The Washington Post

Beatles tribute bands: Enduring with costume changes and note-for-note sounds

Rain: A Tribute to the Beatles has toured the world since 1975, even taking up residence on Broadway in recent years. (Cyllavon Tiedemann )

Dozens of Beatles tribute acts roam the Earth in shag wigs and bell-bottoms, Sgt. Pepper jackets and round Lennon glasses. They speak in a tongue that never quite sounds Liverpudlian, and too often, up close, their furrows and extra pounds suggest the Beatles only in the most funhouse-mirror way.

How, then, does the market manage to support 1964: The Tribute; Beatlemania Now; Rain: A Tribute to the Beatles and countless other faux fours?

The tributes’ promise of a “note-for-note” Beatles concert — which is precisely what they deliver — may be as good as it will ever get for most fans. The Beatles toured for a fraction of their 10-year run before giving up on live performances. You either saw them (in Washington, at the Coliseum or later in what is now RFK Stadium), or you didn’t.

Perhaps that’s why the first tributes began when all the band members were still living. Rain launched in 1975. “Beatlemania” ran for nearly a thousand performances on Broadway in the late 1970s.

“I never got to see them,” says Joey Curatolo, who has performed as Paul for nearly 35 years in Rain. “You can’t see Beethoven play the piano, or Mozart play his violin in front of an audience anymore. It was 200-and-some-odd years ago. But you can see Itzhak Perlman and Jascha Heifetz . . . go up there and perform the music of these legends.”

That, he says, is what Beatles tributes do.

Each tribute has carved out its own slice of Beatledom’s endless merchandising pie. For those who find the “Yellow Submarine” years abhorrent, there is 1964: The Tribute, which hews closely to the youthful era of John, Paul, Ringo and George, the coy post-adolescents who wore slim suits and ties for their first U.S. tour. Rain, which had a Broadway run a few years ago, is even more immersive, employing news reels from the 1960s to put you among the flower children. (Curatolo says his group, which has more than one touring cast, is on the road three-fourths of the year.) Then there are acts such as Beatallica, a spoof that melds Beatles hits with Metallica’s abrasive delivery, and the Silver Beats, one of Japan’s most meticulous impersonation acts.

One common thread that goes back to “Beatlemania”: No show is complete without costume changes. The more polyester, the more wigs, the better.

Tapped to perform Tuesday at Uline Arena is the touring act Beatlemania Now. The same night at The Howard Theatre, you’ll find the Fab Four. Next month, Rain will return to the Warner Theatre. The anniversary of the Beatles’ first U.S. performances, it would seem, has made it an ideal time to pay tribute.

— Lavanya Ramanathan


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