There is a difference between a cover band and a tribute. A cover band plays the songs of another, far more popular group. A tribute honors the sound, the times and the influence of a band. RAIN, a Beatles-mania driven group of performers, is a tribute band.
The Theater of the Stars’ presentation of RAIN: A tribute to the Beatles at the Fox Theater on Oct. 6 was an homage to the Beatles as music makers and a political and cultural influence.
RAIN started their live set with “I Wanna Hold Your Hand”. All four band mates were dressed in replica black suits and mop-tops from The Ed Sullivan Show, and while bassist and vocalist Joey Curatolo might not look just like the baby-faced Paul McCartney after 20 years of touring, he sounds just like him.
The show blended live music and footage of the band and the audience with pre-recorded shots of both RAIN and the original British Invasion with the use of three screens and a crowd-cam. During the Ed Sullivan Show portion of the performance, it was a neat effect, integrating the audience into the show and adding that grainy, fuzzy tone that so many of us need to recognize and early Ringo Starr or George Harrison. Later, unfortunately, the screen was a bit over used, as saturated swirling colors distracted the audience from the music of Sgt. Pepper and Abbey Road. The difficulty in creating a tribute show to a band that never did a live performance of the music is understandable, but the reliance on the smoke and lights was a bit much in the second half.
Musically though, the performance was identical to the Beatle’s albums. The band claims to use no pre-recorded tracks, but every note was hit, even in Joe Bithorne’s rendition of George Harrison’s “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”. The RAIN members even adopt Liverpool accents for their stage banter, convincing the people of “Atlanter” to stand up and clap with them, something not seen at too many Fox Theater shows.
The set list relies almost entirely on standard classics, opening the second act with “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “I Am the Walrus”, but a few lesser-known greats are incorporated. Even semi-obscure songs such as “This Boy” performed for Ralph Castelli as Ringo Starr draw the audience in.
It is a testament to the captivating nature of the show and the depth of the Beatles’ set-list that RAIN moved through two hours of Beatles hits and yet managed to save off three classics for the encore. Personally, I was shocked when the band came back out and I realized I had sat through two hours of 1960’s-induced political posters and lava-lamp like sets without hearing Steve Landes sing John Lennon’s “Imagine”, or “Let It Be” and “Hey Jude”. RAIN had entertained without pulling out these timeless hits, saving them for a powerful encore that drove home the Beatle’s political influence in the ’60s and ’70s.
While RAIN won’t educate any burgeoning Beatle’s fans with the lesser-known tracks, nor give ardent fans of their more obscure work much to praise, they do power through the greatest hits for an enjoyable show. The tribute show, running at the Fox till Oct. 11, is worth a look, if you aren’t too afraid of getting caught on the crowd cam twisting like its 1964.