On being John Lennon, 200 nights a year
Steve Landes seemed most contrary to his friends. Why couldn’t he get on with the times? Growing up in the seventies, the Philadelphia native shunned the rock music popular with his classmates. The soundtrack of his adolescence did not feature Peter Frampton or Kiss. Instead, the music he loved and listened to most had topped the charts a decade earlier. Thanks to the music that his older sisters and parents enjoyed, he began his journey into the adult world a devoted Beatles fan. Young people can turn out a lot worse, you know.
More than three decades after baffling his boyhood friends, Steve Landes can feel vindicated. The Beatles’ music has remained popular and important with successive generations. Some of his old friends may now believe that Landes was right all along. They should also note with admiration that Steve Landes has made his life’s work being a Beatle. Two hours a night, 200 nights a year, Landes portrays John Lennon in Rain, A Tribute To The Beatles.
Steve Landes and his fellow Beatlesque players invade Atlanta’s Fox Theatre for seven shows October 6-11. On October 9, John Lennon would have celebrated his 69th birthday. There will always be speculation, wildly varied, no doubt, about the musical directions Lennon would have taken had he lived. He likely would have gone in many directions. But that’s all conjecture. What’s obvious is the great body of work he left behind as a Beatle and a solo artist. It’s also undeniable that Lennon was a most intriguing person. Landes refers to John Lennon as a man “wise beyond his years, but not a saint.” Lennon’s very public life dispels any notion of his deification; but his life had fascinating moments, filled with tenderness, bravado and great resilience.
Those who remember Lennon as a daily presence constantly wondered what he would do next, musically and personally. His statements and work on behalf of the anti-war movement resonate. Landes says, “When he spoke about peace, and people getting along, and looking out for each other, he was not preaching, he was not being hypocritical. He was stating where he’d been in his life, what struggles he’d had, and how he’d learned from them, and he just wanted to help us all see the light he had seen. He did that in the second half of his life, and he was just starting a third life, ready to settle into his forties, and become an even better person.”
Steve Landes loves sharing his enthusiasm for the life and music of John Lennon. People believe he does a good job at it. In The Chicago Tribune, theater critic Chris Jones wrote that Landes “has a genuinely arresting voice and an attitude in the ballpark of the man he is interpreting.” When someone has spent much of his life studying all things Beatles, that may be expected but it’s not easy to pull off. It takes a lot of love and determination. The labor of love began when he started listening to the music that he says was filled with such “youthful energy.” Let’s hope Landes and others continue to experience that great energy and feel the joy imbued in the music of The Beatles. Then, to paraphrase the great man, we can all shine on.