternating 20-minute sets, starting with the first few albums of the Fab Four followed by the early years of the Stones.
Despite the contentious billing, Beatles vs. Stones doesn’t set out to determine once and for all which was the best rock band. There’s no vote, no decibel reader to determine which songs get the biggest cheers and (hopefully) no audience scrum to lay the debate to rest.
“We don’t want to start that Thanksgiving table discussion. We just want to play the show,” says Axel Clarke, who plays Ringo Starr’s part. “People walk in with their opinions, but by the end of the show, they’re like, ‘We love both bands.’"
Which is such a Ringo thing to say.
Clarke was raised in a house where The Beatles were always playing, as he imagines is often the case.
“Saying you like The Beatles is like saying you like ice cream. Most people do,” he says. “For my own personal taste, I just like The Beatles' scope and the breadth of their career, from the pop stuff to the avant-garde. They covered a wider range and that speaks to my taste a little more.”
To that point, his favorite tune to play is the sweeping “Day in the Life,” with its many time changes and fills.
While only the most die-hard Stones fan would disagree that The Beatles were more sonically adventurous than the blues-based quintet, Clarke knows that Ringo Starr gets tabbed as a less-than-fab drummer. Still, he says it’s a belief that is unjust.
“He’s one of the most iconic drummers. Any drummer worth his or her salt has spent time studying Ringo,” Clarke says. “It’s a subtle thing, but he invented an entire drumming style on his own. It says something to his level as a musician that if you go into a studio gig, people will say, ‘Play something Ringo-y.’ As soon as you become an adjective in music, you’ve done something special. His contribution to the band was vital, and in my opinion, right up there with the rest of them.”
Clarke doesn’t just play along — he plays the part, with wigs, costumes and even Ringo’s head bob.
While he’s a Ringo man, he acknowledges that Stones timekeeper, Charlie Watts, is just as exemplary behind the kit, just with his own sense of musical style and taste.
And taste, he says, is what Beatles vs. Stones all comes down to.
“Some people like things a little more straightforward and simple. Other people like things that are a little more diverse, a little more fancy, a little more artsy,” he says. “To me, Beatles fans would be more fancy burger. Stones fans would be a little more straight-up, throw-some-meat-on-the grill-and-serve-it-to-me-hot, kind of fan. Me, I kind of like a little fancy sauce on my burger.”
If you go
What: "Beatles vs. Stones — A Musical Showdown"
When: 8 p.m. Friday, Jan. 18
Where: Fargo Theatre, 314 Broadway N.
Info: Tickets are $39.50, plus fees; https://jadepresents.com or 866-300-8300