It all began with one man’s love for the Beatles. He passed that love to his children who gift countless people around the country with the music of the greatest group in rock, sharpened and honed with their own unique energy and delivery. And now they’re doing it again in their own hometown at their new home at The Slowdown. It’s Rave On Productions’ Christmas present to Omaha: Yesterday & Today: The Interactive Beatles Experience.
Yes, the McGuigans (Billy, Ryan, and Matthew) and their band are once again blessing the city with their gift of Beatles music for the holiday season. This year marks the 15th anniversary of Yesterday & Today and it truly is the gift that keeps on giving. This is actually Y & T’s second year at their new digs and the move to The Slowdown has actually helped make this show better than ever.
Having seen this show in multiple venues I can tell you that the band sometimes has to adapt their show to suit the environment. But The Slowdown allows them to adapt the environment to suit the show as they have the best sound equipment, lights, and effects available so musicians can mold a top flight concert. Billy McGuigan has also been able to add horns and strings which allows the McGuigans and their band to get the maximum potential out of each and every number. Toss in the most varied set list I’ve ever heard (kudos to the audience), a supercharged band, an audience ravenous for entertainment, and the longest set of encores I’ve heard from the band and you’ve got the greatest rendition of Y & T that I’ve seen to date.
Once more, Billy McGuigan acts as your master of ceremonies and tonight he was especially up for the game. You could see the joy just radiating from his eyes as he soaked in the crowd’s energy and funneled it into his playing and singing throughout the night. Billy got the night started off fast and right with a high powered take on “Got to Get You Into My Life” and barely paused for a breath from thenceforth. If he wasn’t rocking out on early tunes like “I Want to Hold Your Hand” and “From Me to You” then he was leading the crowd to gentle waters with a trilogy including “Yesterday”, “Let it Be”, and “Here, There, and Everywhere”. Billy clearly had the gasoline to go all night, but had to leave the audience immensely satisfied with merely a dozen encore tunes including the classic “Hey Jude” to close out the night.
No performer fuses theatricality and singing quite like Ryan McGuigan. His numbers aren’t just songs. They’re performance pieces. Add that tenor that makes him sound like John Lennon reborn into the mix and you will simply be agog at his musical might. Ryan kicked things into high gear right out of the gate with the acid trippy “She Said, She Said” and kept his foot on the accelerator with “Revolution”, “Come Together”, and “I Am the Walrus” though he did slow things down with a beautiful take on “All You Need is Love”.
Matthew McGuigan flexed his musical majesty in the first act especially with his bass work in “From Me to You” and brought his musical chops to bear in the second act. Highlights of his singing included the ethereal “Strawberry Fields Forever” and somewhere I can hear John Lennon asking himself why he didn’t think to end the song on the same plaintive note that Matthew does. McGuigan also soars with a peppy version of “All My Loving” and indulges in a bit of hard psychedelia with “Hey, Bulldog”.
Lead guitarist Jay “Superman” Hanson not only knocked things out of the park with his skilled guitar playing, but he got multiple chances to shine with takes on George Harrison classics such as “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”, “Do You Want to Know a Secret?”, and “Here Comes the Sun”. Ciaran McGuigan has blossomed into a fine guitarist and his sweet, almost shy, take on “With a Little Help From My Friends” shows he will carry the legacy of Y & T into the future.
Billy McGuigan often says the show is not about him and his band, but about the music from four guys from Liverpool and the audience’s connection with that music. There’s an element of truth to that, but that connection would mean nothing without the interpretation of this music by three guys from Omaha inspired by a father who left this world much too soon. Yesterday & Today has truly become a family affair and it’s a comforting feeling to know these treasures of Omaha will continue to share this gift with our town and the rest of the country for a long time to come.
Yesterday and Today: The Interactive Beatles Experience runs at The Slowdown through Dec 30. Showtimes are Fri-Sun at 7:30pm through Dec 11 and Wed-Fri at 7:30pm Dec 21-30. There are no shows from Dec 12-20 and the performance on Dec 4 is at 6:30pm. Tickets range from $20-$50 and can be purchased here. The Slowdown is located at 729 N 14th St in Omaha, NE.