J. Shane Mercer, Published March 09 2009
The Fab Four reborn
‘You sound British,” I said during our phone conversation. It’s a strange thing to say to a native of Philly. More specifically, Steve Landes sounds like a Beatle. Then again, it probably isn’t so odd. For a decade, he’s played John Lennon in the Beatles tribute band Rain, which comes to the Fargodome at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.
But when he and his cohorts take the stage as Rain, it’s a different matter. They’re doing their best to sound and look as much like the Fab Four as possible.
“We’ve gone to great pains to really make it as authentic to the recordings as possible,” says Landes, a self-proclaimed “hard-core Beatles geek.”
They go so far as to imitate recording glitches. He says the first Beatles album was recorded in one night so that it was much like a live performance.
“So there are mistakes in there. But at this point we’ve heard them so many times, to not put them in there would be the mistake,” he says. “There are tape dropouts, so there are times when you’ll hear an organ and then for a second it’ll be gone and then it will come back. Those things we put in there.”
Says Landes, “To do these songs and put our own spin on it or not do it 100 percent authentically as they did is doing a disservice to the Beatles fans.”
They are, after all, imitating what allmusic.com calls “the greatest and most influential act of the rock era.”
The Rolling Stones’ Web site says the Beatles’ impact “not only on rock & roll but on all of Western culture – is simply incalculable.”
Landes says the Beatles “did something with pop songs that really hadn’t been done before. They gave them seriousness and a reality past the three-chord blues that pop songs were based on and rock ’n’ roll was founded on.”
Minnesota State University Moorhead music professor Henry Gwiazda says Lennon and Paul McCartney “were the right people for each other.”
“Sometimes when you put people who are talented together they cancel each other out because they negate each other’s strengths,” Gwiazda says. “But in this case, for a long time – not during their whole recording career, but for part of it – they made up for the other person’s weaknesses, you see. So that what you had was one really good songwriter.”
Among those songs is “Yesterday,” which Rain will perform tomorrow night. Landes says that “if you don’t do ‘Yesterday’ people will get mad.”
Rain will perform other hits like “Revolution,” “A Hard Day’s Night” and “Let It Be.” But the band will also hit some less prominent numbers, such as “Girl” from the “Rubber Soul” album. The show follows the band “chronologically from 1964 when they first came to America to 1970 when they broke up,” Landes says.
All this happens in the context of a backdrop of video footage and changing sets.
But for Landes and his fellow faux-Beatles, the show is only on part of the time.
“While I’m on the road during the day, I’ll be in the hotel room writing (original) songs or recording songs on my laptop,” Landes says. “So I’m able to be me during the day. And still portray somebody else at night.”
“So it’s not like we’re those … Elvis imitators who 24-7 think they’re Elvis, walk around in the grocery store with the big sideburns and glasses.”
Readers can reach Forum reporter Shane Mercer at (701) 451-5734