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Faking it

Cover bands throw three-day fest in A.C.

Denise Henhoeffer/Courier-Post
Greg Ransom performs with Bennie & The Jets, the Elton John Tribute Band, at The House of Blues in Atlantic City.

IF YOU GO
Fake Fest runs today through Sunday on The Deck at Trump Marina Hotel Casino, Huron Avenue and Brigantine Boulevard, Atlantic City. Admission is free. For more, call (800) 777-8477 or go to http://www.trumpmarina.com/.

TODAY

Bennie & The Jets (Elton John): 7 and 9:10 p.m.

Evolution (Journey): 8:05 and 10:10 p.m.

SATURDAY

52nd Street (Billy Joel): 3:10 and 7:50 p.m

Runaway (Bon Jovi): 4:30 and 9 p.m.

Who's Next (The Who): 5:50 and 10:10 p.m.

SUNDAY

Hotel California (The Eagles): 2:30 and 7:30 p.m.

Black Dog (Led Zeppelin): 3:50 and 8:50 p.m.

2U (U2): 5:10 and 10:10 p.m.


IF YOU GO
The following acts are scheduled to play House of Blues inside Showboat casino, Boardwalk at Delaware Avenue, Atlantic City. For more information, call (609) 236-2583 or go to www.hob.com/atlanticcity.

Phix (Phish): 8 p.m. July 21; $8

Tequila Sunrise (The Eagles): 8 p.m. July 22; $10

The Unforgettable Fire: 8 p.m. July 29; $10

Appetite For Destruction (Guns N' Roses): 9 p.m. Aug. 5; $10

Slippery When Wet (Bon Jovi): 8 p.m. Aug. 12; $10

The Ultimate Tribute to AC/DC: 8 p.m. Aug. 26; $10


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Friday, June 23, 2006

By CHUCK DARROW
Courier-Post Staff

It had all the earmarks of a typical Elton John performance: The piano-pounding singer-composer was seated behind the keyboard, decked out in a glittery ensemble, a trademark boater perched jauntily atop his head. He delighted the crowd with spot-on versions of such signatures as "Crocodile Rock," "Your Song" and "Rocket Man."

Yep, the turn had everything you'd want in an Elton John concert -- except Sir Elton.

Instead, it was someone named Greg Ransom up on the stage at House of Blues inside the Showboat casino in Atlantic City.

Ransom is the lead singer of Bennie & The Jets, one of a number of bands currently making hay, thanks to a recent phenomenon that's developed in the seaside gambling mecca: The rising popularity of tribute bands that pay homage to classic-rock artists with painstaking recreations of their performances.

Cover bands that serve up renditions of songs by a variety of rock artists have been a staple of the American bar scene for decades. But groups like Bennie & The Jets and the Bon Jovi-inspired Runaway -- both of which are part of this weekend's Fake Fest at The Deck, the dockside, al fresco saloon at Trump Marina Hotel Casino -- have mined the public's seemingly unquenchable thirst for the rock music of the 1970s and '80s.

They'll be joined by the likes of 2U (U2), Hotel California (The Eagles) and Who's Next (The Who).

According to Al Faucera of Brothers Management Associates in Fords, Middlesex County, tribute-band programs make perfect business sense.

"You have so many millions of fans of these artists. It's just easier to advertise a Billy Joel or Elton or Bruce Springsteen show," said Faucera, whose agency represents a number of faux rockers.

That's especially true in Atlantic City.

"It's a classic-rock market down here, and we're just trying to tap into that market," said House of Blues talent booker Stan Livingstone, who has lined up a series of six such concerts for July and August in the entertainment complex's Club Harlem space.

"People like to come out and hear their favorite bands."

Indeed, those interviewed during the House of Blues show Bennie & The Jets did with Billy Joel saluters Big Shot gave the artists, and the tribute-band concept, high marks.

"I'm impressed, I can't believe how much (Ransom) looks like Elton John," said Sun Chen, 47, a radiologist from Linwood.

He added seeing the two acts gave him a chance to at least get a sense of what it was like to see the two mega-stars in their heydays, when tickets to their concerts were out of his financial reach.

"This is the next best thing," he said. "And (Bennie & The Jets is) probably better than Elton John would be right now."

Somers Point resident Caitlin Peraria, 18, is obviously too young to have gone to an Elton John or Billy Joel concert in the 1970s. But she, too, was enthusiastic about what she had seen.

"I was amazed at how much he sounded like Elton John," said Peraria, who is a music business major at New York University. "It was cool to get a feel of what it was like in the 1970s."

For Elvio Nardi, lead singer of the Central Jersey-based Runaway, performing as Jon Bon Jovi crosses the boundary from rock music to theater.

"It's big-time acting," said Nardi. "Off-stage, I'm Elvio. But onstage, I try to portray Jon as best as I can."

Reach Chuck Darrow at (856) 486-2442 or cdarrow@courierpostonline.com

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