For father and son, impersonating Paul McCartney is the family business
There are sons who follow in their fathers’ footsteps. There are sons who follow in their fathers’ footsteps by becoming Beatlemaniacs. And there are sons who follow in their fathers’ footsteps by learning to play Beatles songs on the guitar.
Then there is the son who followed in his father’s footsteps to join the family trade: playing Paul McCartney on stage, in a Beatles tribute show that performs note-for-note renditions of Fab Four hits that the real band never played live.
That would be Paul Curatolo, who alternates with his father, Joey, in the role of McCartney in “RAIN: A Tribute to the Beatles,” which will take the stage for three shows at the Citi Performing Arts Center Wang Theatre Friday and Saturday.
Curatolo, 26, grew up watching his father perform as Paul in “RAIN,” which presents live shows that seek to replicate Beatles performances and studio recordings spanning the group’s entire discography.
“It was always such a trip to watch my dad and his band,” Paul Curatolo recalled in a telephone interview last week. “I always loved the Beatles’ music.”
Love is not all you need to perform in “RAIN.” The players try to look, sound, and move like John, Paul, George, and Ringo as they progressed from cheery young Liverpudlians in the early 1960s to cynical megastars by the time Paul quit the band in 1970. “RAIN” also uses modern technology to painstakingly re-create the chintzy sound produced by the Vox amplifiers the Beatles used in their famous 1964 appearance on “The Ed Sullivan Show,” the scratchy fuzztone of the guitars on “Revolution,” and Paul’s whoops and wails in the coda of “Hey Jude.”
The Beatles grew to hate playing live, and their last concert was in August 1966, months before the release of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” Much of the show therefore involves playing Beatles classics that the band recorded in the studio but never performed for an audience. The imitators study each vocal inflection, each guitar lick, each mistake — the feedback at the beginning of “I Feel Fine,” for example — that made it onto recordings now etched in the minds of generations of fans.
“We pride ourselves of being able to dissect it and perform it note for note,” said Joey Curatolo, who declined to give his age. He wanted to play like a Beatle ever since he saw them on the “Sullivan Show,” and learned to play guitar.
In his teens, he won a number of McCartney soundalike contests, and he went on to join the Broadway production of “Beatlemania” that ran from 1977 to 1979, when it famously bit the dust. He joined “RAIN” shortly after that, and has toured with the show ever since.
Paul Curatolo joined “RAIN” three years ago, and now plays Paul “70 percent of the time,” according to his father. A drummer, guitarist, and pianist, he has also recorded five albums as a member of the pop band Wayward.
“He grew up watching us, he grew up loving the Beatles, that’s all he heard, it’s in his psyche,” said Joey Curatolo, who acknowledged that he named his son, at least in part, after the musician they both play. “To share that with your son or daughter, it’s a blessing.”
Though generations of critics have argued over whether the Beatles should be considered great individual musicians, rather than just a great group, the role of Paul is inarguably tricky to nail. A McCartney impersonator has to sing while playing technically challenging bass lines, and has to be able to switch to piano and guitar.
Paul Curatolo took that challenge a step further. Naturally righthanded like his father, the son learned to play bass lefthanded, to better resemble McCartney.
“He’s really quite ambidextrous,” Joey Curatolo said of his son.
The show used to include some of the Beatles’ more experimental work, but these days focuses on the hits — “the soundtrack of three generations,” as Joey Curatolo put it.
Both father and son predict that the popularity of the Beatles will not soon wane.
So, would Paul Curatolo like to hand off the role to his own hypothetical son one day?
“That would be a trip,” he said.
“RAIN: A Tribute to the Beatles,” Citi Performing Arts Center Wang Theatre, Feb. 26, 8 p.m.; Feb. 27, 3 p.m. and 8 p.m.Tickets: $38.75-$93.75. www.citicenter.org. 800-982-2787.