When “Purple Reign, The Prince Tribute Show” performed at The Lied Center for Performing Arts last month, Lincoln audiences had a chance to celebrate a beloved musician of the past.
This week, another iconic music group will be remembered when “RAIN: A Tribute to the Beatles” comes to the Lied Center April 2-3.
“RAIN” began in 1975 as “Reign,” a California band that played both original music and Beatles covers. Steve Landes, who plays John Lennon in the show, said once the original members of “Reign” started dedicating the majority of their time to duplicating the Beatles’ sound and look, they started to gain a large following of Beatles fans on the West Coast.
Landes has been in “RAIN” since 1998, which he said is right around the time when the group transitioned from a cover band into the theatrical narrative show that is performed today.
Landes grew up in Philadelphia as a massive Beatles fan because of his parents and older sisters, who were all alive during the peak of the band’s fame. When he was 10 years old, he saw “Beatlemania,” the original Beatles tribute show, and was immediately inspired to learn how to play music and mimic Lennon’s style. When he was 17, he joined “Beatlemania” at the tail end of its existence, soon moving on to “RAIN.”
From 2010-11, the show ran on Broadway for 300 performances, winning the 2011 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Revue. Ever since then, Landes said the group has spent about half of each year touring the U.S., taking the other months to rest while still performing occasionally at corporate events and state fairs.
“It was a real grind when we were on Broadway,” Landes said. “It was great fun, but now we just live on the tour bus for half of the year and then we get to have lives. It’s definitely a much easier and livable schedule.”
“RAIN” takes the audience through the arc of The Beatles’ fame, starting with their performance on “The Ed Sullivan Show” all the way to their breakup. Landes said the whole presentation shifts to match each era of the Beatles, from the performers’ costumes and attitudes to a “living backdrop” that transports the audience to some of the most iconic Beatles performances.
“I describe the show as if you could get The Beatles to perform their whole career in two and a half hours,” he said. “We use our costumes and multimedia, LED screens to make it exactly how you would picture a Beatles performance.”
Landes said when he was just getting into The Beatles, he saw them more as a collective musical entity. It wasn’t until his teenage years that he learned about them as individuals and started identifying with Lennon the most out of the whole group. From his message of positivity and peace to his support of women’s rights to the range and sound of his voice, Landes has always been inspired and fascinated by Lennon.
“He was one of those guys who was always so honest and relatable,” Landes said. “It can be pretty daunting to play such an iconic character, but I feel like I’m continually learning how to play him in the best way possible. I present the version of John Lennon that speaks most to me, and I hope that’s the version that speaks to the audience.”
Landes said he feels joy with each performance, as he can tell The Beatles still mean a lot to people even today.
“You can go and see a film or listen to a record, but there’s a live connection in a concert that is exciting,” Landes said. “There’s nothing like going to a theater filled with like-minded people and you get to watch their music played out on stage by people who feel the exact same way. Their music was written over 50 years ago, but their messages of love and peace and coming together are still things we need to hear today.”
“RAIN: A Tribute to The Beatles” will perform at the Lied Center for Performing Arts on April 2-3 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at the Lied Center box office or online.