Monday, February 4, 2013

The Beatles' 'RAIN'

So, Saturday we went with friends (Stan, Anne, Sigf.) to see a Beatles tribute band, RAIN, perform at the Moore Theatre downtown.

It was great.

I had my doubts; tribute bands are not really my thing. I'd rather see the real thing* (as in the two times I've seen McCartney perform live) or stay home and enjoy the original recordings (it's rare a day goes by without my playing music, and Beatles records figure prominently into that). But I was born about a decade too late to have ever had a chance to see the real thing here, so it was this or nothing. And they put on quite a show: a note-by-note, gesture-by-gesture re-enactment of the Ed Sullivan show performance, the Shea Stadium show, et al.

I'd thought, from something I'd seen online, that several different people wd be playing each Beatle.** I was wrong about that: it was the same four performers throughout, taking breaks to change clothes and looks as they moved through the various eras of the group's history (British invasion, Rubber Soul/Revolver, Sgt Pepper, post-Pepper, Abbey Road). The guy playing Paul I thought did the best: he really nailed the look and feel of early Paul (and, oddly enough, his bass was the dominant instrument in much of the early part of the show) and did a pretty good job of later Paul as well. By contrast, early John was pretty stiff, but he really came into his own later on: he really looked a lot like late John. Whereas the guy playing George really didn't look much like George whatever they did, but did really get into playing the 'Abbey Road' gravedigger George near the end. Ringo didn't get much of a chance to be Ringo (it's easy to forget now that he was the most popular member of the group), but don't see how they really cd have avoided that, given their approach.

One place where they departed from films of actual performances was in their unplugged session, where Paul, George, and John sat down in a row with guitars and did Blackbird and several others I've now forgotten. It was v. effective, and a good projection of something the Beatles might well have done, had they continued touring and performing live on a regular basis after the mid-point in their career (Paul famously did just such a set that included several Beatles songs in his 1976 'Wings Over America' tour).

Of course, two hours or so isn't nearly enough to do all the Beatles' hits (So little time, so much music). Among the songs they didn't find time for were "Ticket to Ride", "Norwegian Wood", "Nowhere Man", "Lady Madonna", "Something" and, oddly enough, "Rain" itself (this last was broadcast over the loudspeakers at the end as we filed out). They did include one post-Beatles song: Give Peace a Chance, which set me to wondering and thinking what song they might add by each of the others to indicate their post-Beatles career,*** but turned out that one John song was it.

Of course, you have to accept some suspension of disbelief for a show like this to work. I suppose it'd be asking too much to have a left-handed bass player play Paul, but it was jarring to hear they perform "Please Please Me" with no-one playing the harmonica (it was either played backstage by a music ninja or played as a recording). And the great three-person dueling guitar solos of "The End" were all played by 'George' (no easy way for 'Paul' to swap out his bass, for one thing).

In the end, I enjoyed it thoroughly, and found it oddly moving. I'd gladly go see this, or a similar show, again. Though I do wish I cd hear "Hey Jude" actually performed by the band on stage, rather than turned into a sing-along. McCartney himself does this, but it's still annoying. I've never attended a ballet, but I'm pretty sure they don't have a point in the show when they encourage the audience to rise and twirl in place. As that, so this.

As for the song "Rain" itself, it's an old favorite of mine, both for the message (take what comes, enjoy!) and the music. It's on the Beatles' next-to-last album, THE BEATLES AGAIN, a compilation long out of print but full of good music, some of it from the HARD DAYS NIGHT period ("Can't Buy Me Love", "Should Have Known Better"), some mid-period ("Lady Madonna", "Revolution", "Hey Jude" itself), some late, like the underappreciated gem "Don't Let Me Down" (from the LET IT BE sessions) and "The Ballad of John and Yoko" (the last song the Beatles recorded; only John and Paul showed up, recording all the parts between them).

Good music. Good show. Recommended.

--John R.

*groups I have been lucky enough to see include Captain and Tennille, Little River Band, Leon Russell, McCartney, Clapton, Paul Simon, Alan Parsons Project, Tears for Fears, Heart, Three Dog Night (only they were down to Two Dog Night by then), Blood, Sweat, and Tears, et al.

**(I now think there are three or four such groups touring at any given time, but that each is a coherent, cohesive unit)

***the ones I picked were "My Sweet Lord" (George), "It Don't Come Easy" (Ringo), and probably "Maybe I'm Amazed" (Paul), all from 1970/71.


David Bratman said...

When the Beatles performed "Hey Jude" live on TV, the audience crowded around them sang along on the choruses. Certainly not all, but some Beatles songs were intended as singalong numbers, and this was one of them. "Yellow Submarine" and "All You Need Is Love" are others.

John D. Rateliff said...

Hi David
Yes, I shd have been more specific in my complaint. I don't mind the audience singing along -- that's a given at rock concerts, and I've been known to do so myself (but then I sing along to music whenever I think no one can hear me).
What I object to is the performers stopping and letting the crowd take over. With 'now the ladies' followed by 'now the guys' then 'everyone over such-and-such age' then 'everyone under' etc. That's tedious, and not what I came for.
And I'd add "All Together Now" to the list you provide as a good example.
--John R.

David Bratman said...

Oh yes, I don't like that either. What I dislike most of all is when the onstage performer prompts the audience by spurting out each line in a rushed speaking voice just before we're due to sing it. I heard a recording of Joan Baez, I think it was, doing that with "Amazing Grace":


"Ama ... zing grace ... how sweet ... the sound"


"That saved ... a wretch ... like meeeee!"

etc. It sounded ridiculous.

David Bratman said...

By the way, the sort of thing you describe has been done for a long time too. Allan Sherman parodied it half a century ago in "My Zelda" with audience instructions like:

"Sing along with Moish now"

"Sing a little softer"

"Members of Hadassah" (i.e. women)