Last Night: Rain at Temple Buell Theater
Temple Buell Theater
September 22, 2009
Better than: Watching someone else play Beatles Rock Band.
There is no denying Rain's skill at recreating the sound of Beatles recordings. The tribute band offered close copies of a host of tunes during their performance at the Temple Buell on Tuesday night, playing close approximations of songs from Meet the Beatles to Abbey Road.
The imitations offered by Steve Landes, Joey Curatolo, Joe Bithorn, Ralph Castelli and Mark Lewis found a complement in the band's carefully planned stagecraft. The four appeared on stage decked in a variety of costumes, recreating the Beatles' buttoned-up black suit look from their appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, their colorfully faux military regalia from Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and the mixed garb the group sported on the cover of Abbey Road. And the recreations didn't end with the costumes. Large screens beamed images of Rain recreating key photos and poses from the Beatles' career.
The combination of well-honed cover performances and a close attention to detail lent for plenty of nostalgia, and the group's enthusiasm in filling their separate roles was inescapable. Curatolo's babyish face, wide eyes and deep speaking tones admirably summoned Paul McCartney; Landes' vocals offered a close approximation of John Lennon's sound; Bithorn's note-for-note solos paid a fitting tribute to George Harrison; and Castelli's bobbing head and constant grin made for an evocative nod to Ringo Starr.
But for all the novelty of seeing the songs played in a live setting, and for all the nostalgia summoned by a series' of film clips and vintage commercials, the effect seemed a bit eerie at times. Seeing the members of Rain trying to fill their roles to such minute extremes, while impressive, came off as either a bit maudlin or a bit disrespectful.
That's not to say I wasn't as engaged as the rest of the capacity crowd for the majority of the show. Even as a child growing up in the '80s, old Beatles vinyls served as some of my first recordings, and hearing such impressively full and textured versions of complex studio songs like "I Am the Walrus," "A Day in the Life" and "Golden Slumbers" brought me back in a visceral way, just as I'm sure it did for the hundreds in attendance who had bought the recordings when they were first released.
Even the note-by-note renditions of the earlier material, songs like "I Saw Her Standing There," "This Boy (Ringo's Theme)" and "I'm Happy Just to Dance With You," delivered in full regalia on a fake Ed Sullivan stage, had a transporting effect. The impact did more than spotlight the band's intimate knowledge of the material. Bithorn's electric guitar and guitar synthesizer solos served as impressively faithful recreations, and Curatolo's warmth and unassailably uncanny vocals added a degree of authenticity. But I found the combined impact of the band's skills to be more of a testament to the durability of the tunes and their creators than anything else.
Full credit goes to Rain for paying homage in an accurate and detailed way. Nevertheless, watching film clips of the group playing in public, trying to recreate the Beatles' performance on the roof of Apple Records, and seeing the tribute band's face applied to iconic images from the Beatles' history somehow seemed off. Somehow, it made me want to return to the original material.
Personal Bias: Currently, I'm more a fan of the Beatles' later work, so a suite of cover songs from Abbey Road was a high point.
Random Detail: While the group was changing costumes to recreate different eras from the Beatles' career, film clips from the '60s played on a pair of large screens near the stage. Stock footage from popular culture, from news programs and from television programs filled the gaps. An especially amusing clip was a cigarette commercial featuring the Flintstones.
By The Way: At one point, Joey Curatolo asked how many people had Rockband.