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Concert Review: Rain – The Beatles Experience at the Riverside Theater, Milwaukee, 03/02/08

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The first thing Beatles you see is on the sidescreens, where Beatles trivia questions come popping up. And let me tell you, there ain’t any gimmes in this bunch. If it hadn’t been for the guy behind me feeding me the answers, I would have got a grand total of two or three answers correct. After the questions, though, you can sit back, relax and ride the nostalgic roller coaster for two-plus hours of sheer enjoyment.

Once the questions go off and the crowd gets restless, the sidescreens begin showing still photography from the early 1960s, then black-and-white footage of an impersonator doing his Ed Sullivan shtick, with the hunched shoulders, the crossed arms, and grossly exaggerated voice and actions. His mimicry of the Beatles’ introduction is when the curtain goes up on Rain.

Rain has had plenty of practice, now that they’ve been doing this for two decades, but from what I’ve read they’ve had their routine down pat since long ago. The mop tops, the Savile Row suits, the “Beatle boots,” the accents, are all dead on. While their voices may be less so, they’re close enough to occasionally give you pause, while always giving you satisfaction and pleasure.

The quartet goes through five costume and appearance changes over two acts, broken by a short, well-deserved intermission. These guys work! As the Beatles changed their individual appearances over the years, so do the members of Rain for each musical era. First it’s the mop tops, then it’s slightly longer hair, then it’s even longer hair with some facial hair, and they’ve dropped the matching suits in favor of more casual clothing.

Of course, for the Sergeant Pepper album, they’re in the stage version of military costumes, just as the Beatles were when they posed for the cover of that album. And when they do their Abbey Road medley, they’re again true to appearance. Throughout the performance the timing, actions, and even the esoteric-at-the-time instrumentation are duplicated to perfection.

It was pleasantly surprising to see the number of young people in the audience. The Beatles, of course, pioneered many of the things that just about anybody under the age of 50 now take for granted in musical performance, such as the mellotron, synthesizers, orchestral backing, the concept album, and many other aspects that are ho-hum today.

George Martin was as much a genius as the Beatles were, with his arrangements and accompaniments and other more subtle additions. But it was the Beatles, of course, who presented all of this so eloquently to the fans.

Just as Rain do for us today.

The group does music from all the various incarnations that the Beatles went through, from their first live US appearance on February 9th, 1964, all the way up through Abbey Road, their final album. And the most commendable facts of this and every performance is that all the music is live, and note-for-note true to the originals. Even the set from their first US appearance is down to the final detail. Since the Beatles last tour performance was August 29, 1966, all the intricate and esoteric instrumentation used in their final four albums were never performed live, yet you’ll hear it from Rain.

The five sets, broadly speaking, include Ed Sullivan, Shea Stadium, Sergeant Pepper, the Flower Power era, and Abbey Road. Rain includes Joey Curatolo as Paul McCartney, Joe Bithorn as George Harrison, Ralph Castelli as Ringo Starr and Steve Landes as John Lennon.

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About Lou Novacheck

  • http://www.americanhcb.com Johnny

    I saw Rain recently in Maryland, and they were great. But the American Hot Club Band is the best 50s/60s rock’n’roll/soul band in the Washington, DC area.

  • Lou Novacheck

    I get back there every now and again. Used to live in Severn for a lot of years. I’ll have to check them out.

  • Mark

    The reviews, including yours, that I’ve read certainly seem good. I’ve seem a couple of other Beatles “tribute bands”, including 1964, and they were very good as far as the music goes, without the show. The difference is, we saw 1964 for about $50 a couple. Rain is at least $115 for a couple. Is it really worth that much for a tribute show is my question? For $70, I can see a “real” band, such as Asia with the original members, or Return to Forever, etc. $115 for a tribute show seems a bit much, I’m thinking.

  • Lou Novacheck

    If you don’t think it’s worth it, then it isn’t, regardless of what others say. That’s my rationale for every purchase I make: Is it worth it to me? If I’m even a little doubtful, I’ll pass it up (most of the time!). Sometimes you get the goldmine, sometimes you get the shaft. Most of the time, I make the correct decision, because I’m the only one I have to please. I’ve learned that if I’m doubtful, but go ahead and do it, then I’m at least a little regretful afterward. Most of the time I ruefully tell myself, ‘I told you so. I warned you.’

  • wyeld1

    We walked in to the concert a during the first song a was immediately struck by the cheesy sound quality. Figured it was just to emulate the early sixties sound, but unfortunately it didn’t get much better. The performers sounded somewhat close to the Beatles, but was not dead on as all the reviews indicated. The band came off as being very egotistical and were always begging for audience approval. The light show if you want to call it that was kind of lame. Designed for the mainstream but will disappoint the purist. Over priced and over hyped.

  • gary

    Wasn’t let it be the last beatles record? This review said abbey road is.

  • The Truth

    The American Hotclub Band is a bunch of has-been doughboy hacks led by the raging anti-semite, David L. Sharp. Look him up on the ‘net, and steer clear of this bigot and his “band” of losers!

  • bobby blease

    what a band, cannot wait to see them back in liverpool,

  • bobby blease

    i remenber them back in liverpool and they are just agood has the beatles,please come back

  • earle decker

    Saw them this past w-end in Connecticut and thought it was worth every penny, but then only a down deep Beatles fan, as I have been for 46 years could appreciate the work and authenticity Rain puts into their act. Not one person, that I could see, got up and left early.

  • Dr. Truth

    Johnny is in fact David L. Sharp of said American Hot Club Band (Gaithersburg, MD) … a self promoting plug.

  • Watcher

    Dr. Truth is correct; David Sharp of the American Hot Club Band is a virulent Jew hater who writes under the pseudonym of ‘Salvador Astucia’.