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They hope you will enjoy the show: Rain to play 'Sgt. Pepper'

They hope you will enjoy the show: Rain to play 'Sgt. Pepper'

Celebrating album's 50th anniversary
They hope you will enjoy the show: Rain to play 'Sgt. Pepper'
Rain performs three shows this weekend at Proctors.
Photographer: Richard Lovrich

People know the sound of the Beatles' "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band."

Pop standards such as "With a Little Help from my Friends," "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" and "A Day in the Life" are all components on the Beatles' celebrated studio album from 1967.

People also know the look that comes with the Pepper collection. Album photos feature John, Paul, George and Ringo in bright reds, yellows and blues. The guys are all wearing Edwardian-era military uniforms that gave them a cool, campy and colorful look for the hip, heavy and happening late '60s.

Pepper songs and sights will be on the Proctors' MainStage this weekend. "Rain: A Tribute to the Beatles" will be performed Friday at 8 p.m. and Saturday at 2 and 8 p.m.

The musician-actors are continuing their celebration of the album's 50th anniversary. The entire "Pepper" album will be played, song for song. Bunches of other Beatles tunes will be included in the 2 1/2-hour show.

"I guess it is kind of an acting role, we're really just playing the music," said native Philadelphian Steve Landes, who has played John Lennon in "Rain" since 1998.

"There's no real dialogue, we have a little bit where we set up the songs here and there, but for the most part we're not using dialogue to tell the Beatles' story," he said. "We let it all play out through the music."

"Rain" began as "Reign," an aspiring Southern California rock band that started during the mid-1970s. Rock was slugging it out with disco at the time, and "Reign" musicians played Beatles songs for fun.

Mark Lewis, the band's founder and original keyboardist, said the new band successfully duplicated the sound of the Beatles. The skills led to gigs, to Broadway and "Rain" musicians now tour theaters across the country.

Landes will perform with Paul Curatolo (Paul McCartney), Alastar McNeil (George Harrison) and Aaron Chiazza (Ringo Starr). The musical parts are important, but so are the physical parts.

"People expect to see John Lennon on stage performing this music," said Landes, 40, in a phone interview from Cincinnati. "It's a process of really learning all the subtle nuances of his body language, the way he carried himself on stage."

The moves might not be obvious, but Landes said Lennon always shifted his weight to his right. Sometimes, he'd look over to McCartney with an almost paternal look.

Landes believes the Beatles' music has endured because messages were always positive. At first, the songs were like other songs from other bands — young love, lovers part, joy and sorrow that comes with romance.

"Very quickly, they grew as artists and started to talk about some serious subjects and talk about a greater sense of love," Landes said. "The 'All You Need is Love,' 'Give Peace a Chance,' scenes we can all relate to in a much bigger sense.

"The scenes are as relevant now as they were back in the '60s, when they wrote this music," Landes added. "I think that resonates with people to this day. It's a positive message of peace and love and togetherness."

Fans will see the black suits and skinny ties from the early 1960s. The Ed Sullivan and Shea Stadium appearances are also part of the gig. But the entire Sgt. Pepper album requires the entire Sgt. Pepper wardrobe.

"They're probably the least comfortable of the suits we wear," Landes said. "They're a little stiff, they're very military-like, they're form-fitting, high collars. The funny thing is, we've really gotten used to them. I wear that costume the longest of any of them in the show; it feels like a second skin at this point."

"Rain" started when tribute bands were rare. Now, fans of the Beatles, Led Zeppelin and other groups can find acts dedicated to the original incarnations.

Landes said it can be a challenge to win over fans who will only accept the first bands.

"I can understand that, I can respect somebody's opinion — 'I just like the Beatles, I don't need to hear a tribute band' — but I think there are a lot of people who love the Beatles to the degree they want to feel like they've seen them live," Landes said. "For those people, that's what we're all about.

"We want people to feel that for 2 1/2 hours, they got to see the Beatles at the high point of their careers, played out on stage before their eyes," he added. 

Sometimes, Landes hears stories about Beatles fans who have loved the "Rain" tribute. He'll take those wins.

"It's never about us," Landes said. "In my mind, it's just remembering how great the Beatles were."

Reach Gazette reporter Jeff Wilkin at 518-395-3124 or at [email protected].


Rain: A Tribute to the Beatles

WHEN: Friday, 8 p.m. Saturday, 2 and 8 p.m.
WHERE: Proctors MainStage, 432 State St., Schenectady
HOW MUCH: $20-$70
MORE INFO: www.proctors.org

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