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Beatle magic: Rain performs this weekend in Shea's

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Rain -- A Tribute to the Beatles returns to Buffalo for performances this weekend in Shea's Performing Arts Center

It’s interesting to realize that the Beatles never performed their greatest, most ambitious music in concert. By the time the band was releasing its unrivaled masterpieces -- "Sgt. Pepper," "Magical Mystery Tour," "The Beatles (White Album)," "Abbey Road" -- it had ceased to exist as an entity outside of the recording studio. So world-renowned Beatles tribute act Rain actually does something the Beatles never did -- performs these complex studio creations as a live ensemble. 

It doesn’t hurt that the Broadway smash-turned-touring ensemble performs these pieces impeccably. Rain -- Steve Landes (John Lennon), Joey Curatlo (Paul McCartney), Joe Bithorn (George Harrison) and Ralph Castelli (Ringo Starr), as well as off-stage auxiliary musician David Leon -- made it plain the last time the group performed at Shea’s Performing Arts Center in 2009 that its presentation of this music was as close as any of us were ever going to get to seeing the Beatles in concert.

Now, the group is returning for five more shows in that same venerable venue, at 8 tonight (Feb. 17), 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday (Feb. 18) and 2 and 7 p.m. Sunday (Feb. 19). Tickets are $30 to $50 (box office, www.Ticketmaster.com). Call (800) 745-3000. Learn more about Rain via www.raintribute.com.

-- Jeff Miers

Miers on Music chat at noon today

Hunting down the blues: Kelly Hunt performs in the Seneca Niagara Casino

We lost Etta James this year, but the fiery eloquence of her singing echoes on, and is likely to do so whenever a strong woman with a superlative voice steps up to the microphone to testify about her toils, traumas and troubles. Kelley Hunt is one such singer. Her blend of sass, fire, soulfulness and estimable vocal chops places her directly in the long line of blues-women that includes James, Koko Taylor, Bonnie Raitt and Susan Tedeschi.

Sterling collections like "Gravity Loves You" and "Mercy" reveal Hunt to be not just a strong singer, pianist and guitarist, but also a songwriter of the first order -- one able to breathe fire and new life into what, in less skilled hands, can often come across as road-worn musical tropes. 

Hunt, in the time-honored tradition of her musical forebears, is on the road much of the time, and that never-ending, meandering jaunt leads her back into our neck of the woods for a show at 8 tonight (Feb. 17) in the intimate Bear’s Den, Seneca Niagara Casino, Niagara Falls. Tickets start at $30 (box office, www.Ticketmaster.com).

-- Jeff Miers

Big easy: Tab Benoit performs at the Big Easy in Buffalo

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Tab Benoit and his Swampland Jam headline the Big Easy in Buffalo     Getty Images

The Big Easy in Buffalo was launched in 2006 by Tod Kniazuk, originally as a means of simultaneously celebrating the music of New Orleans and offering an open hand to that city’s musicians following the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath. When Robby Takac’s Music Is Art got involved, a community/education aspect was worked into the Big Easy game plan, and student workshops, as well as master classes presided over by visiting New Orleans musicians, became part of the successful annual event. 

For its fifth anniversary show, taking place at 7 tonight (Feb. 17) in the Tralf Music Hall (622 Main St.), organizers have pulled out all the stops. The show will be headlined by Louisiana roots musician supreme Tab Benoit and his Swampland Jam, an all-star outfit featuring legendary Neville Brothers percussionist/vocalist Cyril Neville, fiddler Wayne Thibodeaux and vocalist Big Chief Monk Boudreaux, head of the Mardi Gras Indian Tribe the Golden Eagles and member of the revered Wild Magnolias. This, folks, is about as real as the real deal gets.

A student-based battle of the bands held to determine the opening act for this show has yielded the Brass Monkeez, a self-described "teenage classic rock band" from the Niagara Falls/Youngstown area.

Tickets are $28 at the door (box office, www.Ticketmaster.com, Walmart).

-- Jeff Miers

Ying strings: The Ying Quartet performs at UB

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The Ying Quartet performs two concerts this week in UB’s Lippes Hall.

The Ying Quartet, together more than 10 years, has played everywhere from the White House to the Sydney Opera House. Now it is coming to Buffalo, to perform the last two concerts on this year’s Slee Beethoven Quartet Cycle.

The first concert, 7:30 p.m. today (Feb. 16), comprises the Quartet in A Major, Op. 18, No. 5, and the late-period Quartet in B-flat Major, Op. 130.

