Rain: The Beatles Experience

prof_rain-sm.jpg"The show is great for Beatles fans but it's also a great way to introduce young kids to the Beatles who kind of know the material, but maybe didn't think they were that cool."

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fox Theatre, 03.06-09

You've heard the songs all your life, and you can sing along with most of them when they pop up on your radio station. Chances are you're either a Beatles fan, or you at least like a handful of their songs. But unless you're of a certain age and were very, very lucky sometime back in 1965-1966, you've never seen the Beatles live. That'll only happen now in your dreams, friend-o, but the lads in Rain are offering you the next best thing: a full recreation of the magic of the Fab Four performed live with state-of-the-art sound and visuals.

"We've kind of introduced a new generation to the Beatles," said founding member Mark Lewis, who manages Rain, plays keyboards and contributes vocals and other instrumentation to the often dense arrangements. "The funny thing is that the younger kids know the words to the songs because their parents played the music. We see kids in the first few rows of our concerts, and they're mouthing all the words, even to songs like ‘When I'm Sixy-Four.' The show is great for Beatles fans but it's also a great way to introduce young kids to the Beatles who kind of know the material, but maybe didn't think they were that cool."

prof_rain.jpgThe phenomenon that is now Rain began in southern California in the 1970s when Lewis transformed the energetic bar band then called Reign (who did a set of Beatle covers but also their own material) into something far more than a cover or mere tribute band. People began coming to hear them in increasing numbers.

"Word got out to the Beatles fans and we started to pack various clubs around Hollywood and the San Fernando valley," said Lewis. "In those days, the technology wasn't as advanced as it is today and so you couldn't do certain songs accurately. But we would do 'em anyway, like side two of Abbey Road. People went nuts, though, because we had the voices and the arrangements down."

One of Rain's career highlights was doing the soundtrack for the Dick Clark-produced, made-for-TV movie, Birth of the Beatles. They didn't appear in the project, but it was their music that fans heard. Soon the band was donning Fab period costumes, and creating a visual show to match their increasingly refined sound. And in the last four or five years, Rain has been gaining a global following, playing for Beatles-hungry audiences around the world.

"We recently played in Liverpool, at the Empire Theatre, which is where the Beatles used to play. We also did a set at the Cavern Club. So we had an international audience with some of the biggest Beatles fans on the planet. And they loved it!"

Lewis seems proudest of the fact that the group can appeal to the most hardcore Beatles fans, because Rain digs deep into the storied catalogue for their shows.

"We do stuff that most groups wouldn't touch," he said. "We consider the Beatles recordings and even the anthology stuff, anything we can find—like the isolated mellotron part from ‘Strawberry Fields Forever.' Something where you get an outtake or a remix you might not have heard before...that's something new to include in our show. We do ‘A Day in the Life,' with that whole buildup in the middle... ‘I Am the Walrus.' We do side two of Abbey Road. But at the same time, we do stuff like ‘I Wanna Hold Your Hand,' ‘A Hard Day's Night' and ‘I Feel Fine.' You get it all."

There are five costume changes during the show, as the band progresses from the Beatles' Ed Sullivan days to their climactic 1969 period. Besides Lewis, the show includes Joey Curatolo as Paul McCartney, Steve Landes as John Lennon, Joe Bithorn as George Harrison and Ralph Castelli as Ringo. All the music is authentically live, with no pre-recorded tapes. And through rigorous rehearsals over the years, Rain can play most of the Beatles' tunes note for note. Lewis is confident that fans will get their money's worth.

"The audience that comes to our show wants to hear the music. They want to relive those days. A lot of fans have the CDs and maybe the movies, but there's no real Beatles live experience you can have anymore, except for maybe seeing Paul McCartney or Ringo Starr..."

Such a show isn't really a Beatles concert, Lewis explained, because McCartney can vary the arrangements substantially, whereas Rain treats the songs the way a classical musician would treat a piece of classical music to be performed. And after all, Beatle tunes are indeed "classics" by now.

"We've been like a well-kept secret among Beatles fans on the West Coast," he said. "Now all of a sudden we're getting exposed to all these people that've kind of heard about us but have never seen us. They come in with kind of a ‘show me' attitude. Those are the people we really play for, because they'll appreciate the fact that we catch every little nuance of the music." | Kevin Renick

 

Rain: The Beatles Experience is at the Fabulous Fox Theatre March 6-9, 2008. Tickets are $30-45; available through Ticketmaster or at the Fox Box Office. More info

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