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September 25, 2006

Reviews - Concert relives fun of the '70s

Deseret News (UT):

Remember the '70s? Even if you don't, this weekend's program at the Utah Symphony is a fun blast from the past. Titled "Our '70s Show," the evening was about letting loose and having fun featuring Rockapella, music from the '70s and some pretty corny humor.

In fact, this pops concert was slightly unusual in that the central theme the '70s was even more center stage than the guest artists (who usually dominate the spotlight). That isn't to say the Rockapella didn't "rock the stage" (so to speak) when the band was on; it was just more even-handed between featuring the symphony and featuring the group.

The concert started with the orchestra playing Wagner's "Ride of the Valkyries," aka "Kill da Wabbit," and continued with music from "Star Wars," "The Godfather" and "A Chorus Line." The definite highlight of this part and maybe even the concert had nothing to do with the music, however. It was a picture (projected onto a screen at the back of the stage) of conductor Keith Lockhart at his high school prom, wearing a peach-colored tux with ruffles.

Then Rockapella took the stage with its five-man a cappella group. Although the musicians also featured music from the '70s, like "Shambala" (Three Dog Night), "Here Comes the Sun" (The Beatles), and "Philadelphia Freedom" (Elton John), the arrangements made the music very much their own with a strong soul/R&B flavor and a high-energy delivery.

In spite of the fact that it took all five of them to make the whole sound come together, it was George Baldi's bass (imitating a real electric bass) and Jeff Thacher's vocal drums (sounding uncannily like a real trap set) that stole the show. Following intermission, the orchestra came back for the overture to "Jesus Christ, Superstar," and a medley of TV themes from the '70s. This was paired with a slide show of images from the shows, which brought laughs of recognition and occasional light applause from the audience.

Rockapella took the stage again, featuring more distinctive arrangements of '70s tunes. Sonny and Cher's "The Beat Goes On" was particularly fun because the arrangement was written with the orchestra in mind, so they were able to include a back-and-forth "competition" between the orchestra and the singers.The program ended with a '70s sing-along that featured Lockhart going out into the audience and singing to audience members during "Feelings."

Salt Lake Tribune (UT):

Memo to Keith Lockhart: If you threw a "Baby Boomer Bash" every year, you probably could be elected mayor of this town. Lockhart and the Utah Symphony played a boatload of '70s tunes Friday, and the Abravanel Hall crowd went nuts - clapping, cheering and singing at the top of its lungs to hits like "Celebrate," "Margaritaville," "Bad, Bad Leroy Brown" and, yes, "Feelings." Even the youngsters who know the songs only from late-night K-Tel commercials were hard-pressed to resist Lockhart's manic charm as he led the sing-alongs, dashed into the crowd to serenade audience members on "Feelings" and even put his high-school prom picture on the big screen for all to see.

As much love as the crowd showed the Utah Symphony music director, the five members of Rockapella earned even heartier cheers. If you've ever wondered what you'd get if you put the King's Singers in a blender with the Four Tops, your answer was onstage Friday, wowing listeners with shiny vocal harmonies and polished choreography. Vocal percussionist Jeff Thacher cq , basso profundo George Baldi III, tenor Kevin Wright, baritone John Brown and the de facto frontman, Owen Wilson lookalike Scott Leonard, showed off a remarkably full sound in their unaccompanied numbers and blended nicely with the orchestra in arrangements of "Philadelphia Freedom" and "The Beat Goes On."

Oddly enough, Rockapella did not perform its best-known hit, the theme song from "Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego" - the closest it came was the line "don't know much about geography" in "Wonderful World," which earned knowing chuckles from the crowd.

Posted by acapnews at September 25, 2006 9:24 PM