11 Dec 2018

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Gig Review: 2Cellos @The Civic, Auckland - 3/12/2018

04 Dec 2018 // A review by Alex Moulton

People were abuzz as they filed into The Civic to get to their seats. Many eyes were enjoying the venue itself as one of Auckland’s last remaining atmospheric theatres, with its soft-top design that floats above the auditorium, with stars and clouds that recreate the Southern Hemisphere sky-scape. With no room for photographers at the foot of the stage, the seating went all the way up to the front, with an amazing up-close performance on the cards. Knowing that 2Cellos consists of the classically trained Croatian cellist duo, Luka Sulic and Stjepan Hauser, one couldn’t help but notice the abundance of other chairs and stands lining the stage. But before too much thought could be put into it, the lighting in the theatre went dark, and a hush fell over the audience.

A mass of orchestral musicians came out and took their place, lining up on either side of the centre stage, with keyboardist on the far left, and a drummer at the rear. It seemed that 2Cellos were being assisted instrumentally on the Australia/New Zealand leg of the tour by the TMO (The Metropolitan Orchestra from Sydney). Consisting of at least seven violinists, two additional cellos, and a double bass, this orchestral arrangement was going to be pretty much all strings. Luka and Stjepan came on stage from the right, and took their place front and centre, to an absolutely thunderous applause.

2Cellos are known for their instrumental arrangements of well-known pop and rock songs, and tonight’s set would be a treasure trove of covers and adaptations, beginning with the theme song to Chariots of Fire written by Vangelis. Initially started by the TMO, as visualisations were played on the screen behind them, Luka and Stjepan launched into their pieces with much aplomb. Building in intensity, bit by bit, there was a slight issue with the sound levels, where 2Cellos were completely overpowering the TMO, and drum kit was so powerful that it was causing the speaker stack on the left-hand side to buzz and crackle. But by the end of the piece, those technical issues did not rear their head again.

Watching the two cellists perform on stage, the difference in personalities was clear, with Luka the more driven and focused musician, generally remaining seated and engrossed in his playing, whereas Stjepan was the embodiment of charm and self-assurance for the duo, frequently moving about the stage, and gyrating and thrusting as he played, to the pleasure of many of the women in the crowd. Moving into Speak Softly Love a.k.a. The Godfather Love Theme originally written by Nino Rota, the violins started the song and the sound was superb. Luka and Stjepan would switch in and out, taking turns on the lead, and at other times acting as the conductor, guiding the TMO as they played.

Moving through each song on the set, they performed some of the most dramatic scores from Hanz Zimmer’s Mombasa from 2000’s Gladiator and Rain Man, to Celine Dion’s My Heart Will Go On from Titanic. The night began with the softer songs from the Score album, a portion of the set that Stjepan dedicated “to the women” in the crowd, but the pace started to pick up in the next portion of the night, which Stjepan also dedicated “to the women”. There was a gleeful roar from the crowd as they instantly recognised the adaptation of Ramin Djawadi’s Game of Thrones music. One of the more modern variations on, the global popularity of Game of Thrones made this track the crowd favourite for the night.

The TMO stuck around for a few more arrangements, playing Michael Jackson’s Smooth Criminal and AC/DC’s Thunderstruck before vacating the stage during a drum solo. From this point, on the stage was to be filled by only Luka, Stjepan, and their drummer Dusan Kranjc, whose very tall cymbals created quite the animated visual performance. Well into their instrumental rock arrangements now, Stjepan was far more energetic and vibrant on stage, having the entire space to move about at his leisure, he would move from side to side, encouraging the crowd to call out, even at one point hopping down from the stage and moving along the sides of the floor seating. With far less people on stage one could be forgiven for thinking the performance would lose some of its excitement, but the duo used the opportunity to really move about without restriction. The intensity and force that they performed with was exhilarating and was objectively visible as strands broke away from their cello bows. Pulling out a harness system, Stjepan was able to play as he moved, rather than having to stop each time he needed to play a note and was even then able to play on the ground like Angus Young would do with AC/DC.

The civic as a venue was certainly much more formal than previous performances that 2Cellos have done in New Zealand. Their last show at the Auckland Town Hall had them allowing photos and videos, as well as letting people come up for selfies if they wanted to. While they did say that anything goes, and people could get up, the staff on site that would yell out “No photography!” every time someone pulled out a phone, did put a damper on that fun vibe that Stjepan and Luka bring to their performance. A brilliant performance, nonetheless.

The set had clearly bee written with the Australian/New Zealand audience in mind, with three AC/DC tracks making their way into the set; Thunderstruck, You Shook Me All Night Long, and Highway to Hell where Stjepan was wearing some light-up devil horns for the latter. With other tracks from The Rolling Stone, Nirvana, and The White Stripes, there was plenty of music to appeal to every generation and the audience were clapping along to every song, on many occasions standing up and attempting to dance in their seats. As the night was coming to an end, 2Cellos returned to the stage for an encore performance, pulling out a medley of newer dancey pop tracks such as an adaptation of Justin Bieber’s adaptation of Despacito.

The evening was outstanding, visually, with live feeds of Stjepan and Luka combined with the computer generated visualisations, and aurally with a variety of music styles, and instrumental arrangements from the simple cellos and drums, all the way up to what was effectively a 14-piece orchestra. Nothing like a 2Cellos performance to put that love of orchestral instruments back into the hearts of young New Zealanders.

Photos by Chris Morgan Photography


Other Reviews By Alex Moulton

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