The second, at 3 p.m. Sunday (Feb. 19), features the Quartet in C minor, Op. 18, No. 4 and the colorful "Razumovsky" Quartet in E minor, Op. 59, No. 2. Between those two pieces, in accordance with tradition, is the poignant Quartet in F Major, Op. 135, the last quartet Beethoven wrote.

The two Slee Beethoven Cycle concerts are in Lippes Hall in Slee Hall, University at Buffalo, North Campus, Amherst. Admission is $8 in advance and $20 at the door, with discounts for UB faculty, staff, alumni and senior citizens.

The Ying Quartet -- Ayano Ninomiya and Janet Ying, violin; Phillip Ying, viola; and David Ying, cello -- also will take part in two free events, both open to the public: a composer workshop at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday (Feb. 15) in UB’s Baird Recital Hall, 250 Baird Hall, Amherst Campus, and a chamber music/string master class at 7 p.m. Wednesday (Feb. 15) in Lippes Concert Hall. 

For info, call 645-2921.

-- Mary Kunz Goldman

Victorian literature scholar Donegan to speak on "Women's Survival Narratives"

Santa Clara University based Victorian literature scholar Melissa Donegan will deliver a talk entitled "Room to Write: British Women's Survival Narratives" at 12:15 p.m. Thursday in the Social Hall of Campbell Student Union at Buffalo State College, 1300 Elmwood Ave.

Donegan's talk will touch upon many of the themes of her 2008 Ph.D dissertation at the University of Iowa, including representations of domestic violence in George Eliot’s "Janet’s Repentance," Anne Brontë’s "The Tenant of Wildfell Hall," Sarah Grand’s "The Beth Book," and Elizabeth Dobb’s "The Autobiography of a Charwoman, As Chronicled by Annie Wakeman."  These texts are employed to "explore the ways in which the women writers and their writing heroines employ storytelling to describe and survive abuse and to make meaning out of loss."

Using Virginia Woolf’s "A Room of One’s Own" as an inflection point, Donegan reconfigures "the creation of domestic space in terms of negotiating safety, planning escape, and making room to write." She concludes that "nineteenth-century British women of all classes learned to use narrative construction to survive domestic abuse, find meaning in their pain, and begin to establish a sense of community with their sister sufferers."

--R.D. Pohl

Critics' Corner chat for Feb. 15

News Arts Editor Jeff Simon and Pop Music Critic Jeff Miers answered your questions about books, movies, television, music and more directly into the camera.

Book Club live chat about 'Wolf: The Lives of Jack London'

Join The News' Anne Neville and author James L. Haley as they discuss the February Buffalo News Book Club Choice, "Wolf: The Lives of Jack London."

When pigs fly: The Pink Floyd Experience performs at UB

There is something timeless about the music of Pink Floyd, unquestionably, and this fact is underscored by the band’s continued resonance with generation after generation of adventurous listeners, most of whom become lifelong fans after their first exposure to Floyd. Why? Surely, it is the marriage of some of the most powerful, incisive lyrics in rock history -- the majority of them penned by the band’s inimitable bassist, Roger Waters -- to music that is harmonically rich, melodically astute and ceaselessly imaginative.

That’s why Pink Floyd tribute bands do such bang-up business, and also why there are so many good ones making the rounds. The Pink Floyd Experience is one such band. The six musicians commit themselves to faithful reproductions of the music, but they also understand that the visual element is integral to the Floydian concert experience. So when the Pink Floyd Experience plays the University at Buffalo’s Center for the Arts Mainstage Theatre at 8 p.m. today (Feb. 14), expect quadrophonic sound, the full light show, and perhaps even a flying pig. The band will perform the epic "Wish You Were Here" album in its entirety, folks, and it will fill out the balance with tunes cherry-picked from the rest of Floyd’s brilliant catalog. Tickets are $34.50-$64.50 (box office). Visit www.ubcfa.org.

-- Jeff Miers

CEPA Gallery announces members' show winners

Each year, CEPA Gallery selects two winners from among the many dozens of pieces in its annual members show, now on view in the gallery's basement space. This year, the winners were chosen by Castellani Art Museum curator Michael Beam (whose own show, "The Ides of March," is coming up on March 15 at Wine on 3rd in Niagara Falls). And the winners are...

Nicole June Wurstner, with this piece:

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And Megan Alexis Metté:

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--Colin Dabkowski

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