It takes more than a little chuzpah to think that people might be interested in listening to a bit of music from a pianist and cellist situated on a butte in Utah or on the Great Wall of China. But the Piano Guys seemed to have stumbled onto a good thing. When they’re not in some exotic locale videotaping their performance, they’re giving live concerts like the one they gave Saturday night at The Egg before a sold-out crowd.
Pianist Jon Schmidt and cellist Steven Sharp Nelson are the face of The Piano Guys, a piano store in Saint George, Utah. The store’s owner, Paul Anderson, is the one who came up with the idea of mixing classical music with any other genre of music and putting the performers in an outdoor setting and then videotaping it to air on YouTube. That went viral and the two performers have become a sensation, recently signing with Sony Records and appearing on Jay Leno’s show.
“It’s a miracle from end to end,” Nelson told the audience.
Although the idea is a novelty and the concert included video footage and a bit of rock lighting props that turned colors, the guys have enough classical chops to play the tunes. Most of all, they were both very personable, cracked funny stories that had the audience laughing loudly, and were not above some wild antics (Schmidt played piano while laying on his back and did some mad hip-hop moves to Nelson’s rhythmic pounding of his cello). They were having a ball and the crowd loved it.
It was a very interactive presentation. It was also all amplified.
Nelson plays electric cello and had three of the 15 he owns to play on. He also thumped a kick drum and with some other buttons got an orchestral kind of backing to some of the tunes. Everything they played was original except for quotes here and there of various classical works they integrated. These included Faure’s “Pavane,” a Chopin Prelude, bits of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, and various Broadway shows or movie scores.
Among the tunes fans seemed to know were “Bourne Vivaldi,” “All of Me,” “One Thousand Years,” “Waterfall” (a piano solo), “Titanium Pavane,” and “Paradise.”
The music was always tuneful and often funky, bluesy and catchy. The pace was frenetically non-stop — there was no intermission for the almost two-hour show. Whenever appropriate, Nelson extolled the virtues of classical music and how gutsy it is for kids to play an instrument. As such, the show was almost like a paean to support music education, which Nelson said had a “profound effect” on children’s lives.
The audience responded with huge cheers, applause and whistles to every offering. At the end, the two men introduced Anderson and their sound engineer, Al van der Beek. There were two encores, including “What Makes You Beautiful.”