We arrived at the Keller in downtown Portland and took our seats. They piped 50s rock and roll over the speakers and ran Beatles trivia on video screens on both sides of the stage to pass the time. Then it was time to rock.
The motif for Rain is a little weird. They are a Beatles tribute band but they also have recreated filmed and audio moments from Beatles history to use as supporting media in the show. So when you hear Paul McCartney talk about writing songs with Lennon (it’s a clip from Anthology I think), it’s not Paul talking – it’s the guy who plays him. Same for the video clips, which is even weirder because up close, these guys don’t look a lot like the Beatles and it kind of messed it up for me. So, I stopped watching the screens and just watched the stage.
But that is where the magic happened. First of all, this was a live performance with nothing pre-recorded. There were four Beatles guys and one keyboard player – Mark Lewis, the guy who put the band together in the 1970s. Lewis played Billy Preston’s part in Get Back, for example. But he also did a lot of the string and orchestra parts in the band’s 1967 material and they had him onstage off to the side in the back so you could see what he was contributing.
Anyway, these guys were tight. Let’s set aside any resemblance to the actual Beatles for a second. The four musicians were top notch. The McCartney guy, Joey Curatolo, played lefty bass and had the McCartney bass lines down pat. The guitarists had Vox amps, with primarily Gretch, Rickenbacker, Gibson and Fender guitars and therefore sick tone. The Harrison guy had some synth patch hookup and for example played one of the string quartet parts to Eleanor Rigby on his guitar (and it sounded like a cello) – very cool to watch. The drummer was great too.
Rain has spent a good amount of time getting the parts right, musically. It was a mostly note-for-note rendition of the Beatles’ cannon. These guys are obviously fans first, kick ass musicians second. Not only did they get the parts right, they got the sounds right, as well as the spirit and energy.
The show went chronologically and Rain recreated the Ed Sullivan and Shea Stadium performances pretty religiously. To do a set/costume change, they closed the curtain and ran video of what was going on in the 60s during the time period. The audience spanned three generations – maybe four. Lots of older guys making peace signs with both hands on upstretched arms – they were THERE man (very cool to see). And of course kids and their dads like me.
Now here is the other thing – from where I was sitting, they looked a LOT like the Beatles. During the early material, it was a bit of a stretch. But as soon as they put on the Sgt Pepper costumes and added some longer hair and moustaches, they looked just like the Fab Four and it was a little eerie. Because they sounded just like them too. Great vocal impressions and like I said, they played great and had all the moves down.
Once they got to the White Album period, I had fallen hook line and sinker and it was actually fairly emotional. I could get a feel for what it might have been like to see these guys live. I also liked the later period of the show because they were not trying to recreate actual Beatles performances or films, but were playing Beatles tunes that the actual band had never played live.
For example, they put stools across the front of the stage and did a little acoustic set that included Blackbird and Norwegian Wood. I thought to myself, “Yeah! If The Beatles had gotten together and played any live shows after 1970, they for sure would have done an acoustic set.” They started While My Guitar Gently Weeps acoustically like the Anthology/Love version but then morphed into the full electric version complete with note-perfect Clapton guitar solo.
One other thing. The lefty bass player sat down for the acoustic set and they handed him an acoustic guitar, which he played right handed. I have never seen anyone play both right and left hand instruments at all, much less well. Blew my mind. Also, when the Lennon guy came out with the Let It Be outfit on, complete with chewing gum in his mouth, I kind of freaked out. The fact that they busted out Imagine and Give Peace A Chance was a nice bonus to the Beatles music and of course was rather emotional.
Other big highlights for me were the latter era stuff like A Day in the Life, I Am the Walrus, The End, Come Together, Gently Weeps, and Revolution. They nailed the three part harmonies of earlier stuff like This Boy and Eleanor Rigby.
The whole show drove a few obvious points home – namely that the Beatles had SO many classic timeless tunes, and that this was a total supergroup, with every band member being a big time star and contributor. They really created the mold that has been often imitated, never duplicated.