If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, “Rain: the Beatles Experience” is one big compliment.
Beatlemaniacs should be sure to check out “Rain” when it comes to the District. The show makes its Washington debut Oct. 6 at Warner Theatre, and according to the Denver Post it is the “next best thing to seeing The Beatles.”
But Steve Landes, who plays John Lennon in the tribute band, doesn’t care about the accolades.
“At the end of the day it is all about love, peace and happiness, messages that stand the test of time. It’s nice to see four guys that care about the world and love what they do,” he said. “They were good human beings.”
Landes describes the show as “more than a tribute, and not quite a play ... just a huge Beatles party.”
Landes said he has been a fan of the Beatles his whole life. He started playing guitar at age 10 and soon was picking out chords from Beatles albums. At 17, he joined the cast of the Broadway show “Beatlemania.” There he met the other guys who went on to form Rain, the premier Beatles tribute band.
So when Jim Riddle, the original John Lennon of the group, passed away from a brain tumor in 1997, Landes was the obvious choice to replace him.
“There’s kind of this small knit world of Beatles tribute guys out there, some good and some not so good,” Landes said. “But we all know each other and ... we all just love the music.”
Landes says the role of Lennon was a good fit for him because he identifies with Lennon’s outlook on life.
“Philosophically, I think a lot along his lines of peace and love and believe that we can change the world with our thoughts and our words as well as our actions,” Landes said.
“But I’m a Gemini, same as Paul, so I have a lot of Paul tendencies and Paul mannerisms that I had to kind of erase to do the John thing, so I’m kind of a John coating around a chewy Paul center,” he said.
Landes said the band fills a hole left when the Beatles broke up.
“Here it is, 40 years later, and the Beatles are still vitally important to lots of people,” he said. “The music still speaks to people now. We still need peace and love as much as we ever did. But there’s no outlet for that, they’re broken up, half of them are sadly gone, so where can you go when you want to hear this music performed live?”
This desire to recreate not only the music but the experience of a Beatles concert is what drives the group. However, Landes says that comes with a tremendous responsibility to perform to the best of their ability.
“There are bands out there who just love the music so they just want to play [it], and God bless ‘em, that’s fine. But at this level the audience expects you to be a top professional musician,” he said.
Moreover, Landes emphasizes that the music is only half of the experience.
“You have to have the look and kind of be an actor,” Landes said. “I can shift my weight to the wrong foot, and people are like, ‘He’s not standing exactly like John would.’ You learn to become them, like an actor would.”
The musical skill, attention to detail and performance of a live concert are what really make Rain different than other Beatles tribute bands.
“We have costume changes and full Broadway level production values with sets and backdrops, and all of those relate to the time, so everything kind of forms around us,” Landes said.
Landes said his favorite song from the show is an “obscure” song titled “It’s Only Love” from 1965 that he considers of the “prettiest John Lennon songs because of the message.”
He also said he wished they could play more from the early years, like “Thank You Girl” or “She Loves You,” but concedes that “if you put in one song, you have to think about what you take out. There’s just not enough time, even in a two-hour show.”