“Abbey Road” was a last creative gasp for the Beatles, and on Wednesday the tribute band RAIN turned it into a multi-media, sensory assault.
The classic album came out in 1969. It felt like 50 years flashed by in the two-hours, with stunning visual and audio re-creations at the Sharon L. Morse Performing Arts Center.
“Abbey Road” is a daring, sonic adventure that simmers with furious energy and mind-expanding rock and roll.
I’ve seen many Beatles’ tribute bands and presentations, but nothing could match the quality of the music and the visual presentations in this show. RAIN has appeared on Broadway and also played the Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden. In addition to “Abbey Road,” the band detailed Beatles’ songs and costumes from 1964 through 1969.
The Beatles were well on their way to breaking up in 1969. “Abbey Road” seemed like a farewell get-together in the recording studio that the album was named after.
“We wanted to make one last great album, and that’s how we made ‘Abbey Road,’” Paul McCartney has said.
Steve Landes (John Lennon), Paul Curatolo (Paul McCartney), Alastar McNeil (George Harrison) and Aaron Chiazza (Ringo Starr) make up RAIN. They can’t match the Beatles but this group and its Broadway-show like presentation captures the music, emotion and atmosphere of the Beatles.
More than that, RAIN recreates not only the sound but also the time and perspective of “Abbey Road.” It not only marked the end of the Beatles, but also the decade that spawned them: the 1960s.
The Beatles, who broke up in 1970, would release one more album – “Let It Be” – after “Abbey Road.” That LP was mostly a rehash of old tapes and performances for the “Let It Be” movie.
“Abbey Road,” in contrast, is a fresh burst of musical adventure. In some ways, it’s a bittersweet album, sort of like a graduation. The time has come to leave old friends and start over – but you want to have one last blast with your buddies.
Landes gave props to John Lennon with a blistering cover of “Come Together” to start off Side 1 of the album. Landes, with shoulder-length hair and a wearing a chalk white suit, captured the 1969 Lennon look.
Curatolo, a McCartney clone, offered one of the lighter numbers on the album, “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer.” There were better McCartney efforts coming on Side 2.
And then there’s George – the quiet Beatle. George Harrison reached a musical climax on “Abbey Road.” His ballad, “Something,” on Side 1 (RAIN did not perform it) is a classic. Harrison kicked off Side 2 with another standard, “Here Comes the Sun.” McNeil played an acoustic guitar on the song to perfection and was spot on with his vocals.
After that number, the Beatles turned Side 2 of “Abbey Road” into one of the greatest rock performances in history. And that’s not an exaggeration. I didn’t expect much from RAIN but they surprised me.
Landes and Curatolo teamed up on the classically sounding “Because.” Then Curatolo – who delivered a tender, acoustic “Yesterday” earlier – came up with a powerful “You Never Give Me Your Money.”
Landes took command again, nailing Lennon’s vocal inflections and accent on “Mean Mr. Mustard” and “Polythene Pam.”
Curatolo found some nasty vocal riffs on “She Came In Through the Bathroom Window” and quickly turned it into the soulful lullaby of “Golden Slumbers.”
Then Landes, Curatolo, McNeil and Chiazza joined forces for a thumping “Carry That Weight.” Curatolo, as McCartney, finished the set with the ultimate Beatle philosophy: “And in the end/The love you take/Is equal to/The love you make.” The band came out for an encore of “Hey Jude” and the audience sang along.
The first hour of the program was a guided tour of Beatles history. It started with the appearance on the “Ed Sullivan Show” in 1964. The early songs were fun, as were the old television commercials shown on the giant stage screens behind the band. “Twist and Shout” was the highlight of the early years, with Landes wailing and rocking like a youthful John Lennon.
As time passed, the Beatles evolved as human beings and musicians. A turning point in the show was the era of “Rubber Soul” and “Revolver.” McNeil, as George Harrison, impressed with his lead guitar work and harmonies. He did a remarkable job on “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” starting the song slow and eventually building to a booming finish.
RAIN displayed bright, colorful costumes for “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” The band managed to capture the essence of songs like “She’s Leaving Home” and “A Day in the Life.”
All in all, it was a concert to warm the hearts of aging Beatles fans.
“It’s the music that matters and that’s why we’re all here today,” said Trevor Edwards, who grew up near London and was visiting The Villages. “I don’t think the Beatles were as popular in England as they were when they came to America in 1964. It was crazy back then.”
Villager Stan McAlevey said the songs still have depth and meaning.
“The Beatles were great storytellers,” said McAlevey, who plays guitar and performs. He appreciates “Abbey Road” and what it means in Beatles’ history.
“It’s one of the last times that they were happy together and they enjoyed making music,” he said. “I love Side 2, when they ran all those songs together. I think it put everything in perspective as to how talented the Beatles really are.”
Phyllis McAlevey – Stan’s wife – had another reason for loving the Beatles.
“Paul was just so doggone cute,” she said.
Tony Violanti is an award-winning journalist and writes for Villages-News.com.