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Becoming a Beatle

WANT TO GO?

"Experience The Beatles with Rain"

Presented by Broadway in Charleston

WHERE: Clay Center

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday

TICKETS: $37 and $61

INFO: 304-561-3570 or www.theclaycenter.orgCHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Jimmy Irizarry said he doesn't really have to try very hard to look or sound like John Lennon.

"I pretty much naturally sound like John. When I was young, I'd try to sing the Paul songs. I was more of a Paul listener, but John was more of a natural fit," said the Chicago native, who performs Tuesday night as Lennon in Broadway in Charleston's "Experience the Beatles with Rain."

Irizarry said he's always been a Beatles fan.

"I grew up on the records," he said. "My brothers and sisters played them when I was a kid."

Beatles tribute bands have been around for decades. Rain began as Reign, a California club band that started playing Beatles music at shows in 1974, four years after The Beatles dissolved their musical partnership.

The group went through numerous lineup changes with members of the band being recruited for the TV film, "Birth of the Beatles," in the late 1970s. In the early 1980s, cast members from Broadway's "Beatlemania" replaced most of the group.

Like the band, the show has evolved from essentially a couple of guys doing Beatles covers to a tribute band with musicians costumed to look like the Fab Four to the very elaborate production it is now.

"It's a multi-media presentation," Irizarry said. "We start with the 1964 Ed Sullivan performance and go through the decade, through the psychedelic period, all the way through to 'Abbey Road' in 1970."

He added that in addition to the music, the show features a video montage and pictures.

"We've also got a tremendous light show going on."

Irizarry said Rain tries to "nail the sound of the records," but not The Beatles live.

"Most of the time when The Beatles played live, they couldn't hear themselves," he said. "Back in those days, they didn't have monitors to send the sound back to them on stage."

What they did have, however, were thousands of shrieking fans.

Irizarry started off as a Beatles fan, though not one of the shrieking ones, and eventually started trying to play Beatles songs. Around the age of 12, he picked up his first guitar.

"I messed around with friends in different bands. We'd do some Beatles songs, some Rolling Stones covers and classic rock, things like that."

After playing part-time in different bands for a few years, he joined his first serious, professional Beatles tribute band in 2002. The band played mostly around Chicago and then started booking weddings, corporate parties and bigger shows.

Eventually, he moved on to another Beatles tribute band, which took him to Liverpool, where he played at the famous Cavern Club on the stage where The Beatles performed their first show.

"That was a fantastic experience," he said. "It was just like [The Beatles] described it. The club was like 90 degrees with heat coming off the walls and very crowded.

"I happened to catch the 'Cavern flu' while I was there, a really nasty cough and sore throat, which I had to get through while I sang all week."

Beatles fans from all over Europe stopped in to watch the show, which was based around the songs The Beatles played before they went into the record studio.

Irizarry joined Rain in 2010 and was part of the show's run on Broadway.

"I hope we go back there at some point," he said.

Irizarry would also like to meet a Beatle.

"I know Paul was invited to see us when we were on Broadway, but I think he took a pass," Irizarry said. "He's a little bit on the proud side."

Irizarry said even if McCartney won't come to the show, that would never keep him from going to see a Beatle. He's been to McCartney and Ringo Starr concerts.

Irizarry said he'll always be a fan.

***

Want more Beatles?

Local tribute band Rubber Soul will be joined by an 11-piece orchestra to perform The Beatles' "Magical Mystery Tour" album in its entirety at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday at the Alban Arts Center, 65 Olde Main St., St. Albans. The show is a benefit for the American Heart Association. Tickets are $12. Call 304-721-8896 or visit www.facebook.com/rubbersoulwv

Reach Bill Lynch at lynch@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5195.


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