Sunday, February 17, 2013

LIVE FROM NEW YORK: Straight No Chaser at the Beacon

I think it's fairly safe to assume that if you are a fan of reading rambly music blogs like mine, you are a fan of sangin'. And if this is the case, perhaps you already are aware of a little acapella act out of Indiana called Straight No Chaser. In the rare event that you are not, however, let me educate you.
L to R: Mike, Randy, Tyler, Steve, Jerome (center), Charlie, Walter, Seggie, Dave, Don.
Straight No Chaser, or SNC as they are known to their fans -- affectionately referred to as "Chasers," because that's not creepy at all or anything -- is made up of ten college friends who formed their own acapella troupe back in the late 90's/early 00's. After graduation, they all went their separate ways but when they reunited for a ten year reunion in 2006, a video of their rendition of "The 12 Days of Christmas" was posted on YouTube and went viral, gaining over six million hits within a month. The rest was "history": a Chairman at Atlantic Records signed them to a five-album deal and they have since released two Christmas albums, and an album and two EPs of unique cover material, with a second full-length, titled Under the Influence, due in May.

SNC performed a full two hour set of covers and closed with two encores ("12 Days of Christmas," full of comedic references and a blend of Toto's "Africa," was included at the tail end, despite it being Valentine's Day the night of the concert). While their vocals are all superb, that much kind of goes without saying in an acapella group. It was their charisma as a group on stage that really set them apart -- I didn't know who to look at first as each member was constantly making faces or interacting with another whether he was singing solo or not. It sounds hokey, but they were really funny for an acapella "lounge" act that has several casino residency's under its belt.

I walked into the beautiful Beacon Theatre that night with a vague appreciation of the Men Chaser, thanks to my BFF who is a big fan, but left a fan myself. It was hard not to be hooked by their charisma and undeniable sheer talent.

In terms of vocal stands out, the group's sole African American member, tenor Jerome, was an immediate star with his Stevie Wonder-esque head shaking and crystalline clear melismas. Another obvious highlight was one of the younger members, fellow tenor Mike, who's more husky voice rounded out the warm harmony blend perfectly. The two often duetted together with incredible results -- the best example being their genius blending of Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean" (Jerome) and Bell Biv Devoe's "Poison." Listen to the studio version here.

The group performed a variety of their unique "twists" on popular song -- including Madonna's "Like A Prayer", Coldplay's "Fix You," Gotye's "Somebody That I Used To Know" and fun.'s "Some Nights/We Are Young." However, the vocals were balanced out by sheer tomfoolery (with ace vocal harmonies), as was the case with their "Movie Medley" which puts lyrics to popular movie themes. They even closed out the night with a mashup that included Maroon 5's "Moves Like Jagger", LMFAO's "Sexy And I Know It", Carly Rae Jepsen's "Call Me Maybe" and PSY's "Gangnam Style" (yes, really).

They even offered up more traditional acapella group pieces with a comedic twist, like with their version of "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" (which includes references to "Don't Worry, Be Happy", "Hakuna Matata", "Brown Eyed Girl" and even the notorious "Harlem Shake"). Watch my video of this crowd pleaser below.

If and when Straight No Chaser is in a town near you, go. You will not be disappointed.

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