The Sons of Pitches (Live Review)

The Junction, Cambridge – Friday 10th June 2016 – 7pm

Official TwitterTour Dates


 

ACA-FELLA VOCAL GROUP

Having quit their day jobs and hit the recording studio since they won Gareth Malone’s The Naked Choir on BBC 2 last November, a capella six piece Sons of Pitches have now hit the road for a 26 date headlining theatre tour.

Last night’s stop at beatboxer Midé’s home town of Cambridge was their first and only gig where the audience were standing – not that this change of atmosphere affected the banterful British band, as they were on exceptional form throughout their two act 90minute instrument-less set at The Junction’s J1. Besides, an unabating standing ovation was no less than they deserved!

Keyboardist and singer Jessica Rhodes – who is normally backed by a five-piece band but had to make do with just acoustic guitarist Luke – made for an appropriately complimentary warm up act, perfectly combining laidback tracks with a fierce and fiery vocal during a punchy 20minute set.

Audience reaction amplified remarkably when the Joes (Belham, Novelli, Hinds), Midé, Josh and Jamie hit the stage just 5 minutes later, instantly impressing with a perfect fusion of audience interaction, confident banter and enviable talent.

Opening with an in-song introduction from each vocal maestro, the laugh-rate was always entertainingly high. At one point an audience member (of questionable willingness!) was decked out in fancy dress Mexican garb and made to dance with maracas, waiting for the microphone to be thrust his way to shout “Tequila!”

All the songs which saw them victorious in the TV competition (Wuthering Heights, MMMBop in 10 genres, Move, True Love Ways and their Grand Final-winning medley) were well smattered throughout the evening, making for an audience-pleasing diversity of tempos, years and genres (everything from a lengthy boyband medley to dubstep, via Outcast!), while interaction with the up-for-it crowd made for arguably the show’s highlights.

Rearranging well known songs to suit and astound in a capella is a hard enough task when given rehearsal and editing time, but for Sons of Pitches to TWICE create impromptu songs before our eyes last night was a real treat, bringing back memories of Showstopper! The Improvised Musical. With the crowd consulted for Cambridge-relevant topics (“Universities!”, “Cycling!”, “Casual sex!” – I wish I was joking) and alternative genres which were written down and added to a pint glass, we witnessed the first ever Christmas song about punting(!). Later in the evening the last line of people’s text messages were polled to create a nursery rhyme/musical fusion called “The Swingball is in the Triangular Shed.”

Such ingenuity was commendable and the group’s pleasure at what they created was palpable, further fuelling their enduring energy, which carried through to a climatic preview of their very own songs, written for their upcoming second album. With so many complex layers to each track it’s difficult to instantly fall in love on a first listen, but the arrangements and delivery were unquestionable stunning – a word which perfectly sums up last night. I will definitely be seeking out tickets for their follow-up tour this November – whether standing on not.

CR@B Verdict: 5 stars

UNEASY LISTENING: An Evening with Clint Mansell (Live Review)


Royal Festival Hall – 24th March 2016 – 8:15pm
Official Website – Get Tickets HERE


THE EVENING’S ENTERTAINMENT

I have been enthralled by composer Clint Mansell’s ethereal film scores since I first listened to his stunningly beautiful soundtrack to Darren Aronofsky’s The Fountain (2006), a severely underrated science-fiction meditation on life, death and resurrection which was elevated beyond the surreal and impenetrable by some of the most dazzling and gorgeous string-lead soundscapes my ears have ever beheld.

Previously best known for the haunting and instantly-recognisable Requiem for a Dream (2000) score (which, trust me, you HAVE heard), Mansell’s subsequent collaborations with Aronofsky – The Wrestler (2008), Black Swan (2010), Noah (2014) – have seen his profile, job offers and award recognition rise while his output has remained recognisably… unique.

Mansell himself is all too aware that his “depressing” style of eclectic orchestration fused with electronic blips and bleeps is not to everyone’s taste. His choice of title for this tour certainly alludes to this, playfully, but in honesty, he all too frequently downplayed his talent and ability during lengthy suite introductions at London’s Royal Festival Hall on Thursday night.

