WASHINGTON — Under the concrete ribs of the barrel-shell roof of a crumbling coliseum, the capital awaits the Beatles. Or, rather, the Beatles tribute band. The real thing is exactly 50 years gone on this Tuesday night, in this exact spot in Northeast Washington, and Washington must make do with imitation, with nostalgia, with the reverb of the past.
"I'm listening to the Supremes and then all of a sudden on my transistor radio: 'I sawww herrr staaan-ding there,' " says Steve Daugherty, 59, who's in from Chantilly, Va. with his wife, Chris. They're wearing Lennon-esque spectacles and holding tall-boy beers, their breath fogging in the meat-locker air of the Washington Coliseum, the site of the Beatles' first North American concert, on Feb. 11, 1964. The Daughertys are here for the music, they say, but might they also be here to recapture a long-ago feeling?
"Oh, yeah," he says.
Behind the stage, in a cramped trailer that's 40 degrees warmer an hour before showtime, four men from America spray their wigs, pencil their eyebrows and button themselves into black-lapelled gray suits until they are four mop-headed lads from Liverpool. Beatlemania Now, the expert imitators of that night 50 years ago, are being watched by a man who was there, opening for the Beatles: the singer Tommy Roe.
"It's kind of spooky," says Roe, who will now open for an imitation, half a century later. Also, says Roe: "Surreal."
"They're Lennon-colored but when you get older, they're not as bushy," says Scot Arch, aka John, as he pencils away in front of a mirror.
"And I wonder how Paul and Ringo keep their hair so brown," Roe says with a glint in his eye, his hair a distinguished and well-adjusted gray.