The opening strains of “I Want to Hold Your Hand” at the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center on Friday, May 18, 2012 immediately transported me back to my junior year in college, when the Beatles were just arriving on the scene in the United States. I was serving as one of the two resident assistants on a floor full of freshmen female students. My room was at the opposite end of the hall from the other RA. From a distance, I could hear that song being played over and over and over and over. Carol would sometimes come down to my room to get away from “the song.”
The remarkable tribute group RAIN, composed of Mac Ruffing (Paul), Tom Teeley (George), Chris McBurney (Ringo), and Jim Irizarry (John) are fantastic musicians in their own right; but when they are “channeling” the Fab Four, they are something else. The string of familiar Beatles songs, which I could pretty much sing along with, included: "This Boy," "I Saw Her Standing There," "A Hard Day’s Night," "Yesterday," "Daytripper," "Eleanor Rigby," "Strawberry Fields," "When I’m 64" and "Let It Be." The audience was very participatory with much clapping and singing along, and the energy in the room was absolutely electric. From my vantage point, I could see the main floor audience, often standing and swaying back and forth to the music.
The group made special mention of the “20 and under” fans that were present, and urged them to pass their love of Beatles music along to others in that age group. Many of the rest of us in the audience were there when the Beatles came across the pond, and took the U.S. by storm in the mid-1960s.
After absolutely deafening applause, the group came back out and sang "Hey Jude," then finished up with a heartfelt rendition of "Give Peace a Chance." Special note must be given to Mark Lewis, founder and creative genius behind the group. It’s a night I won’t soon forget, and I find myself humming Beatles favorites as I am writing this.