At Ford Oriental Theatre
Can only sort of buy me love.
Their catalog coming online at the iTunes store is still a cause for mass advertising campaigns. Rock Band, the popular band simulation game, had to debut a special version just for them. In the hit 2007 movie Superbad, a teenage character references a fellow student’s dreamy eyes as being “..like the first time I heard The Beatles.”
It’s safe to say: The Beatles never left us.
It’s equally safe to say it’s unlikely we’ll see their ilk again. The gravity of the zeitgeist that created the biggest bang of pop culture has since become background radiation. Pop culture became self-aware, and as such can never be as innocent or as earnest as those early days. Perhaps all we can ever hope for is to revive and relive that defining era. To recreate that moment on the Ed Sullivan Show most of the older generations describe with the same emotional detail as the day Kennedy was shot or the moon landing. A moment that sparked a decade-long metamorphosis that went far beyond music. The modest goal of a revue like Rain: A Tribute to the Beatles is to capture some of that spark and redeploy it for both old and new generations. With some obvious love and passion, the members of Rain impersonate the past for a little recreational recreationism with all the chart toppers and mop toppers you can handle.
Steve Landes, Joey Curatolo, Joe Bithorn, Ralph Castelli and Mark Beyer have obviously made an exhaustive study of the sound and stylings of The Fab Four. They’ve got the mannerisms and vocal inflections down. This valentine covers the classics from beginning to end, with some B-sides sprinkled in as a reminder that The Beatles did more than just their number ones. What’s really stunning is just how fresh those lesser-known songs sound, untarnished as they are compared to their overplayed brethren. It’s a testimony to the innovative sound the dream team created at just the right time and just the right place.
Another critic once said of The Beatles, after looking back upon their success, that the key had been that they “never did the same thing once.” Watching Rain’s revue, it’s fascinating to see the evolution of style that would create pop culture anthems that reverberate to this day. With video projections on the side, Rain keeps the audience aware of the larger cultural going-ons. I was a little disappointed they didn’t cover some of the more scandalous “bigger than Jesus” hubris or the famous butcher cover. Then again, this is quintessential family-friendly fare, so I guess some whitewashing was necessary.
This is a rare time when sitting farther away from the main stage is a plus. Seeing Rain up close (as I did) can only remind you more acutely that, no, sorry, this is not The Beatles. From farther away, the wigs and manners are more convincing, as is the sound, which is spot on. The blur from a distance helps shield the crispness of memories if you have them, and if you don’t, it’s better not to see them too up close lest you spoil the illusion of getting a mimic memory.
Perhaps there’s no one in the world who gets this amount of fervor right now, except maybe Justin Bieber. I doubt in forty years anyone will be doing Bieber tribute bands, however. Rain is a tribute that is not shy about being an impersonation; an attempt at being a pure vessel of the original with no spin of their own applied.
Baby Boomers will love this if they remember where they were when they first heard “Hey Jude.” My companion for the evening had a great insight however that hit upon a stumbling block for us generational interlopers (suffice to say, we weren’t alive for the originals), in that she felt like she was “inhabiting someone else’s fantasy.” While I noted several parents in the audience with their children, trying to impart some of that magic, I wondered if even the talents of Rain ever could. Impersonations work on a fantasy that is made of real memories, and if you don’t have them, this concert could be the one that gives them to you. The power of The Beatles is such that their influence permeates the present, but artificial constructs will never be quite the same.
Date Reviewed: June 26, 2012
For more info checkout the Rain: A Tribute to the Beatles page on www.broadwayinchicago.com
At Ford Oriental Theatre, 24 W. Randolph, Chicago, IL 60601, call 800.745.3000, or www.broadwayinchicago.com, tickets $25-75, Tuesdays-Fridays: 7:30pm, Saturdays 2pm and 8pm, Sundays 2pm and 7:30pm. Running time 2 hours with 1 intermission, through July 1.