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December 18, 2008

Straight No Chaser on holiday

San Francisco Chronicle (CA):

Last December, a former member of the Indiana University undergraduate a cappella group Straight No Chaser posted a 1998 video of the outfit singing a goofy version of "The 12 Days of Christmas" on YouTube. The clip, which saw the 10-man chorus jumbling the song with bits of "I Have a Little Dreidel" and Toto's "Africa," went viral and racked up more than 8 million hits. Then something really crazy happened: Atlantic Records stepped in with a five-album record deal for the collective that had disbanded after graduation, with its members scattered around the globe working as bankers, teachers and theme park characters.

Now the recently reunited Straight No Chaser has become the season's unlikely crossover bet, like Josh Groban in 2007 and the Trans-Siberian Orchestra every year before that. On Monday, the group performed for an eager, sold-out crowd at the Great American Music Hall, playing a set filled with songs from its first album, "Holiday Spirit." It was best appreciated by people who wait all year to break out their Bedazzlered Christmas sweaters and get a kick out of watching grown men pretend to dance badly as they call one another "dawg."

Like a herd of groomsmen serenading a new bride, the members of Straight No Chaser wore matching black suits, red ties and blinding smiles. The first half of the evening consisted of random covers, from a doo-wop inspired take on Van Morrison's "Moondance" to a kitschy "Any Dream Will Do" from "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat," delivered with the same decade-old joke in the intro.

There was the requisite stopover at "The Lion Sleeps Tonight," now with added smugness. Though it's hard to understand why they opened the show with Montell Jordan's 1995 R&B hit, "This Is How We Do It," a bawdy ode to downing 40-ounce cans of malt liquor and partying with gangbangers and gold diggers. The song may have gotten the frat house jumping back in the day but made most of the group's new silver-haired patrons blush. Still, it was better than the group's own material, which recalled the boy-band era's most pallid remains.

Things made more sense when Straight No Chaser segued into its holiday segment by announcing, "We're going to seamlessly segue into our holiday segment."

Harmonizing in earnest, the singers delivered good-natured versions of winter standards like "Auld Lang Syne" and "Carol of the Bells" alongside takes on contemporary Christmas fare such as "Jingle Bell Rock" and the Beach Boys' "Little Saint Nick" to the expected frenzy. They ended the set with the song that started it all by precisely re-creating the old "The 12 Days of Christmas" routine, currently at 9,127,564 views and counting.

Posted by acapnews at December 18, 2008 12:06 AM

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