Still, there has long been an inclination by media and fans alike to pit the groups against each other, often debating which British invader is better. This tendency has, for almost a decade, acted as the fodder for “Beatles vs. Stones — A Musical Showdown,” a specialty performance from cover bands Abbey Road and Satisfaction coming to the Kirkland Performance Center on Feb. 21.
The two groups will be joined by a string quartet from Redmond High School, who will assist the bands on seven songs, including “Eleanor Rigby” and “Ruby Tuesday.” The ensemble comprises seniors Kai Slesarev-Nogami and Teagan Elliott and juniors Thrisha Ramesh and Mathangi Venkatesh.
The Kirkland performance is part of a 125-stop tour of Australia, Canada and the United States; the Beatles-versus-Stones concept as devised by La Jolla Booking’s Andy Nagle has been in place since about 2011.
Nagle said one thing that sets the performance apart from other tribute shows is its construction. Tongue-in-cheek dialogue punctuates the music (“Without Beatlemania, the Stones might still be a cover band in London,” Chris Overall, or “Paul” of Abbey Road might muse); the bands take turns doing mini, era-specific sets supplemented by custom-made, period-appropriate attire.
As described by Abbey Road’s Axel Clarke, the show is a “playful” competition, which culminates in a joint performance at the end of the show.
“People seem to like the structure of it,” Nagle said. “They’re interested in seeing how the winner is determined each night.”
Clarke, who “plays” Ringo Starr, didn’t realize what his involvement would turn into when he first signed on for Abbey Road. After working in Los Angeles as a freelance musician for about 15 years, he saw a casting ad for a Beatles cover band and went on to have a successful audition for it. The group’s first gig was in 2009.
“What I thought was just going to be a fun couple of gigs turned into, you know, 10 years later,” Clarke said.
He likens the early Beatles-versus-Stones shows to experiments. After a “slow, organic build,” it began to grow. By his estimate, about 60 percent of Abbey Road shows are now affiliated with the Beatles-versus-Stones project.
Chris LeGrand, who fronts Satisfaction in the guise of Mick Jagger, co-founded the band in 2000, which went from being a part-time to full-time endeavor early on. He said Satisfaction had already been doing a Beatles-versus-Stones-style performance before Nagle, whom he had worked with in the past, asked if he would be interested in participating in his version. Satisfaction, according to LeGrand, has been doing this particular showdown series since around 2015.
“There’s not a dull moment in the show,” LeGrand said. “There’s not a sleepy moment. There’s not a boring moment — it’s just two hours of pure fun and I think it’s unmatched, what we’re doing.”
Aside from being, as Clarke jokingly described it, a “bang for your buck” since it’s essentially two live performances for the price of one, the Beatles-versus-Stones show is notable not just for its structure and concept but also for the engagement from attendees. Social media posts about the band, for instance, often come with who’s-the-better-band debates in the comment sections. For Clarke, it’s this eagerness, paired with the unpredictability of a live audience reaction, that helps keep things fresh.
“Even if we’re playing the same set that we’ve played for, like, 10 shows in a row, it’s still a question of, how’s this song going to go over with this audience — and they react in a different way than the previous audiences do,” he said. “It always keeps it interesting.”
Nagle echoed this.
“I just like watching the audience respond to it,” he said. “You’ll see a couple of the front row that’ll [hear] the first chord of a song…and they’ll look at each other and they’ll hold hands. You’ll know that that song has a very special meaning in their lives.”
When mapping out the show, Clarke noted, it’s important to please die-hards without alienating more casual fans — and also ensure concertgoers leave the theater with a newfound esteem for both acts.
“I’m always of the opinion it’s our job to entertain people, not educate them,” he said. “It’s a very simplistic thing, but I just hope people leave it enjoying the hell out of the show and having a great time. They will, and they always do leave, with an appreciation for both bands. If they were walking in not necessarily behind the Beatles, they’re going to walk out going, ‘I gotta give it up — they have some great songs.’ And vice versa for Beatles fans: they always walk out going, ‘Yeah, I forgot how much I like the Stones.’ That appreciation for both bands is really what I like people getting.”
For ticket information, go to www.kpcenter.org.