CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The second to last show of the Clay Center's Broadway in Charleston played Tuesday night to an almost packed house. "Experience the Beatles with Rain" was a two and a half hour trip back in time.While Rain -- a spot-on Beatles cover band -- played everyone's favorite tunes, two giant screens flanked the stage reeling through period appropriate news clips, sound bites of Beatles interviews and psychedelic visuals. It was all a bit overwhelming at first.However, it was quickly easy to see the large crowd had come to immerse themselves in the experience. Far enough from the stage and with the aid of all the special effects it was easy to temporarily lose one's self and slip back in time. In fact, it all felt uncannily real.The concert began on the set of The Ed Sullivan Show with four bright-eyed mop-topped young men playing early songs like "She Loves You," and "I Wanna Hold Your Hand."
In between the time periods and minimal set changes, old commercials and songs played across the large screens. When the curtain rose, the audience had been propelled forward to 1965 as the Beatles conquered Shea Stadium. Songs like "Day Tripper" and "Help" filled the auditorium as clips of the Shea Stadium audience looped across the monitors, complete with the original fans fainting, screaming and being dragged off by security.As the curtain fell again and commercials for cigarettes, hair relaxers, detergents and shampoos filled the screen members of the present day audience could be heard nervously giggling and whispering "I remember that!"When Rain again took the stage they had morphed into the Beatles of the Sgt. Pepper era. Some albums, like Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, are meant to be taken as a whole. This is probably the hardest of the Beatles albums to pull off because any cover band can play a song or two but to re-create the experience of the album without playing it in its entirety is difficult. With the help of special effects and some prerecorded instrumental back up, Rain was able to accomplish this feat pulling the audience in and creating that special feel with only a few of the more well-known songs like "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" and "When I'm 64."The special effects did go a touch overboard here with a sheer screen that came down in front of the band and across which bubbles and kaleidoscope patterns played. Also they took the lyrics a bit too literally. The audience does not need to be spoon-fed actual images of rocking horses and marshmallow pies to get the song.After intermission a more worldly and serious version of the band took the stage. Proclaiming peace and celebrating the Summer of Love, Rain launched into "All You Need is Love" and "Strawberry Fields," complete with Nehru jackets and droopy moustaches. That was a short set and quickly moved into what was easily the highlight of the evening an acoustic set that included "Blackbird," "Here Comes the Sun," and transitioned into a fantastic version of "While My Guitar Gently Weeps." This set really highlighted the skill of the musicians. Not hidden behind special effects and fancy lights, the audience was treated to some quality renditions of classic songs.After this the band moved forward in time again to some of the more rock 'n' roll numbers like "Get Back" and "Revolution."Rain played two encores. The first included "Give Peace a Chance" and "Let it Be;" the second consisted solely of "Hey Jude." Both were huge crowd pleasers.Rain did an excellent job of showcasing what made the Beatles the enduring legend they are today.
They skipped some notable crowd pleasers in favor of some of the lesser-known songs and this gave the show a unique feel unlike other Beatles' cover bands, which often skew to the most well known well-loved crowd pleasers.Overall this was a fantastic show full of great technical skill and entertaining special effects. The enthusiasm of the audience reflected just what a wonderful evening it was.