Close your eyes and open your ears, and you’ll swear that you’re at a Beatles concert, circa 1964-70. RAIN: A Tribute to The Beatles — which will repeat last night’s crowd-pleasing performance at 2 and 8 p.m. today at the Durham Performing Arts Center — channels The Fab Four, starting with the four Liverpool lads’ historic February 1964 appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show — in front of a frenzied mob of screaming, mostly female fans — and continuing through the pandemonium of their August 1965 Shea Stadium concert and including some 1964-67 chart-toppers. Then, at the start of Act Two, RAIN performs The Beatles’ groundbreaking 1967 concept album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band in its entirety, song by song, followed by a sampling of some of the later additions to The Beatles’ songbook.
It’s wonderful, marvelous, awesome — there are simply not enough superlatives to shower on RAIN, which takes its name from the somewhat obscure B side of the 1966 single of “Paperback Writer.” RAIN combines magnificent musicianship with eye-popping multimedia flourishes that put each song in a temporal and/or spiritual perspective.
RAIN at DPAC features Steve Landes as John Lennon (1940-80), Paul Curatolo as Paul McCartney (1942-), Alastar McNeil as George Harrison (1943-2001), and Aaron Chiazza as Ringo Starr (1940-) — plus Chris Smallwood on keyboards and percussion. Last night, these fabulous five musicians played the DPAC audience like a Stradivarius as they performed dozens of Lennon-McCartney compositions, interspersed with a covers such as “Twist and Shout.”
There’s very little patter between songs as Messrs. Landes, Curatolo, McNeil, Chiazza, and Smallwood proceed to rock the house, encouraging DPAC patrons to clap and later to sing along with a series of songs that provided the soundtrack for Baby Boomers’ Wonder Years and an important part of the playlists of Oldies Stations since The Beatles’ acrimonious split-up in 1970.
The four Beatles look- and sound-alikes in RAIN are a Fab Four in their own right. Steve Landes has John Lennon’s gum-popping vocals, rhythm-guitar licks, and attitude down pat, plus he steps up to play a lean, mean guitar solo on “Get Back.”
Singer-songwriter Paul Curatolo has Paul McCartney’s good looks and boyish charm. (McCartney was McDreamy, making the hearts of thousands of screaming, teary-eyed female fans beat faster, more than 40 years before Patrick Dempsey debuted as surgeon Derek Christopher Shepherd on the ABC television series Grey’s Anatomy.) Curatolo smoothly switches between left-handed electric bass and piano, but plays the acoustic guitar solo on “Yesterday” right-handed!
Alastar McNeil as George Harrison adds some scorching lead-guitar riffs, especially on “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” and he sings Harrison’s original songs as well or better than George did.
Aaron Chiazza provides a steady backbeat as drummer and percussionist Ringo Starr, and even steps into the spotlight to sing lead on “With a Little Help from My Friends.” His rousing drum solo on “The End is also noteworthy.
Chris Smallwood stands in for the late, great Billy Preston (1946-2006) and other keyboard players and percussionists who sat in — in the recording studio — with John, Paul, George, and Ringo, from time to time, as the unofficial Fifth Beatle. Smallwood demonstrates extraordinary musical chops as he fills out The Beatles’ sound with piano and percussion, and adds horns and strings to numerous numbers via synthesizer. His piano solos on “In My Life,” “Lovely Rita,” “Get Back,” and “Revolution 9” provide a number of “Oh, yeah!” moments. They are invigorating interludes in a high-octane performance that had the DPAC audience on its feet and cheering for its final five numbers and sing-along encore of “Hey Jude.”
Baby Boomers should take their kids and grandkids to RAIN to show them what all the fuss was about. It’s as close as any of us will ever get to experiencing Beatlemania again!
SECOND OPINION: Feb. 14, 2018 Raleigh, NC WRAL.com preview by Kathy Hanrahan for “What’s on Tap”: http://www.wral.com/rain-takes-beatles-tribute-to-new-level/17320271/; and May 23, 2017 Durham, NC Herald-Sun preview by Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan: http://www.heraldsun.com/entertainment/article152152862.html. (Note: To read Triangle Arts and Entertainment’s online version of the Feb. 22, 2018 Triangle Review preview by Robert W. McDowell, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/2018/02/rain-will-perform-all-of-sgt-pepper-and-other-beatles-hits-live-on-feb-23rd-and-24th-at-the-durham-performing-arts-center/.)
The Durham Performing Arts Center presents RAIN: A TRIBUTE TO THE BEATLES, performing Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band live in its entirety, at 2 and 8 p.m. Feb. 24 at 123 Vivian St., Durham, North Carolina 27701, in the American Tobacco Historic District.
TICKETS: $35-$111, plus taxes and fees (Note: There will be a limited number of single $20-$30 rush tickets available at DPAC‘s Blue Cross NC Ticket Center, starting at 10 a.m. the day of the performance).
Ticketmaster: 800-982-2787 or https://www.ticketmaster.com/venueartist/115558/1919062.
GROUP RATES (15+ tickets): 919/281-0587, Groups@DPACnc.com, or http://www.dpacnc.com/events-tickets/group-services.
SHOW: https://www.dpacnc.com/events/detail/rain-1, https://www.facebook.com/events/1974666579435351/, http://www.raintribute.com/shows/durham, and https://www.magicspace.net/producing/rain-tribute-beatles.
THE BAND: http://www.raintribute.com/, https://www.facebook.com/RainTribute, https://twitter.com/RainTribute, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rain:_A_Tribute_to_the_Beatles, and https://www.youtube.com/user/RainTribute.
The Beatles (Liverpool, England rock-and-roll, pop, and psychedelic band, a.k.a. “The Fab Four,” formed in 1960 and active through 1970): http://www.thebeatles.com/ (official website), https://www.britannica.com/topic/the-Beatles (Encyclopædia Britannica), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Beatles (Wikipedia).
Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (The Beatles’ eighth studio album, released May 26, 1967 in the U.K. and June 2, 1967 in the U.S.): http://www.thebeatles.com/album/sgt-peppers-lonely-hearts-club-band (official web page) and https://www.britannica.com/topic/Sgt-Peppers-Lonely-Hearts-Club-Band (Encyclopædia Britannica), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sgt._Pepper%27s_Lonely_Hearts_Club_Band (Wikipedia).
Robert W. McDowell has written articles for The News & Observer, The Raleigh Times, Spectator Magazine, CVNC, and Triangle Arts and Entertainment, all based in Raleigh. He edits and publishes two FREE weekly e-mail newsletters. Triangle Review provides comprehensive, in-depth coverage of local performing-arts events. (Start your FREE subscription by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org and typing SUBSCRIBE TR in the Subject: line.) McDowell also maintains a FREE list of movie sneak previews. (To subscribe, e-mail email@example.com and type SUBSCRIBE FFL FREE in the Subject: line.)