Disclaimer: I’m a huge Beatles nerd. I was president of the Beatles Fan Club in high school, but we didn’t do much as a group, aside from play an occasional game of Beatles trivia during lunch, which I created.
Therefore, it came as a surprise that I couldn’t answer most of the onscreen trivia questions preceding RAIN: A Tribute to the Beatles. Still, I know a good Beatles tribute band when I see one. And Rain, the band is certainly a good Beatles tribute band.
After a brief video montage of archival 1960s footage, Steve Landes (John), Joey Curatolo (Paul), Joe Bithorn (George) and Doug Cox (Ringo) appeared as Rain, immediately drawing you to the set of The Ed Sullivan Show in 1964. With picture-perfect set design, hair, makeup, wardrobe and sound rig, the group dug into the exact setlist from the Beatles’ Ed Sullivan Show performance in 1964—including a rare B-side that I had never heard called “This Boy.”
Little surprises continued throughout the concert, but not always good ones. Small idiosyncrasies became noticeable to this Beatles nerd. For example, Steve, Joey, Joe and Doug don’t sound exactly like John, Paul, George and Ringo. Curatolo plays guitar right-handed, while Paul is actually left-handed. And the extended noise-rock section on “A Day in the Life” was shortened by a few seconds to fit space constraints.
Indeed, as a Beatles nerd, I’m being overly persnickety. We don’t know how half of these songs are supposed to sound live; halfway into the band’s career, the Beatles stopped touring as a result of Beatlemania—a fan frenzy causing fans to scream hysterically and faint upon seeing the guys live. Nevertheless, Rain plays most of the Beatles’ studio catalog perfectly and with realistic acting flair, recreating the mannerisms of each performer with great precision.
Yet something still seemed flat. Perhaps it was because the sold-out crowd was full of aging baby boomers, so the set was ripe with slower sing-a-longs and feel-good love songs geared towards them. Perhaps it was me having also seen California State Fair regulars, the Fab Four, a similar Beatles tribute act, mimic the Beatles with even more energy, musical virtuosity and surgically precise sound mimicry. Fun fact: The Fab Four’s Ardy Sarraf (who plays Paul’s parts left-handed, even though he’s right-handed) is an alternate for this current production of RAIN: A Tribute to the Beatles. Funny fact: The Fab Four rocked so hard last time I saw them at the State Fair that women in the crowd threw panties onstage and flashed their boobs. Perhaps that was more indicative of how sloshed State Fair crowds get rather than how hard the Fab Four rocks, but it would’ve made me laugh to see the first-ever granny panties thrown onstage at the Community Center Theatre.
RAIN: A Tribute to the Beatles is a solid professional production. It has beautiful and elaborate set design, myriad archival video footage, an older crowd that still genuinely loves Beatles music, and of course, Rain, a great band that play Beatles songs with near-perfect mimicry. It’s a must-see for average music fans, nostalgic baby boomers and even Beatles nerds. If you want a less wholesome Beatles tribute with more knicker-throwing, knocker-flashing and unabashed rock ’n’ roll, go see the Fab Four at the State Fair.
Rain: A Tribute to the Beatles, 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday; 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday; $16-$83. Community Center Theater, 1301 L Street; (916) 557-1999; www.californiamusicaltheatre.com. Through January 1.