Friday Night: Rain, Beatles Tribute Band, at Bayou Music Center
Apparently the Beatles began when they appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show in February 1964 -- four fully formed lads from Liverpool in moptops and nifty dark suits.
That is the premise behind Rain, whose five-man touring company reached Houston this weekend with three shows at Bayou Music Center, Friday night and Saturday matinee and evening shows. A few blocks away, the real Beatles gave their one and only Houston appearance -- also in a matinee/evening doubleheader -- in August 1965 at the Sam Houston Coliseum. Never mind the Quarrymen days or all those nights in Hamburg's red-light district, Rain begins right after Sullivan uttered those fateful words, "Ladies and gentlemen... The Beatles!"
In a way, that makes sense; Sullivan is how probably how 98 percent of of the Beatles' American fans who were alive in 1964 became aware of the band. Packaging some two hours of their music as a theater concert with a few costume changes is both logical and probably just about the only way to treat a band with such a complicated history and still-pervasive influence on today's pop music.
With two video screens flanking the stage as the songs unspooled in sequence, the early part of Friday night's show unfolded much as one of their Sullivan appearances must have, with the band bobbing their heads and racing through "She Loves You," "Please Please Me," "I Wanna Hold Your Hand," "A Hard Day's Night" and a few others in short order. (An outgrowth of another musical, Beatlemania, the original Rain ran for more than 300 shows on Broadway between October 2010 and July 2011.)
When the show reached the famous Shea Stadium concert (which happened four days before the Houston shows), the scenery changes to a real baseball backdrop, as onscreen security set about chasing fans through the outfield. Only "Eleanor Rigby" was out of order, but at least we got something from Revolver Friday; Rubber Soul was shut out entirely. Animation fashioned after A Hard Days Night and Yellow Submarine accompanied other parts of the show; the best was reminiscent of noted Beatlemaniacs Monty Python.
As players, the four Rain men were certainly competent, but if I were Houston's Thursday-night Continental-Club staple Beetle, I wouldn't lose a whole lot of sleep. The show grew especially listless and shaky when it reached the period when the Beatles stopped performing concerts, the Sgt. Pepper years.