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Toronto rockers Blurred Vision billed as only Canuck band on Beatles bill

The Toronto rock band Blurred Vision is shown in a handout photo. The band will play at the Beatles 50th anniversary celebrations kicking off Thursday in New York.THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Babak Payami

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The Toronto rock band Blurred Vision is shown in a handout photo. The band will play at the Beatles 50th anniversary celebrations kicking off Thursday in New York.THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Babak Payami

TORONTO - Toronto rockers Blurred Vision plan to get political with their gig at the Beatles 50th anniversary celebrations kicking off Thursday in New York — but given their history, that should come as no surprise.

The four-piece group, billed as the only band from Canada scheduled to play at the festivities, says the set list for their show on Friday will likely include their cover of the Beatles hit "Back in the U.S.S.R.," noting they've changed the lyrics to protest Russia's anti-gay law.

It's not the first politically charged tune for the socially conscious group, whose debut album "Organized Insanity" — produced by Terry Brown of Rush fame — drops in May. (They'll also be featured on the soundtrack for the upcoming film "Manhattan Undying.")

In 2010, co-founders/brothers Sepp and Sohl Osley wanted to draw attention to youth protests in their native Iran, so the band recorded and released a cover of Pink Floyd's "Another Brick in the Wall" with the rewritten chorus: "Hey Ayatollah, leave those kids alone." Iranian film director Babak Payami flew in from Italy to film the video version.

Along with the move, the brothers started going by the stage surname Osley to protect the identities of family members still in Iran who might be in danger because of their defiant tune.

They also got the attention of Pink Floyd co-founder Roger Waters, who gave them full rights and ownership to the new version. He also met them backstage in Toronto during his 2010 "The Wall" tour.

"It's totally changed our lives since that day, because it was the moment where we knew that by the use of our music, we could actually affect our generation as well," frontman Sepp Osley said in a recent interview.

"So he's like a mentor to us in ways. It's an honour."

Blurred Vision features Sepp on lead guitar, Sohl on bass, Canadian-born Ben Riley (son of late keyboard legend Doug Riley) on drums and British-born Joel Lightman on keys.

They'll perform Friday at New York's Hudson Theatre as part of "NYC FAB 50: Celebrating the Music of the Beatles" concerts that run through Sunday. The series will benefit charities and mark the Golden Jubilee of the Beatles' first U.S. visit in 1964.

Friday's bill also includes the Spin Doctors while Sunday's concert at the Apollo Theater includes Dionne Warwick, Mary Wilson of the Supremes and Bettye LaVette.

Blurred Vision got the gig after they wrote and recorded "Dear John," a tribute song to their "hero" John Lennon, and donated all the proceeds to charity. It got the attention of the anti-poverty organization WhyHunger in New York, which made them ambassadors.

WhyHunger then invited them to play at this weekend's shows in New York, where Blurred Vision stay when they're not in Toronto.

"It's an absolute massive honour for us to be involved as the only Canadian band," said Sepp, 30.

"We've all listened to the Beatles so much that it's in our blood," added Sohl, 36.

For the Osley brothers, their Beatles love began as children in Mashhad, Iran, where they grew up in a music-loving military family.

Sepp was five and Sohl was 10 when they fled the country's revolution and war with their mother and father, whose life was at risk because of his outspoken views.

"We had to go through a few different countries like Turkey and Germany before we ended up landing in Canada," said Sohl.

"We never really like to talk about the way we came out of Iran, just because there was so much up in the air at that time and of course we were all very young," said Sepp.

He does recall "being three years old and listening to bombs fly overhead and fall, and hiding under the table at a birthday party for some friends and family," he added.

"That's the impact of war. It lasts with you and it hits you more than any memory you can have in your life and for us, we've tried to sort of use that influence in our music to try and bring people together more rather than divide people, which war always does."

Blurred Vision will get political again on their upcoming 10-song album, which they recorded in Toronto and at Brown's private studio in Ontario's Muskoka region.

The lead single is "Warmaker," which is inspired by the stories of veterans and civilians in the Middle East.

"There's a great duality in this album of love and anguish and war and peace and sort of bringing these elements together to create a tapestry of music that speaks for all of us, all our influences and how we came together to create this music," said Sepp.

"That's what art is all about," added Sohl. "It's the catalyst to social progress, and if art wasn't critical and politically savvy then there would be very little social progress in history, if you look at it.

"It's always been art that's been pushing the boundaries of progress and if we shy away from that as artists then we're not doing our job."

Follow @VictoriaAhearn on Twitter.

___

Online:

http://blurredvisionmusic.com/

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aCsWpQCt7nM

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OIP38eq-ywc

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8W3zl6JnXg4

http://www.nycfab50.com/

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version had Sohl's age at 35.

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