Last Saturday, I was one among a packed audience at the Orpheum Theater in downtown Minneapolis. We were all there—boomers to teenagers to everything in between—to listen to RAIN–A Tribute to The Beatles. This show has toured worldwide and has been on Broadway.
Unlike some tribute bands, members of RAIN—which takes its name from the b-side song, “When the Rain Comes”—actually play the instruments and sing. The actors/musicians have studied the Fab Four and give a good rendering of The Beatles’ accents, mannerisms, and playing peccadillos. Tom Teeley, who plays George Harrison, doesn’t look much like him, but he’s mastered the funny leg jiggle George did in the early days. Mac Ruffing, who plays Paul McCartney, has the richness of his voice down—even to the way Paul would speak to the audience. Chris McBurney has Ringo Starr’s role, and. Jim Irizarry got the toughest impersonation role as John Lennon. The stage paraphernalia even brings home the period, with Vox amplifiers, Hofner bass guitars, Rickenbackers, and Ludwig drums.
The show starts off with the band reenacting their performance on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1964, followed by the Shea Stadium extravaganza in 1965. The cast changes clothing and hair styles throughout the show, so they are colorful and silky during Sgt. Pepper and then go on to more laid back to finish out the show. John is in his white suit. Paul is wearing his yellow loafers. George is in head-to-toe denim, and Ringo is providing the relentless beat. RAIN even performs some of the songs that The Beatles never performed live, such as “A Day in the Life.” (Paul has performed it live in his concerts, however.)
The cast, all Americans, are all self-confessed Beatles’ fans, and they do their best to ensure that the audience has a nostalgic ride. Irizarry’s rendition of “Twist and Shout,” for example, had people—including me—dancing in the aisle. We were all on our feet at the end, singing the refrain of “Hey Jude.”
If you think, as I kind of did beforehand, that this is a lame idea, consider this. RAIN sells about 100,000 tickets a year, and it’s one of 50 Beatles tribute bands around the country. I would say RAIN is probably among the best. While the living Beatles, Paul and Ringo, haven’t endorsed any tribute band, they haven’t dissed it either. On the RAIN website, founding member Mark Lewis says, “Our goal has always been to present this music in a live environment to audiences throughout the world, and most importantly, to maintain the integrity of The Beatles, and their music. After all, it is their music. We are just a few very fortunate guys that get to perform this music night after night. What’s better than that?”