As faux Fab Four concerts go, "Rain: A Tribute to the Beatles" offers a quartet (plus keyboardist) of accomplished rockers who efficiently and methodically work their way through a plethora of Beatles fare while skimming through the lighter highlights of the Liverpool lads' often turbulent history.
As faux Fab Four concerts go, “Rain: A Tribute to the Beatles” offers a quartet (plus keyboardist) of accomplished rockers who efficiently and methodically work their way through a plethora of Beatles fare while skimming through the lighter highlights of the Liverpool lads’ often turbulent history. The Rain band members make no effort to delve deeply into the personas of their legendary counterparts, leaving the commentary to well-orchestrated multimedia video and sound projections that follow the course of Beatlemania from the band’s 1964 appearance on “The Ed Sullivan Show” to their 1970 swan song album, “Abbey Road.”
The Rain band members are at their best when recapturing the Liverpudlians’ early success as a first-rate rock ‘n’ roll dance band, ripping though such classics as “I Wanna Hold Your Hand,” “I Saw Her Standing There,” “Day Tripper” and their zesty cover of the Isley Brothers hit “Twist and Shout.” As guitarists, Steve Landes (rhythm), Joey Curatolo (bass) and Joe Bithorn (lead) impressively meld their instrumental output into a pulsating rhythmic force, driven by the rock-solid drums of Ralph Castelli.
As the concert proceeds chronologically into the Beatles’ much more complicated later compositions and arrangements, the band relies too heavily on the accomplished but overused keyboard work of Mark Lewis, sapping much of the “live band” energy from the proceedings.
Though they assume a semblance of Lennon’s and McCartney’s working-class Brit accents, Landes and Curatolo, respectively, make it perfectly clear this is a tribute and not a re-creation despite their onstage costume evolution from suit-attired moppets through the psychedelia of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” to the more socially aware casualness of the Beatles’ final days as a band. Curatolo, who handles most of the audience interaction, often flows from being Paul to honoring “Sir Paul” while hawking the “Rain” website.
The ensemble vocals, highlighting the distinctive Beatles harmonies (“A Hard Day’s Night”), offer much more veracity than the individual solo turns. Curatolo’s outing on McCartney’s legendary “Yesterday” is bland and practically overwhelmed by Lewis’ synthesized re-creation of the tune’s original string quartet accompaniment. Curatolo offers a much more rewarding “Blackbird,” highlighted by his own fluid acoustic guitar work.
Landes’ vocals are too thin and reedy to ever be mistaken for Lennon, especially on such iconic fare as “A Day in the Life” and “Imagine,” which does feature Landes’ adroit piano accompaniment. He is much more appealing on the gentle “Girl,” supported vocally by the rest of the band.
In his one solo vocal turn, drummer Castelli honors his Beatles counterpart with a lighthearted “A Little Help From My Friends” that makes no effort to imitate Ringo Starr’s near-guttural original rendition. A highlight of the concert is Joe Bithorn’s soulful rendition of George Harrison’s “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” featuring Bithorn’s soaring lead-guitar solo.
The video projections, with their historical footage, are a much-needed reminder of just how influential the Beatles were at the time. The “Rain” band competently displays just how timeless and relevant the Beatles musical output has become.
Rain: A Tribute to the Beatles
Keyboards: Mark Lewis.