Sunday, 14 June 2015

The Piano Guys

June 12th 2015

Edinburgh Usher Hall
The Piano Guys - Edinburgh June 2015

The Piano Guys, in the words of the Usher Hall blurb:

began as an internet phenomenon; four Utah dads who created a series of strikingly original self-made music videos with a quirky-yet-virtuoso take on making classical music hip with a rock 'n' roll style.  With over 500 million views and 3.2 millon subscribers of their YouTube videos and three chart topping albums, their staggering online popularity has resulted in sold out concerts around the world.

I cannot personally vouch for the two big figures asserted above, but would suggest the number of actual Piano Guys represents a bit of an exaggeration.  For there is really only one: Jon Schmidt.

The majority of the show consists solely of Jon performing alongside cellist Steven Sharp Nelson.  The other two (Paul Anderson and Al van der Beek), who I believe generally perform their magic behind the scenes as video producer and musical arranger respectively, are only trotted out on a couple of occasions to perform the all-fiddling-around-inside-the-guts-of-the-piano thing they do.  Additionally Al steps forward to sing, admittedly in an impressively soulful voice, some gloopy saccharine goo about how great is to be a Dad.

Generally though, the gig consists of Steven and Jon doing what they do and doing it rather well.

They specialise in what they term mash-ups:  contemporary (often so contemporary Daughter had to enlighten me as to what they were) pop songs given vaguely classical arrangments, often with some well-known classical piece layered into the mix.

Thus we had, amongst others, both The Bourne Identity theme and the Disney song Let it Go Vivaldi-fied, One Republic’s Secrets was mixed in with Beethoven’s 5th Symphony, and David Guetta’s Titanium given a soupçon of French composer Fauré.  You get the picture?

And it was all really rather entertaining.  The atmosphere in the Usher Hall certainly helped, for it is some time since I have experienced such a roar of delight from an Edinburgh audience as was heard when the PGs took to the stage.  For a moment I thought I was perhaps at a Glasgow gig, and it seemed to me to be one of those few occasions where performers appeared genuinely taken aback by the generosity of their welcome.

Their Rockabel take on Canon in D was fun, even if the cellist’s comic dismay at the soul-destroying tedium of the cello part was a seam already mined far more cleverly by American comedian Rob Paravonian’s Pachabel Rant some ten years ago.

I really don’t know enough about musicianship to comment on just how special these guys actually are at their instruments.  My guess would be “very”.  But, for all I knew there may have been a couple of professional musicians in the audience grumpily thinking "I could do that".  But the point, of course, is they did not, and The Piano Guys did.

Layered on top of the music we get a healthy dose of finely honed if slightly contrived comedy banter between the two.  And for all the fact Steven both resembles and even appears to possess some of the of the more irritating mannerisms of that annoying little squid Chris Hollins, things generally went well.

Two grouses I am permitting myself:

The pair generally play unaccompanied, but for a few songs they performed along to some video footage.  But the footage also had a soundtrack, so I was never quite sure how much of the, admittedly at times sumptuous, music was actually being performed live here.

And being committed Mormons all, they could not resist dragging their beliefs into proceedings, and dedicating one tune to the old sky wizard.  But given this piece was an utter delight performed against a backdrop of breath-taking footage of Rio de Janiero and the Iguazu Falls, even a devout anti-theist like myself could forgive them this single lapse in taste.

Stage set-up

The Piano-Guys arses as they do their
all-fiddling-around-inside-the-guts-of-the-piano thing


Let It Go/Winter
All of Me 
Code Name Vivaldi 
Love Story / Viva La Vida 
With or Without You 
Kung Fu Piano 
Summer Jam 
Father's Eyes 
Ants Marching / Ode to Joy 
Beethoven's 5 Secrets 
The Cello Song 
Titanium / Pavane
The Mission / How Great Thou Art 
Story of My Life 
Don't Worry, Be Psycho 
Canon in D / Rockelbel's Canon 
A Thousand Years
What Makes You Beautiful 


Bring Him Home / Can't Help Falling in Love 

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