Birmingham-born but now living in LA, Mansell seems like a genuine and grounded individual who would be a fascinating interviewee, reciting humorous anecdotes about Hollywood encounters from an almost everyman perspective, but he really needs to have a bit more faith in his own ability! After all, the packed-out audience all thought highly enough of his talent to pay to see him (and in my case, travel down to London for the privilege). The less said of the ridiculous number of “fans” who seemed to use every monologue as an excuse to go to the bar, the better!!

Backed by live instruments – including the Sonas Quartet on strings, and drums which added power every time they were introduced – and framed by a giant screen which complimented the audio delights with artistic visual displays by Alana Alexander, it took some getting used to hearing music I instantly associate with well-known films accompanied by alternative videos.

In some cases they were perfect (such as the trippy, staccato editing of the TV set and commericialist images during High Rise), in others bizarre (startled wildlife by night-vision during Noah) and, sadly, in the case of the goosebump-summoning finale (“Death is the Road to Awe” from The Fountain), misplaced. I understand the relevance of showcasing scratchy home movies during such a personal piece, but the transcendent music felt at odds with the uncinematic footage, particularly for the show’s crescendo.

Overall, I left the Southbank Centre come lights up at 10pm with decided mixed feelings. Clint Mansell’s majestic music still leaves me awestruck and his personality is magnetically sincere and unfeigned, but his live performance often felt more like an informal studio-hang than a polished concert hall experience.

CR@B Verdict: 3 stars

COLLABRO ‘Act Two’ Tour (Live Review)


Cambridge Corn Exchange – 17th March 2016 – 7.45pm
Official Twitter – Tickets available HERE


PHANTASTIC OF THE POPERA

Two years and two hit albums on from being crowned Britain’s Got Talent champions, the world’s first self-proclaimed “Musical Theatre Super Group” are back on the road in support of their sophomore LP, last summer’s #2 reaching Act Two, and their stop at Cambridge’s Corn Exchange venue last night marked the unofficial start of the return leg, falling as it did halfway through their 6 week, 27 date nationwide endeavour.

Following a soulful support set from one man and his piano, AJ Brown (who blew me away and will get a blog post all his own in the near future), Collabro-teers Michael, Richard, Jamie, Matt and Thomas were platform-lifted onto the impressive stage (replete with circular stairway to house their own live orchestra) for a technically flawless and uplifting two act show, which kicked off with the rousing “Circle of Life” from The Lion King.

The set list successfully combined all their biggest West End and Broadway renditions (“Stars” and “I Dreamed A Dream” from Les Mis, “Over the Rainbow” from the Wizard of Oz, “Memory” from Cats) as well as a healthy smattering of well known songs from other genres (Boyzone’s “No Matter What”, Kodaline’s “All I Want” and some swinging jazz hits) given a unique Collabro makeover. As the crossover kings remarked cheekily before a potentially “cheesy” number:

“Collabro can sing ANYTHING!”

This really was a top class variety performance, with some stellar lighting choices complementing the audio masterclass with visual pizzazz. If I was to be completely honest, as much as I recognised and admired the five piece’s harmonious vocal acumen in the first half, it wasn’t until their return to Les Mis  with “Bring Him Home” and a strapping Phantom of the Opera medley (where they were joined by assured soprano special guest Catriona Murray) in the second act where the full majesty of their powerful voices truly grabbed and moved me like they did on BGT in 2014.

The group were in high spirits in between numbers (even if it did occasionally feel over-rehearsed), breaking from the formality of their smart suits and glitzy ballroom-esque decor to lend validity to song choices (such as one member blubbing watching The Fault in Our Stars), recite humorous behind the scenes anecdotes and banter amongst themselves – at one point even using a selfie stick to snap the whole venue! It was nice to see a more human aspect behind their knockout lungs, and this aided in bringing some humour to an already highly entertaining show.

Bravo, Collabro!

CR@B Verdict: 4 stars


Photo copyright Collabro, 2016. No infringment intended. https://pbs.twimg.com/media/Cd17RwyWwAAhs9d.jpg