Steve Landes was born after the Beatles changed rock and roll. But he grew up a fan, listening to his older sisters play the albums.
By the time he was 17, he was totally obsessed with the Fab Four’s music.
After graduating from high school, Landes left his native Philadelphia and went to New York City to audition for a Broadway show called “Beatlemania.” He won the role of John Lennon in the show.
Landes will be in town Tuesday-Wednesday with “Rain: A Tribute to the Beatles” at the Bill Heard Theatre at the RiverCentr. Others members of the tribute band are Joey Curatolo (Paul McCartney), Joe Bithorn (George Harrison) and Ralph Castelli (Ringo Starr). The fifth Beatle is Mark Lewis, who is the musical director and plays keyboards and percussion in the show.
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Rain’s show takes the audience from the Beatles’ first American appearance on “The Ed Sullivan Show” on Feb. 9, 1964, through the group’s break-up in 1970.
Rain features three big screens that show video montages of both the band and world events as they occurred.
“People who never got to see the Beatles live want to see that energy they saw in their movies and videos,” Landes said.
“It’s a chance to see those guys’ iconic moments. Like shaking their moptops and singing, ‘Woo.’”
It’s also a chance for the audience to see the band grow and progress in their music.
“They led the way,” Landes said.
The band experimented with psychedelic music and later with transcendental meditation and introduced Indian music by incorporating Ravi Shankar’s sitar into “Norwegian Wood.”
Though some fans like to speculate what would have happened if The Beatles hadn’t disbanded, Landes doesn’t like to theorize on that possibility.
“I can’t imagine them still together,” Landes said.
He thinks there was too much talent and creativity for egos not to get in the way.
Instead of imagining a scenerio in which the group stayed together, Lander prefers to recognize what the Beatles did.
“The Beatles took rock and roll and somehow made it serious.”
“I can never be him”
Landes says that while he has a passing resemblance to Lennon, he only gives the audience “the John Lennon I know and love. I do the best that I can. I am not him. I can never be him.”
The show is “for everybody.” He’ll look out into the audience while he’s performing and he sees people of every age from kids to their parents and grandparents.
Landes is simply a Beatles fan. He’s seen the Cirque du Soleil’s Las Vegas show, “Love,” based on the music of the Beatles, four times.
“I’m just the Beatles geek,” he admits.
Performing Beatles’ music hasn’t diminished Landes’ love for the group.
“My favorite albums are the early stuff — ‘Please, Please Me’ and ‘With the Beatles.’”
Who is Steve Landes?
Landes, like the other three men in the show, is a musician, who still works on his own music.
When he’s not portraying Lennon, he’s at work in his California home.
He calls his music “coffee-house alternative that’s very Beatles influenced.”
He’s trying to get his own music going, but he still gets jobs as a sideman in studio sessions, as well as his Rain gigs.
Rain was originally called Reign (founded by musical director Lewis) and did covers. When they decided to do just Beatles music, they went with the B-side to “Paperback Writer” called “Rain.”
After 11 years, Landes still loves what he’s doing.
“I get to be me during the day and John Lennon at night.”