The Piano Guys performing at The Royal Concert Hall Nottingham on Wednesday 10th June 2015.
Images and Review by Kevin Cooper
On last night’s showing at The Royal Concert Hall, it was easy to see why The Piano Guys YouTube channel has had over half a billion views.
On a stage decked with just a piano, three cellos, and two screens which showcased some of their brilliant videos; pianist Jon Schmidt and cellist Steven Nelson took to the stage to rapturous applause, and a night of frolicking pure entertainment began.
Delivering mashup’s of both classical and more contemporary tunes, the duo were simply sublime. With Stevens use of a loop pedal and kick drum, they created the illusion of a whole accompanying orchestra, and as they promised a “rocking night in Nottingham”, that is exactly what they delivered.
Opening with a montage of images on the screens behind them where they were seen asking people if they had ever heard of The Piano Guys, many responded that they hadn’t. That surely is going to be rectified very soon, because there can be no ignoring this groups talent.
From their mashup of Beethoven with One Republic’s Secrets, to their rendition of Peponi with Coldplay’s Paradise, complete with an African twist, recorded on the top of the Red Stone Mountain in Utah; the playing was mesmerizing. With plenty of banter and storytelling, the evening flowed just like the water in the video to Jon’s Waterfall.
There were the occasional cheeky insults thrown between them, but things escalated when Jon played his piano upside down, even using his feet. He does not just tickle the ivories, he slams his forearm into them, and even using his head at one point to hit the notes, whilst still making it all sound perfect. Steven is no novice either on the cello, playing it like a guitar; slapping and whacking it. Indeed, he was fully capable of being a one man band.
Introducing us to his electric cello which he has called Bruce Lee, Steven told the story of how they came to play on the Great Wall Of China, whist the video played behind them, as they played a mashup of Kung Foo Panda with Chopin. It was simply awesome, as was Jon’s solo of Summer Jam taken from their latest album Wonders.
The first half was brought to a close with all four of the guys running around the stage; each taking a turn at playing the cello and piano; playing the piano stool like a drum kit and getting sounds from these instruments not heard before. It was a fun and frantic end to what had been an amazing first half.
After the interval, they returned to the stage to deliver How Great Thou Art to the back drop of a simply beautiful video of Christ The Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro, before following up with their own version of One Direction’s What Makes You Beautiful.
From such pure entertainment it was hard to pick out the highlights, but for me U2’s With Or Without You was a standout moment as was the vocal performance of Al Van der Beck who came on stage for the very moving Father’s Eyes. But it was The Piano Guy’s version of Christina Perri’s A Thousand Years that produced the goose bumps, as they bounced between piano and cello. It was simple poetry and it wasn’t hard to get lost in the moment of it all.
Too soon the show was brought to an end, with this audience clearly not wanting to leave until the very last note had been played. Whilst Paul Anderson’s videos are exceptional, The Piano Guys’ were born to play live. Toss in their witty charm and this just might have been the best concert of the year.