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May 8, 2017

“Fab” Beatles cover band plays Mullins Center

On any list of the most famous and successful musical performers of the 20th century, the Beatles undoubtedly make an appearance near (if not at) the top. Their presence in the musical history of the world can be described as iconic, to say the least –so iconic, in fact, that their music has spawned a multitude of cover bands. While many popular rock bands have cover bands to celebrate their legacy, very few can claim a cover band as professional and authentic as Rain. Rain’s act, however, easily transcends cover band status, just as the Beatles transcend average popular music. As their full title suggests, is a stunning tribute to everything the Beatles stood for, musically, socially and politically.

Rain began its life in Los Angeles as a small-time Beatles cover band known as “Reign.” In 1979 they rose to fame when Dick Clark hired them to record the soundtrack for the made-for-television movie “Birth of the Beatles,” according to Rain’s Web site (www.Raintribute.com). Because of Rain’s long history and extensive touring schedule, they have a rotation of talented musicians. Performing at the Mullins Center on Tuesday were David Leon on vocals, rhythm guitar, piano and harmonica; Graham Alexander on vocals, bass, piano and guitar; Tom Teeley on vocals and lead guitar; Ralph Castelli on drums, percussion and vocals; and Mark Lewis on offstage keyboard and percussion.

At first glance, the Rain stage setup in the Mullins Center was simple: a drum set on an elevated platform emblazoned with the word Rain and a few guitars placed around the platform, with four large, white arrows, tilted for the audience to see, placed on the edges of the stage pointing in towards the microphones stands. Three movie screens had been put in strategic locations, one to either side of the stage and a larger one as a backdrop to the performance area. In the half hour before the show, these screens showed a rotation of quiz questions about the Beatles, set to a kaleidoscope background of psychedelic colors. A soundtrack of music from the 50s and 60s played from the speakers. The audience, whose median age appeared to be somewhere between 45 and 55, exclaimed and cheered as the answers followed the questions on the screen: who was the Beatles’ manager (Brian Epstein), which Beatles member got married first (John). By the time the lights went down, everyone in the audience was in the mindset for the trip back in time that Rain was about the deliver.

The first half of the show began with a reenactment of the Beatles’ first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show. Rain took the stage dressed as the Fab Four looked in 1964, with mop-top haircuts and beige suits. Simultaneously, the two screens to the sides of the stage played footage of the original Ed Sullivan Beatles performance, while the backdrop screen showed footage of screaming teenage girls from the Ed Sullivan audience.  The resemblance between the real-life performance and the footage of the original was more than striking; Rain mimicked the Beatles with each tap of the foot and tilt of the head, as well as with the stunning accuracy of their musical performance, playing crowd favorites such as “A Hard Day’s Night” and “All My Loving,” and even getting the audience to sing along to a rendition of “Yesterday.” Rain repeated their mimicking act with a reenactment of the Beatles’ 1965 Shea Stadium concert. Some of the songs they played included “I Feel Fine” and “Daytripper.”

Once the reenactments had ended, Rain changed into slightly groovier costumes from the album cover of “Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” and performed numbers such as “With A Little Help From My Friends,” “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “When I’m 64.” After a brief intermission,  Rain barreled through classics like “Penny Lane,” “This Bird Has Flown/Norwegian Wood,” “Come Together” and “Blackbird” with high energy and bright, colorful accompanying visuals on the screens. Like any good performance, Rain saved the best for last: they finished the concert with an encore of “Imagine,” “Let It Be” and “Hey Jude.” By the end of the show, the entire audience was on their feet, waving cell phones and the occasional lighter in sync with the music.

Although Rain imitated the Beatles to the best of their prodigious musical and acting abilities, at the same time they remained Rain, never letting the audience forget that their show was a tribute. That, on top of the high quality of the rest of their performance, is what gives them their remarkable reputation as a top-notch musical act.

Lindsay Orlov can be reached at lorlov@student.umass.edu.

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