Rain–A Tribute To The Beatles: Greensboro Auditorium, Nov 21, 2009 (Afternoon Show)
The rub against cover bands is that they’re just a bunch of knock-offs making a living off of someone else’s legacy. Some of these bands wind up playing conventions or small festivals, covering everything from Frankie Valli to KC and the Sunshine Band. Others make a grander leap. Bands like Dark Star Orchestra (Grateful Dead) and The Australian Pink Floyd Show (Pink Floyd) take their craft to a much grander scale. They don’t just play great music, they look to recreate the experience of seeing those particular bands live. From the clothing styles to precise guitar tones, those bands will bring seeing the real thing to those who never have, or to those who want to relive what it was like.
Enter Rain, a touring production which succeeds not only in recreating the various eras of Beatles music, but various moments in the history that the Beatles became a part of. Throughout their two afternoon hour show in Greensboro, Rain not only told the story of the Beatles, from Ed Sullivan all the way to the rooftop of Apple Studios, they also told the story of the sixties as well. Using two large video screens, Rain interspersed old television commercials, news clips, music from other bands of the time, as well as reenactments of key moments in Beatles history (whonever played Ed Sullivan, hats off to you!) in between the band’s various costume changes. Prell shampoo commercial? The old time Prell shampoo commercial was good enough. Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble doing a commercial for Winston cigarettes? As funny as ever.
Musically the band is spot on with its attention to the songs and styles of the time. The suits and ties were on for the first several songs as the band “performed” on The Ed Sullivan Show. The styles quickly shifted as Rain made their way through to Shea Stadium, The Sgt. Pepper era, the rest of the 60’s and finally to Abbey Road, changing costumes to match each era. While this band performed the early Beatles songs with more than enough spark, it was from the Rubber Soul/Revolver albums on where Rain truly hit their stride and seemed to have the most fun. Almost every song was performed as it was heard on the albums with uncanny precision. Close your eyes and you’d swear you were hearing “That Boy” on the Ed Sullivan show for the first time. You’ll likely remember exactly where you were the first time you heard “Strawberry Fields Forever” on the radio.
Even though a significant portion of the Beatles catalog was never performed live, this didn’t stop Rain from making sure every sound found its way into the show. From Mark Beyer’s extra layer of keyboards and Tom Teeley’s (George Harrison) midi-electronic set up, every flute, horn, every extraneous instrument and special effect was played. If it was on the album, it was a part of the show.
The only time Rain allowed itself to stretch its legs enough to make a song their own was during “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.” What started off as a slow acoustic number turned into the dramatic sounding song we’re familiar with. The only bump was Teeley unplugging his own guitar not once, but twice, during his solo. You couldn’t help but feel bad for him as he went up to the microphone with a slightly defeated stance and said, “We tried.” Oh, what could have been as he seemed ready to let loose.
The most striking aspect of Rain is their attention to detail. Nothing was missed, and if you enjoy looking for the tiniest nuances, Rain is full of them. Steve Landes went through the John Lennon’s “clap your hands, stomp your feet” in the first act. That’s easy to spot. Less obvious was Landes chewing gum while singing during the entire second set, something the real John Lennon was known to do (Don’t believe me? Watch the video to “All You Need Is Love” or “Mother” for proof). Tom Teeley was almost spooky in his resemblance to later Beatles George Harrison. Like the real George Harrison, his presence was understated, but his performance was equally as powerful. Joe Bologna had the Ringo Starr smile, head bop, peace and love act down pat, but it was him mouthing out the “shoo be doo wop’s” during “Revolution” that caught my attention. Graham Alexander (Paul McCartney) performed the second act of the show barefoot, the way Paul was pictured on the cover of Abbey Road. If that bit of attention didn’t grab you, his two acoustic performances would. The real Paul McCartney would play bass with his left hand, acoustic guitar with his right. In staying true to the Beatles, Alexander performed the same way: bass left handed, acoustic guitar right handed. If you can teach yourself to be ambidextrous, Alexander is living proof.
Rain succeeds in everything it sets out to do. It recreates an era as well as the sights and sounds of one of the greatest bands in rock ‘n’ roll history. Most of all it does so without coming off the least bit pretentious or overbearing in what it tries to do. McCartney once said in an interview that the aspect he loved most about the Beatles was its message of love. In the end, they were still four lovable mop tops whose purpose in music was to make people smile. After seeing this show, just try leaving a venue without one.