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Members of Abbey Road, the Beatles tribute group, include, from left, Chris Paul Overall (Paul McCartney), Jesse Wilder (George Harrison), Axel Clarke (Ringo Starr) and Gregory Wilmot (John Lennon). (Publicity image)

Tribute groups bring Beatles vs. Stones rivalry to life at Corn Palace

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Young Hutchison admits he has an unusual job description.

Hutchison portrays Keith Richards, one of the musicians and celebrated “bad boys of London” from legendary rock ’n’ roll group Rolling Stones, in the tribute group Jumping Jack Flash — which he joked can be dicey going through airport security.

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“You don’t want to be the Keith Richards guy going through customs,” he said. “It’s a pretty wild ride. It’s an interesting thing that we do.”

Jumping Jack Flash, along with Beatles tribute band, Abbey Road, will perform their Beatles vs. Stones show at 7 p.m. Saturday at the Corn Palace. Tickets are $15, general admission, and are available at the Palace box office at 995-8430 or cornpalace.org.

Corn Palace Director Mark Schilling said this show’s capacity could accommodate about 2,000 people, but he’s hoping for about 750. He said there will be round tables set up on the floor of the Palace, with a dance area in front of the stage, as well as the stadium seats. As of Thursday afternoon, a little more than 300 tickets had been sold, but he expected the show to have strong walk-up sales, provided there is no severe winter weather.

“It’s a great opportunity for people to get out and do something a little different,” he said. “This is all about that great debate, who is the better of the classic rock bands.”

For the last three years, Hutchison said the two tribute bands have been letting fans decide that debate, one show at a time — and so far, there’s no clear winner.

“Different nights it goes different ways,” Hutchison said. “Stones fans don’t always clap as well, but it’s hard to clap with drinks in both hands.”

The show plays on the oft-noted rivalry of the clean-cut “lads from Liverpool” versus the hard-living, bad boy image the Rolling Stones retained through much of their 50-plus years of entertaining. Hutchison said during the show, the bands take turns on stage; Abbey Road will perform a short set of Beatles songs, followed by Jumping Jack Flash with a set of Stones songs. They go back and forth until the grand finale, when both bands share the stage and perform together.

“It’s a little mini battle of the two most important bands, many people believe, in rock ’n’ roll,” Hutchison said. “But the show is not just two bands on a bill. It’s theater, really.”

In addition to the bands doing their best to look and sound like the original Beatles and Rolling Stones, Hutchison said the show includes some scripted dialogue, some improvisation and a lot of light-hearted banter between the two groups, playing up the rivalry between the bands and their fans.

“We play it up. The dialogue that’s built in to the show, with good humor, we’re poking fun at each other,” Hutchison said. “Like brothers in family would. It’s very funny.”

But, more than that, Hutchison said it’s a chance for people to re-live some of their favorite music, from one — or both — of their favorite bands.

“We didn’t create this music, but the music has an effect on people and always did,” Hutchison said. “We can see it on people’s faces, that they just kind of go to a place, they’re in the zone. It’s this crazy passionate thing that happens.”

Hutchison noted the Corn Palace show’s proximity to the 50th anniversary of the Beatles’ now-legendary “Ed Sullivan Show” appearance on Feb. 9, 1964, that made them a household name. The anniversary has been met with much fanfare, including a rare reunion performance between the last two living members of the original group, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr at this year’s Grammys. Similarly, the Rolling Stones celebrated their 50th anniversary in 1962 with a return performance at the venue where they landed their first gig.

Despite the decades that have passed since the groups’ heydays to now, Hutchison said the music is just as fun, and the fans are just as passionate.

“We get them screaming like they did in 1964. It’s a good time,” Hutchison said.

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