An Evening With The Piano Guys

Pianist Jon Schmidt and Cellist Steven Sharp Nelson from “The Piano Guys” giving an encore performance to the audience.

On Monday 2 Sep 2013, YouTube sensation The Piano Guys performed in the Star Theatre in Singapore to a 4,000+ strong audience. The group shot to fame on YouTube, garnering a total of over 260 million views on their YouTube channel.

Ever since I discovered their superb performances via a video of pianist Jon Schmidt and cellist Steven Sharp Nelson performing a mashup of Taylor Swift’s Love Story and Coldplay’s Viva la Vida, I’ve been watching all their videos on YouTube and wished they’d perform here.

My wish came true when LAMC Productions brought them in to perform in Singapore on Monday. Ironically, I knew of this concert via one of the things I hated on Facebook – Suggested Posts. Guess some advertising is useful after all.

With their lead stars being a pianist and a cellist, the name is kind of a misnomer. Well, turns out that Paul Anderson, the producer and videographer used to own a piano shop of the same name and Jon came in one day to ask if he could practise on his piano for a gig later that night. Paul started making and uploading videos of him (and later of both him and Steven Sharp Nelson performing together) to YouTube and they became a hit.

The Piano Guys’ Jon Schmidt (Pianist) and Steven Sharp Nelson (Cellist) on stage.

In the concert, the duo performed numerous hits from their YouTube channel and CD albums such as Adele’s Rolling in the Deep, Christina Perri’s A Thousand Years and what they are best known for – mashups of different musical pieces. These include Bourne Vivaldi (Vivaldi’s Double Cello Concerto + Bourne Identity soundtrack), Home (Dvorak’s Largo from Symphony No. 9 and Philip Philips’s Home) and a version of David Guetta’s Titanium combined with Fauré’s Pavane. Many of their performances were also accompanied by their YouTube video of the song projected on the screen above them. In some performances, the screen shows a live feed of them from above Jon’s left shoulder.

Pianist Jon Schmidt and Cellist Steven Sharp Nelson plays ”Bourne Vivaldi” – a mashup of Vivaldi’s double cello concerto and the Bourne Identity soundtrack.

Jon and Steven also performed solo pieces, with Jon playing an original piece by himself titled “Waterfall”, and Nelson performed “Beethoven’s Five Secrets” which combines OneRepublic’s song Secret and the sections of the great composer’s fifth symphony. Accompanying them was violinists from the United World College.

Each of them has their own special skills, with Jon being able to play the piano upside down, and Nelson’s extreme versatility with his cello not only as a string instrument but a percussion instrument as well. With his kick drum, loops and effects pedals, he’s effectively a one man band. He’s even able to make sound effects such as a cow mooing – he recalled a video shoot in a ranch where they wanted the cows to be in the shot but the cows moved away. Steven went up and moo-ed with his cello, whereupon the cows came back.

Cellist Steven Sharp Nelson plays “Beethoven’s Five Secrets” with string players from the United World College.

In between performances, the duo entertained the audience with jokes and gags, and other short mash ups that were not on YouTube or their albums. The audience laughed as they mashed up Phantom of the Opera with Don’t Worry, Be Happy, and Tomorrow from the musical Annie with the Imperial March from Star Wars.

With their superb performance, the two and half or so hours came to an end too quickly. For their final song, all of the Piano Guys appeared on stage and played One Direction’s What Makes You Beautiful on the piano. The four guys played, plucked, tapped and bowed the single piano to produce a lovely rendition of the song. It was a sight to behold and the audience responded with a standing ovation.

The Piano Guys performs “What Makes You Beautiful” by One Direction.

Jon and Steven gave 2 encore performances, one of an excellent arrangement of Bring Him Home from the musical Les Misérables and Elvis Presley’s Can’t Help Falling In Love, which brought about another standing ovation. I had a great time and enjoyed the concert thoroughly and look forward to seeing them again.

The Piano Guys receive a standing ovation from the 4,000+ audience at Star Theatre.

In closing, I’d also like to thank LAMC Productions and the Piano Guys for actually allowing non-flash photography and videography. This was unprecedented in all the past concerts which I’ve attended, all of which photography/videography was banned. If I had known about this earlier, I’d brought along my DSLR and a 70-200mm lens. Then again, I might not have enjoyed the concert as much if I were to be looking through a viewfinder all the time.

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