Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! “Imagine” Steve Landes as John Lennon at Segerstrom Center

For fans of the mop-topped quartet from Liverpool who took America by storm in 1964, “Rain: A Tribute to the Beatles” is the next best thing to a reincarnation of the real deals. For those collectively called baby boomers, it’s hard to believe that February 9 marked the 50th anniversary of the Beatles’ appearance on Ed Sullivan show. Celebrating the genius of the iconic band that changed America’s Pop Music scene forever is “Rain: A Tribute to the Beatles” on stage at the Segerstrom Center April 25 and 26.This show will have Boomers reliving their long haired youth with melodies that mesmerized their generation. “Rain” brings the captivating allure of Beatles music to younger audiences as well, blending theater, concert and nostalgia into a magical show.The cast for the Orange County production includes Paul Curatolo as Paul McCartney, Steve Landes as John Lennon, Ralph Castelli as Ringo Starr and Joe Bithorn as George Harrison with Chris Smallwood on Keyboards. Steve Landes (John Lennon) explained to me that there are actually three rotating casts when the show is on the show, each having a couple of weeks on the road. Each show, however, has just one set of performers which is quite a feat because as Landes explains, “The Beatles continually evolved in the short 6 year span that they electrified America with their music. The 60’s themselves were about constant change, in fashion, appearance and attitude. The Beatles were trend setters, leading the way in Pop culture.”The Beatles had such a wide range of music that it seems impossible that their actual recording career was so short (1960 -1970) and concert appearances were rare. “Rain” brings alive the music from the diverse stages that the Beatles incarnated culturally. From early hits to classics and on down “Abbey Road,” “Rain” takes audiences back to a time when all you needed was love and a little help from your friends.After talking with Landes Aka Lennon, I fell in love with the Beatles all over again. He was so knowledgeable about not only the Beatles’ music but their personalities, especially that of John Lennon. Landes, wasn’t born when the Beatles burst on the scene so I was curious what had sparked his interest in the ‘Fab Four.’ He explained that his parents had been fans in the 60’s and his older sisters had amassed memorabilia as well so he discovered plenty of collectables in the attic. Landes calls himself “a life-long, second-generation Beatles fan. He taught himself guitar at 10 listening to Beatles records and at age 17 he joined the Beatlemania cast. In 1998, he teamed up with “Rain” and the rest is history – Rain/Beatle history.Although they did not start out as a tribute band, “Rain” has been together longer then the Beatles, who broke up in 1970. Landes describes “Reign (note the spelling), saying they started as an original band in 1975, playing clubs in LA and Orange County, before the concept of ‘tribute’ bands existed. They became so popular at performing Beatles hits that they were the first – a novel idea back in the day – Tribute band. Their name was so often misspelled in the media that they became ‘Rain’ and coincidentally, there’s a Beatles tune with the same name.”Perhaps because they were pioneers, “Rain’s” intention was not to just cover Beatles songs but to do songs that the Beatles had never performed live and to capture them note for note, just as they were on the records. For this reason, melodic, guitar and harmonies-driven rock is performed live. Landes and his mates approach Beatles music with the same respect that a classical musician treats classical music.“Rain” is as much stage show as tribute band. Landes says, “The focus is the band, but so much of the production is a show because of lights, media and sets. We were on Broadway and won a Drama desk award.” Landes, who was John in the Broadway production, continues, “It was unbelievable to take the show to Broadway – the pinnacle of Rain’s run but we continue updating the show to keep it fresh for fans. New LED High-Def screens and streamlined video content and modern technology, have made the show better than it was on Broadway.”The Beatles were Landes inspiration to because a musician and John Lennon is his idol. Of Lennon, he says, “John Lennon stood for peace, love, women’s rights. He proved we can be a positive force in helping people and creating peace. He was human, certainly not a saint but I’m a believer that we can all create positive change in the world because of the ideals taught to us through the songs and example of John Lennon.”Landes has never personally met a Beetle but has interacted with folks who basked in their sphere. He delights in behind the scenes stories because it enables him to relive the memories. He recalls “Sid Bernstein, who produced the Shea Stadium concert, saw the show and ‘wept’ because our performance took him back in time.”Like the Beatles, “Rain” has its share of fans who attend show after show. There’s an East Coast group calling themselves “Raindrops” who appreciate the musicians as talented individuals who just happen to put on a great Beatles show.But according to Landers, “the bottom line is the music – Beatles songs have a simple positive message that is relevant today and continue to grow in popularity with their infectious energy that stands the test of time.”With over 200 songs to select from, Landers, says “it’s impossible to pick a favorite.” He loves the first albums, saying “those early era songs speak to me with their youthful energy.” In his John persona, he has the only solo song, “Give Me the Chance.” It’s presented in the encore as a prelude to setting up a post Beatles atmosphere.“Rain” is a show for all ages and Landers says “it’s so great to watch the audience relating to the music and message of the Beatles.”“Rain – A Tribute to the Beatles” is a musical extravaganza where audiences “Imagine” “Yesterday” as they “Come Together” for a “Hard Day’s Night” of theatrical joy at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts on April 25 – 26. For tickets and information call 714-556-2787 or online at SCFTA.org.

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