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September 20, 2005

The Coats energize series

Mount Vernon News (OH):

When The Coats arrived on stage at the Memorial Theater on Saturday evening, it turned out there was a size and style to fit everyone. The Coats, in this case, is an outstanding a cappella male quartet out of Seattle. The group consists of Doug Wisness, baritone; Kerry Dahlen, bass; Jamie Dieveney, second tenor; and Keith Michael Anderson, first tenor. They were appearing as the first of six concerts in the Community Concert Association’s 2005-06 series. This season-opening show was sponsored by The Community Foundation of Mount Vernon and Knox County.

The Coats filled the theater with vibrant harmony, humor and seemingly boundless energy, and exhibited a passion that can only come when one truly enjoys what one is doing. Their program featured songs that spanned the ages and ran the gamut of the musical genre — from old barbershop quartet songs like “Wait Till the Sun Shines, Nellie” to the doo-wop sounds of the 1950s to western to reggae to country to rap to the sounds of bagpipes tuning. The word “varied” doesn’t do justice in describing the group’s wide-ranging program.

While Dieveney and Wisness, who is the founder and manager of the group, often sang lead and interacted with the audience during the patter between songs, Dahlen and Anderson each had several turns “in the spotlight” as well. Mixed with the wonderful blend of music was a great sense of humor which had the audience roaring with laughter on several occasions. It was obvious the members of the group like to get a feel for the local environment when they appear somewhere, and then develop humorous lines to fit. There are three examples of this which stood out — two provided by Dahlen, one by Dieveney.

When describing their tour bus ride to town from Heath, Dahlen noted the bus stopped just outside town. He told the audience he was somewhat hesitant to come into town and get off the bus. “My name is Kerry, you know,” he said. Later, as he was introducing the song “Tennessee Stud,” he said the group had driven around Knox County earlier that day and noted “some of the roads we were on seemed to pre-date cars. This next song is about something that pre-dates cars, too — a horse.” Dieveney’s local humor shot came as the group responded to a standing ovation and came out on stage for an encore. As somewhat of an aside, he noted “there’s not a lot of (other) places to go.”

In its first 45-minute set, The Coats performed eight numbers, including one which featured bass man Dahlen and a history of the bass singer from the 1950s through the 1990s. This included bass lines from “Duke of Earl,” “Blue Moon,” Stayin’ Alive,” and the title song from the old TV series, “Rawhide.” Dahlen’s range is dramatic and his low notes are so low it seems like the bottom dropped out. Dahlen’s low range reminds one of the old Lawrence Welk bass singer Larry Hooper, for those who remember him.

At the other end of the musical spectrum, Anderson gives a whole new meaning to the classification as first tenor. “Incredible” is an understatement of the high end of his vocal range. As Dieveney said during the individual introductions of the members of the group, “Keith is proof that great things can come in small packages.” Anderson, who lists his height as 5-foot 2 and 3/4 inches, (as he puts it, “hey, a guy needs every inch he can get”) proved it on numerous occasions throughout the concert, and especially on the songs “Stand By Me,” an original written by Dieveney titled “Slow Ride,” and “Joy to the World” that were included in the group’s second 45-minute set.

For the encore, The Coats demonstrated the group’s unique vocal styles, remarkable sound effect-creating capabilities and wonderful sense of humor by performing “Old McDonald Had a Farm” in several musical styles. They told the story of finishing a show in North Dakota one evening and driving straight through, all the way home to Seattle. They said they had sung this one song for the entire length of the trip, and when they ran out of animals doing it the normal way, they came up with other ways to sing the song. Saturday night they demonstrated the normal version first, and then followed with reggae, spiritual/Gregorian chant, rap and grunge versions. The theater was filled with both the sounds of music and the laughter of the audience.

The Coats wrapped up the encore performance with a version of John Denver’s “Thank God I’m a Country Boy,” and left the audience wanting more as they exited stage left to the cheers and applause of a second standing ovation.

Posted by acapnews at September 20, 2005 9:18 PM