It can be hard to recapture the magic of seeing your favorite band live after they’re gone. But with “RAIN: A Tribute to the Beatles,” which returned to the Lied Center on Tuesday night for the first time since 2009, Lincoln audience members from any generation can experience what a Beatles concert was like.
According to Steve Landes, who portrays John Lennon, RAIN is the first Beatles tribute band, which first played The Fab Four’s music and imitated their style in 1975. It wasn’t until 1998 that it turned into the theatrical show that is performed today. It had a run on Broadway from 2010 to 2011, and has toured nationally each year since.
Although mainly a celebration of The Beatles’ music, RAIN’s Lincoln performance also highlighted the different eras of The Beatles and how they and the world around them changed throughout the ‘60s. The performers altered their costumes and hair styles throughout the show, and screens displayed shifting colorful patterns and backgrounds to match each era. The screens would also play footage of the fake “Beatles” pretending to be interviewed between songs.
For a tribute band to really shine, however, the performers need to portray convincing imitations of the real thing. All four of RAIN’s performers were up to the task, capturing the mannerisms, voices and overall looks of John, Paul, Ringo and George. Landes and Paul Curatolo (Paul McCartney) are especially excellent as both of their vocal ranges and styles are almost indistinguishable from those of the real men they are portraying. It’s a type of acting that’s hard to nail, but each of them made their characters feel natural and authentic.
Landes gave some insight on how he prepares and gets into character for each show.
“I’ve done a ton of research into [Lennon], looking through every book and video I could get my hands on,” he said. “I found out who he was and why he did the things he did both on and offstage. I try to get into his mindset of how he was thinking during the different points in his life.”
The show began with reenacting the performance that propelled The Beatles to international stardom: their 1964 appearance on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” RAIN performed classics such as “All My Loving” and “I Want To Hold Your Hand” during this segment, rocking the matching moptop bowlcuts they had at the time.
They then moved into “Beatlemania,” when fans were hounding them at every turn, depicted through animations on the backdrop screens. Curatolo got to take the spotlight, singing “Yesterday” on a stool while draped in smoke.
One of The Beatles’ most memorable performances was when they sold out Shea Stadium in New York in 1965. While singing “I Feel Fine” and “We Can Work It Out,” RAIN donned beige coats while the sound system pumped the sounds of screaming fans, simulating that concert atmosphere. They then played “Twist and Shout,” with the whole audience encouraged to stand up and dance, joining in on the celebration of The Beatles’ music.
The show moved at a relentless pace, making it feel much shorter than its two-and-a-half hour runtime. As they moved forward into the late ‘60s, the performers’ outfits got progressively more extravagant, the backdrops more psychedelic.
The second act opened with RAIN performing songs from “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” Any Beatles’ fan would know that this album was known for its zany tone, as the band was free from the burdens of touring and could let loose with its musical style. The performers wore replicas of the costumes that The Beatles were wearing on that album’s iconic cover, as the patterns on the screens got even stranger during performances of “With A Little Help From My Friends” and “Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite!”
But just like The Beatles themselves eventually ended, the show couldn’t go on forever. They closed the show with the classic “Abbey Road” album, filled with timeless tunes such as “Come Together” and “Here Comes The Sun.” RAIN received a standing ovation after their last song from the Lied Center audience, prompting an encore performance of “Hey Jude.” The whole crowd stood up and sang along, as the screens showed members of the audience dancing and enjoying one of the most iconic Beatles hits.
While the performers were all excellent, and the music is, of course, outstanding, the audience was truly one of the most important elements of the whole show. They were electric and energetic throughout, as it was clear that The Beatles’ music still touches people more than 50 years later. The Beatles still mean something, and RAIN captures what made the band so great and brings them back to life.
“I saw the original Ed Sullivan when I was 13, and ever since then I became hooked,” said Gary Williams, a retired musician and avid Beatles fan in the audience. “I became a musician because of The Beatles.”
“[RAIN] did a great job of bringing back the memories and replicating The Beatles’ sound,” said Tom Reisdorph, an insurance agent from Grand Island. “They’re the greatest four-man band in the history of music. What they did with music carries on forever.”
“RAIN: A Tribute to the Beatles” performs again at the Lied Center on Wednesday, April 3 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at the Lied Center box office or on its website.