Rockapella keeps things interesting with great songs

Rockapella’s biggest feat isn’t the fact that they make all their music utilizing only their voices.

Rockapella’s biggest feat isn’t the fact that they make all their music utilizing only their voices.

After an hour and a half of this at The Egg’s Hart Theatre Saturday night, it was still surprising the way Jeff Thacher’s beat-boxing actually sounded like a drum kit, and the way George Baldi III’s vocals weaved in and out of Thacher’s the way a real bass guitar would. The novelty, as it were, didn’t wear off.

But that’s still not it. What makes Rockapella’s live show succeed is that the songs, the arrangements and the group’s stage show all hold up, even without any novelty factor. You think this kind of a cappella music is “cheesy?” OK. But try not to get “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?” stuck in your head after hearing it just once.

Before a maybe half-full theater, the group ran through a range of emotions, from the slick choreographed dancing and high energy of “Tonight,” which opened up the set, to ballads such as “California Sad-Eyed Girl.” Both of these songs are from the group’s new album “Bang,” their first since 2002 and first all original album since the 1990s.

Early on, they stuck with this album, turning in strong performances on hip-hopping pop tracks “4U4Now4Life” and “Nuthin’ But.” Then, shifting gears to covers, an equally zippy medley of Beatle tracks, framed by “Got to Get You Into My Life,” gave newest member, tenor Steven Dorian, his first chance in the spotlight. The Beatles theme continued partially in the next medley, a mashup of The Temptations’ “Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me)” and John Lennon’s “Imagine.”

Another new track, “Tell Me What You Want,” called attention to the group’s tight harmonizing — though this had been happening all night. Tenors Dorian, John K. Brown and Scott Leonard (the group’s senior member and main arranger/songwriter) would trade off on lead vocals throughout the evening, with the other two filling in the space between the leader and the “rhythm section.”

“California Sad-Eyed Girl” into The Mills Brothers’ hit “Paper Doll” was perhaps the finest stretch of the evening. On the latter song, Thacher proved he was more than just a beat-boxer, perfectly imitating a jazzy shuffle, down to the brushes tapping on the hi-hat cymbals.

The group had some fun with their long history of commercial jingles. “We have to admit, we sold our souls to the corporate devil to make a quick buck,” Leonard said, launching the group into a medley of jingles for Taco Bell, Budweiser and St. Louis, Missouri. A series of songs for Almond Joy, jingles for “The Today Show” and even a tune for Preparation H all followed, before the group played its well-known theme for Folgers Coffee.

Audience participation was also key; during a segment of Motown songs toward the end of the show, the group brought up a girl from the audience, singing to her, dancing with her and even giving her a chance in the lead vocal spotlight on “Stand By Me” (she did pretty good, too). The silliness subsided briefly for “Babygirl,” a chance for Baldi to sing lead, before the group closed the main set with their theme for “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego,” naturally.

The encore was fairly uneventful, save for the final song — an unplugged version of “Up on the Roof/Wonderful World” that, while difficult to hear, ended things on a powerful note.

Categories: Entertainment

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