An appreciation of the Piano Guys, via an annotated setlist from their Singapore concert of 25 September 2018


1. Batman series (A quick romp through the campy Adam West TV series, the Tim Burton-directed, Danny Elfman-scored 1989 hit and the Dark Knight trilogy. Setting the mood.)

2. (A familiar-sounding tune which I don’t know the title of. My first live experience of a cello as a percussion instrument.)

3. “Let it go” from Frozen + Vivaldi’s Winter (A modern hit studded with elements of a hit from yonks ago. See a version from the Piano Guys’ YouTube channel here.)

4. “Love story” + “Viva la vida” *

5. “With or without you” (Steve shows off his “loop pedal”, which enables him to record and play back snippets of sound from his cello, so that he can add in loops and improvise with them, live. Steve and Jon (the pianist) proceed with a bravura rendition of the U2 classic, with haunting cello bits. Note to self: Find out the technical term for cello bits.)

6. “Kung fu piano: Cello ascends” (A combo of the “Oogway ascends” theme from Kung Fu Panda – Steve explains that Kung Fu Panda was scored by Hans Zimmer, justifying the Guys’ decision to play this on the Great Wall of China – and one of Chopin’s preludes. A version here.)

7. “A million dreams” from The Greatest Showman (Jon’s solo. A version here.)

8. “The Cello Song” (Steve shows off his cellos. He has 29, he says. The carbon fibre one is French, he says, and is named “Car-born Fee-bray”. There is also an electric one which is basically the outline of a cello, with the strings intact.)

9. “It’s gonna be OKAY” (Al (as far as I can figure he does a lot of the mixing and arrangements) lends his vocals to this upbeat tune. A version here.)

10. (All four Piano Guys onstage. Use the piano as a percussion instrument, before which they warn those learning to play the piano that they should not try that at home.)**

11. Blues riff (Jon relates that, at a previous concert, he had invited someone from the audience to play jazz on the piano with him, and the audience at that concert had loved it, “blew the roof off”. Says he will try it here too, and asks for someone from the audience. Assures everyone this is not prearranged. Someone from the audience goes onstage. He is Ishan. Jon asks him where he is from. He says he is from Sri Lanka. Jon asks him about his experience with the piano. He says he plays a bit a jazz. Walks to the piano with Jon, tickles the ivory with a little flourish which gets the crowd ooh-ing. Steve jokes, “a bit of jazz”. The trio proceeds to perform a grandstanding barnstorming riff which gets even me moving – Ishan is apparently very good (I wouldn’t know, so asked my cello-playing friend who was with me; she said he was very good) – and after the end and an extended ovation, Ishan steps off the stage. Steve jokes that he forgot to get Ishan’s number in case his current pianist doesn’t work out. I still can’t figure out if there was any prearrangement. My friend is quite sure there was. I waver between agreeing wholeheartedly, and thinking the Piano Guys are too wholesome to engage in such subterfuge.)

12. “Gabriel’s Oboe” from The Mission + “How great thou art” (Steve talks about the time they played at the Christ the Redeemer statue, and then at the Iguazu Falls, and how they felt more at the latter. He goes on to say that his own explanation is that Christ the Redeemer statue is man’s way of showing love for God, and the Falls God’s way of showing love for man. I’m not religious, but I like that explanation. There is inspiration that comes from something bigger than oneself, than what one can create. A version here.)***

13. “I want you Bach” (A mash-up of Bach and “I want you back” by the Jackson Five. Suitably funky. A version here.)****

14. “Rockelbel’s canon” (Jon says they are going to play Pachelbel’s canon. Steve laments that the cello part consists of just a few chords, repeated endlessly. Pretends to be so bored by the straight-ish part of the performance that he falls asleep. Jon wakes him up, and he embarks on a rock version. A cool music video here.)

15. “A thousand years” (Jon says it’s their last two songs. Announces that they will next play their most romantic piece. Notes that he is aware there are those who used the Piano Guys’ version of this song in their wedding. Finds out some of those are in the audience. Performs with Steve a beatific version of the Christina Perri tune.)*****

16. “This is your fight song” (An unforgettable combo of Rachel Platten’s “Fight song” and “Amazing grace”, infused with elements of Scottish march music. Gah. The version here conveys some of the spirit of resilience and unbreakable faith from the performance. Brilliant. Wipe my eyes a couple of times.)

17. Encore (All four Piano Guys onstage doing their thing e.g. using the piano as a percussion ^and^ string instrument. I can tell you more about this in person if you are interested.)

* After some Googling, I think this was a combo of the Taylor Swift song and the Coldplay song (which I confused with the Ricky Martin tune at the concert).

** I already don’t remember when the intermission was, but I think it came after this item.

*** Around here I start to realise this is a great concert experience. The music is superb, and the absence of lyrics frees my mind to free-associate and the more conscious part of my mind to pay attention to that. I remember that someone had gotten baptised in a swimming pool in her friend’s condo, and I really envied her friend. I notice that I hadn’t remembered that in a very long time.

**** My sort of pun. Cements my patronage of the Piano Guys for the foreseeable future.

***** My friend was surprised this is used at weddings – she thought it was sad. I personally think the song is about abiding love, and there is an optimistic note to it.

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Author: lichone

Ethics by Enid Blyton; physique by deep-fried things. I think we all have an instinct to tell stories and to build things and relationships,

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