Thursday, February 11, 2010

Theater feature: Beatles tribute band graduates to big centers

The members of Rain, in full Sgt. Pepper regalia.

By Hap Erstein

Just because you cannot afford to book a band, or the members have long since stopped talking to each other, let alone playing together, that should not stop a performing arts center from presenting the group anyway. Or at least a reasonable facsimile.

That is the rationale behind the tribute band phenomenon, which has seen the likes of Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd on the Kravis Center stage in the past two years and now, on Friday evening, you can meet the Beatles.

Well, sort of.

Liverpool’s Fab Four have inspired a raft of tribute bands, all approximating the look and sound of what is generally acknowledged to be the greatest collection of rock songwriters/performers ever assembled. The band's career had many distinct periods, from the Ed Sullivan Show days through their musical and psychedelic experiments to their bitter break-up, and a group called Rain, which will be performing at the Kravis Center on Friday, is able to render them all.

But their specialty is reproducing the complex, overdubbed tracks that even the Beatles never performed live.

“The Beatles stopped touring in ‘66 and our show just starts to heat up around that time,” says Joey Curatolo, who plays Paul McCartney in Rain. “They started into the studio around ‘Rubber Soul’ or 'Revolver,' and we play all that music till the end of their career. With today’s technology, we can sample, recreate and reproduce and emulate all the [engineer] George Martin productions and scoring.”

Most of the members of Rain came from a 1970s Broadway show about the group, Beatlemania. Originally, they were called Reign, as in royalty, but after enough reporters misspelled it, they switched to Rain, which also happens to be the name of a Beatles song.

Rain was playing cruise ship and casino gigs when Canadian producer Jeff Parry saw them, saw the potential in their musicianship and took the act to a new, more theatrical level that now plays performing arts centers.

“We added the video elements, the historical references in the video, so it’s more of a show than just a bunch of guys playing music,” Parry says.

Still, getting presenters to take a look at Rain was not easy. “We had to convince people that this was something special, not just another Beatles tribute show. When people see it they understand,” insists Parry. “Critics come to rip it apart and in a half an hour, they’re sucked right into this thing.”

Any four guys can call themselves a Beatles tribute band. What further sets Rain apart is the high-level endorsements they have received. “We are licensed by Sony now, the only people licensed to have grand rights for a Beatles show, except for Cirque du Soleil. It’s a stamp of approval of the quality of our show,” beams Curatolo.

Rain can play most of the 200 or so songs in the Beatles catalog, and their show can vary, night to night. But some numbers are virtually required by the fans. “You have to play ‘Yesterday’ in a Beatles show, you have to play ‘Hey Jude,’ you have to pay ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand,' ” explains Curatolo.

He claims to not be bothered by the many other Beatles tribute bands running around. “The good thing is that they’re out there and everybody is bringing this music to the younger generation and keeping the spirit of the Beatles alive.”

Not surprisingly, Curatolo thinks you need to see Rain, no matter what your age.

“For Baby Boomers, it’s a religious experience. For young people, it’s what all the excitement was about for their older siblings or mother and father. For younger people, it’s a must to be introduced to this music.

"And it’s the quickest two hours they’ll ever sit through.”

RAIN: A TRIBUTE TO THE BEATLES. Kravis Center, 701 Okeechobee Blvd., West Palm Beach. 8 p.m. Friday. Tickets: $25-$95. Call: (561) 832-7469 or (800) 572-8471.

1 comment:

C.L.J. said...

I had the pleasure of working RAIN when I worked for NCL. They were the hit of the 50's and 60's theme cruise on the M/V Seaward. A very fun evening, and a consummate group of performers.