Popular band doesn't think of itself as a 'tribute' to Fab Four

by: COURTESY OF RAIN/CYLLA VON TIEDEMANN - Beatles band Rain, which plays at the Keller Auditorium April 5-6, always works to refine itself in the Fab Four's image and sound, says longtime member Steve Landes (John Lennon, lower left).Rain doesn’t see itself necessarily as a “tribute” band of The Beatles.

As John Lennon, aka Steve Landes, explains: “A tribute band comes with a stigma, a kind of cheesiness.”

Rather, Rain pays homage to The Beatles and John, Paul, George and Ringo — and is a band of real musicians who have strived each year to rekindle great memories of the Fab Four’s music for their fans.

“It’s all how you look at it,” says Landes, a 15-year member of Rain, which appears at the Keller Auditorium, April 5 and 6. “Over the years we’ve tried to raise the level of this thing, and playing on Broadway and (London’s) West End, that says it’s more than just a tribute band. We take these records that we all know so well and recreate them on stage.”

Rain has three ensembles now, which includes veterans such as Landes and newcomers who share the love of Beatles’ music.

Landes says organizers plucked the best of other Beatles bands out there to form the three bands, one of which again will soon be playing the West End in a show titled “Let It Be.”

Landes says Rain has had a great reception in London and across England.

“I was afraid it’d be very critical,” he says. “The Beatles belong to England. One of the first thoughts when you think of England is The Beatles.

“(The fans) weren’t critical. They really took to it. They love The Beatles as we all do, and want to hear their music.”

Rain has toured around the world, and the audience has ranged from subdued in such places as Japan and Germany to wild on the U.S. West Coast and in Canada.

In the show that will be performed in Portland, Rain stages a re-enactment of the Beatles’ triumphant introductory 1964 appearance on “The Ed Sullivan Show,” and also includes interviews of Rain members as Beatles musicians, archived video of screaming (mostly female) fans, and cutaways to the live audience.

“So, literally, you might be part of the show,” Landes says.

Costume changes are essential, which also means hairstyle changes.

Landes says, back in the day, he sported the bowl cut made famous by Lennon and his mates.

Now wigs suffice — along with fake beards and mustaches — as Rain tries to duplicate everything about The Beatles.

“As silly as it sounds, (Beatles’ hair) works for me on stage, but it just doesn’t suit me off stage,” Landes says.

The Beatles have always been popular, but the 50th anniversary of the band’s formation and rise in popularity has spurred celebrations around the world, including Paul McCartney’s appearance during the London Olympics in 2012 — the group’s first hit, “Love Me Do,” came out in 1962.

Last week was the anniversary of the release of the Beatles’ first album, “Please Please Me,” preceded by the release of the band’s generally regarded first No. 1 hit by the same name.

So, it’s cool timing for Rain to be coming to Portland.

McCartney and Ringo Starr still perform, and Landes tries to attend every event possible. He has seen McCartney perform numerous shows in the United States for enjoyment and to help cultivate his persona as John Lennon on stage.

Lennon and George Harrison have died, and Landes says he hasn’t had the pleasure to actually meet McCartney and Starr.

However, the guys from Rain have formed relationships with various folks in The Beatles’ circle, such as concert promoter Sid Bernstein, Lennon’s infamous girlfriend May Pang, and secretary Freda Kelly (who has a documentary coming out, “Good Ol’ Freda”).

“It’s as close as I can get to meeting this guy,” Landes says of Lennon, who was shot to death in 1980 by Mark David Chapman. “Everybody seemed to love the guy; the stories about him are always positives ones.”

Rain does have an official endorsement from Sony/ATV, which houses the McCartney and Lennon catalog of music after the death of Michael Jackson, who had purchased much of the music.

“We actually have an agreement to do some George songs, too,” Landes says.

As for favorite songs, Landes says he loves the early stuff — the “I Want To Hold Your Hand” era.

“There was something about the youthful energy of the first album, and them literally taking over the world in their early 20s,” he says. “We do the whole catalog, and watch how it affects people differently.

“I’ll sing ‘In My Life’ or ‘A Day in the Life’ or ‘Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds’ and I see what it does to our audience,” Landes adds. “For me, getting this wonderful opportunity to sing this stuff for people, I’ve come to love the songs in a whole new way.”

Tickets for the 7:30 p.m. April 5 and 2 and 7:30 p.m. April 6 shows of Rain at Keller Auditorium start at $23.75 and can be purchased by calling 503-241-1802 or online at

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