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Review: “Rain” summons Beatles’ sound

By Bo Emerson

“Rain: A Tribute to the Beatles” at the Fox Theatre, is an enjoyable evening of music and nostalgia, a time trip and a celebration of the rock and roll canon.

Beatles in their "Ed Sullivan Show" phase.

The Beatles in their "Ed Sullivan Show" phase. Curatolo (left) Castelli and Bithorn.

No one is fooled that the four bewigged mop-tops on stage  – Joey Curatolo as Paul McCartney, Joe Bithorn as George Harrison, Ralph Castelli as Ringo Starr and Steve Landes as John Lennon — are anything but clever actors and talented musicians.

But sometimes instinct kicks in.

“Yes! I screamed!” admitted Laura Millisor proudly, chatting about the first act during intermission. The Cumming law office administrator came to the Fox show to drink martinis, holler out tunes and have a ball with three of her pals.

Millisor, 55, just missed seeing the genuine article – she was in grammar school when the real Beatles stopped touring – but made up for it later, catching every Paul McCartney show she could, and even taking a three-day holiday to Liverpool. “Nobody stays in Liverpool three days except a real Beatles fan,” she said.

For any Beatles fan, a certain suspension of disbelief happens at the beginning of this show, when one decides not to quibble about the details (no, Paul isn’t right-handed) and enjoy the event as theater.

In that light, one can appreciate the extra pains that the producers took with sets, costuming, hair pieces and beards, plus the newly-made vintage guitars and the clever video footage that puts the cast from “Rain” into familiar scenes, such as the crosswalk at Abbey Road.

Each section of the show is set apart with a collage of TV clips and newsreels from the time period, serving as a kind of introduction and orientation.

Scenes from John Kennedy’s inaugural speech, the Mercury astronauts, hula hoop contests and Beatlemania at the airport in New York City ushered in the Ed Sullivan Show era. The curtains slid back, and the four lads were revealed, in their Savile suits and pony boots, launching into  “I Want to Hold Your Hand.”

RainPromo

The Beatles in their "Sgt. Pepper" phase. Joey Curatolo as Paul McCartney, Joe Bithorn as George Harrison, Ralph Castelli as Ringo Starr and Steve Landes as John Lennon. Photos courtesy of Rain.

In that moment, “Rain” shows its true colors: the sound is just right.

All great players, the band members have also studied the art of distilling certain impossible-to-play Beatles songs (“I Am The Walrus” for example) into convincing versions that can be carried off by five guys. (Keyboard player Mark Lewis, playing in shadow, acted as the invisible fifth Beatle, supplying a synthesized brass brand for “Sgt. Pepper’s,” synth strings for “Eleanor Rigby,” organ on “Let it Be” and other critical contributions.)

Curatolo’s tenor comes close to matching McCartney’s range, and Landes brought the evening to an emotional peak when he sat down at the piano for “Imagine.” 

Bithorn, Curatolo and Landes are all accomplished guitarists, but Bithorn went above and beyond, duplicating the scorching solo from “My Guitar Gently Weeps” (originally played by Eric Clapton) to a roaring ovation. Incredibly, by switching between pickups on his guitar, Bithorn was able to recreate the different guitar tones in the three-way guitar duel from the end of “Abbey Road,” playing all three roles by himself.

Castelli has the most fun with his role, and also does a top job channeling Ringo’s understated, bottom-heavy swing. 

The  Fox seemed full of audience members old enough to have seen the group the first time around, which meant we were a long way from the Cavern Club. Folks had to be cajoled out of their seats, but the charmers on stage were up to the task, and had the crowd singing along to “Give Peace a Chance” and “Hey Jude” by the end.

Landes has said that one of the functions of “Rain” is to give people who love the Beatles’ music a place to go. Naysayers may wonder if there’s a corner left in the world where they can go to get away from Beatles music. But despite the music’s overexposure, it is very rarely played live, except when Sir Paul comes to town. Hearing the songs faithfully performed here is a treat, hairpieces or none.

The show continues through Oct. 11.

11 comments Add your comment

PattiKay

October 8th, 2009
9:41 am

I saw “Rain” this year in Knoxville. Every detail was in place and the music was awesome.

vafalconfan

October 8th, 2009
9:45 am

Simply the greatest band of all time..

soulfinger

October 8th, 2009
9:50 am

this is a cool idea. I am introducing my 9 year old to the beatles. He is already walking around singing thier songs. What a wonderful time that was…..good times! good times!

Mike W

October 8th, 2009
10:03 am

The tribute band The Fab Four are “even better than the real thing.” With a left-handed McCartney, no extra musicians, and no backing tracks, even a true student of the Beatles will be amazed!

SueA

October 8th, 2009
11:05 am

Enter your comments here

Saw The Fab Four at the Classic Center in February, and now Rain, enjoyed both bands tremendously. At the Fox, everyone in the loge section was singing along to all the songs, (even the ones played on the screens!) and just reliving many good times with the Beatles. Highly recommend this show; will go see them again

RG

October 8th, 2009
11:48 am

This show exceeded my expectations by far. My Guitar Gently Weeps, Blackbird, Eleanor Rigby and of course Let it Be were highlights. These men are truely talented. The outfits were spectacular, & the videos really made the show even more special.

Dan Baker

October 8th, 2009
11:57 am

My brother, his wife, my 30-year-old son and I saw these guys in Macon last spring, and they were superb. I’ve seen other Beatles tribute bands, and all were good, but Rain makes it a theatrical experience as well. I’m taking a group of five to Columbus to see Rain in November. It’s highly recommended.

Ralph

October 8th, 2009
8:16 pm

My wife and I saw RAIN Tuesday night. We also had the good fortune to see “BEATLEMANIA” in the middle 70’s on Broadway. Both brought back grand memories of The Fab Four. These 4 guys (RAIN) did not miss a lick all night. Joe Bithorn as George Harrison playing “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” was over the top great, a true highlight of the night. “Imagine” and “Let It Be” certainly were equally as good. My only negative about the show was not about the actors/musicians, but about the folks at the sound board. I know that mixing at The Fabulous Fox is not the easiest job, but there were moments on Tuesday where the sound to voice ratio was either to loud drowning out the vocals or just the opposite. Picky……Maybe…….but I am sure it was something they corrected after the first show. And certainly nothing that would distract from the overall brillance of the actors / musicians (and true musicians they were too). Certainly worth the price of admission.

Andy

October 9th, 2009
8:45 am

McCartney IS in fact right-handed, he only plays the bass left-handed

Bo

October 9th, 2009
10:48 am

According to an interview with Kurt Loder, he’s left-handed:
Kurt Loder: On a more trivial but similarly ancient note, a new biography of you claims that Paul McCartney, the world’s most famous left-handed bassist, is actually right-handed. True?

Paul McCartney: No, I’m quite definitely left-handed.

Linda Eaton

October 12th, 2009
12:28 pm

My husband and my grand children (ages 15 and 14) went to the Fox Friday night to see RAIN. Loved, loved, loved it! Did not want it to be over! I want to see them again!!! My grandchildren are now BIG fans of the Beatles and RAIN.