The Fab Faux are to Beatles cover bands what the Vienna Philharmonic is to Beethoven cover bands: the best in the business.

Some may laugh at that comparison, though few would deny the need to cover Beethoven. The deaf composer’s own performing career ended when he died in 1827, and if enterprising musicians hadn’t formed the great orchestras of Europe, the art of playing the great orchestral music of Europe would’ve died with him.

The Fab Faux fill the same need in rock music. Anyone can hear any Beatles recording anytime they want in a wired world. But no one will ever hear them perform live again. Though Paul McCartney still plays some of their tunes at his concerts, Ringo Starr is nearly out of the touring business, and John Lennon and George Harrison are as dead as Beethoven. While Beatles’ records are no doubt the definitive performances of their music, if no band plays the songs live, their music is as dead as Beethoven, too.

The Fab Faux make the Beatles’ music come to life by playing the hell out of it live. With a first set of songs from across their catalogue and a second set with just their masterpiece, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, plus a brace of encores, the band’s show last April at the Michigan Theater burst with incandescent performances all the way from the first song, a luminous “Hello Goodbye,” to a blistering “I’m Down” at the end. They blazed in “Day Tripper,” burned in “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” scorched in “Can’t Buy Me Love,” and their extended double drum solo at the end of “Strawberry Fields Forever” was truly staggering–and nearly deafening.

By any standard, both sets were supremely well executed. No matter how difficult the material, the band’s five members–Will Lee, Jimmy Vivino, Rich Pagano, Frank Agnello, and Jack Petruzzelli–matched the Vienna Philharmonic for energy, virtuosity, and focus. But they rocked harder, particularly in the first set and encores, with performances as exciting as anything I’ve ever heard in the Michigan Theater.

The Fab Faux did disappoint in their performance of Sgt. Pepper. Great as some of the individual moments were–and Will Lee’s vocal on “She’s Leaving Home” was exquisite–the overall performance didn’t hang together as well as the first set, with too much time between songs and a perceptible lessening of intensity towards the end. But these are small complaints compared with how much sheer joy the band created.

When the Fab Faux return April 13, they’ll be playing the whole White Album. The challenge this time won’t be so much the music’s virtuosity as its intensity–what to do with “Yer Blues” and “Helter Skelter”–and what to do with “Revolution 9?”