Illustration by Kelsey Bell | Design Editor
In 1999, Don Bellezzo and his Beatles tribute band, Yesterday, were sued by the Beatles’ distribution company because they “were confusing the public” with the real deal.
Although the lawsuit was unsuccessful, Bellezzo said it proved how popular the group’s international production had become.
“They tried to stop us from playing,” Bellezzo said. “That’s how big we got.”
Fifteen years later, Yesterday still prides itself on its uncanny performances of the Fab Four’s timeless collection of pop ballads, psychedelic jams and revolutionary sounds in rock.
At 8:15 p.m. tonight in the Amphitheater, Bellezzo and his fellow Beatles impersonators will come together with a little help from their friends on the Amphitheater’s main stage to deliver a hit-heavy performance, covering every era from “Twist and Shout” to “Let It Be.”
Bellezzo, who fills John Lennon’s role as rhythm guitarist, first found the inspiration for Yesterday during his college days. Armed with an acoustic guitar and a tenor’s vocal range, he received praise whenever he took on the Walrus’ persona.
“After I graduated college, I knew I wanted to have a career in music,” Bellezzo said. “At the time, there were a lot of Elvis impersonators around. I always liked the Beatles a lot more than Elvis, so I decided to form a tribute group.”
Now more than 20 years later, Bellezzo’s Las Vegas-based band has evolved into an elaborate production, complete with ornate costumes, tunes in the original keys, authentic instruments and genuine theatrics. Yesterday has performed along the Vegas strip, around the country and on five continents, bringing a true Beatles experience to fans around the globe.
“It’s not just a band; it’s a production,” Bellezzo said. “We have the look and feel of a real Beatles experience with costume changes, acting and videos.”
Bellezzo is one of seven spot-on look-alikes in the Yesterday cast. Two actors fill each role, allowing the group to tour non-stop while maintaining a presence in Nevada. Tonight, Bellezzo will be joined by Rich Fazzi as Paul, Monte Mann as George and Dick Cunico as Ringo. Bellezzo said this troupe has been together for eight years, and each fits his part impeccably.
“Each guy happened to fall into the role naturally,” Bellezzo said. “For example, Rich plays bass left-handed just like Paul.”
Although Yesterday is invading Chautauqua to commemorate the Beatles’ first trip to the United States 50 years ago, the band won’t focus attention on any particular period. All styles, from those made in the depths of the Cavern Club to the pioneering sounds of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band will reverberate through the Amp.
Unlike a symphony concert or a ballet performance, Bellezzo hopes Chautauquans let loose, sing along to their favorite songs and feel all the excitement of an evening with John, Paul, George and Ringo.
“Loud yelling is our ideal response,” Bellezzo said. “We don’t like when the crowd feels like they have to be quiet and polite. We want everyone to be natural, let their emotions out and just have a great time.”