George Washbourn reviews this year’s Rhapsody, a sterling and toe-tapping effort from a talented cast
“London! Rhapsody is here!” screams Tristan French to the student heavy Shaw Theatre audience, heralding in UCLU Live Music Society’s annual showcase. Chock-a-block with cheesy tunes, crowd favourites and occasionally pitchy pop songs, the evening is a chance for the society to boast the not inconsiderable musical talent of its constituent members. Whilst a little rough around the edges and not without the occasional technical issue, it was an exceptionally entertaining evening which enjoyed some standout performances.
We open with an explosive cover of Pendulum’s Propane Nightmares. Tristan French’s gritty rock vocals proved impressive, as he bounded around the stage like an excitable metal-head, projecting his infectious energy. In a surprising flash from the late-noughties, a cover of Owl City’s grating synth-heavy anthem Fireflies came next, a slightly unfortunate follow up to an epic opener, the song being plagued with sound and vocal difficulties. The show more than wins us back, however, with its big folk numbers, especially covers of Arcade Fire’s brilliant song Wake Up and Of Monsters and Men’s Little Talks. Will Hunkin’s soaring vocals lent themselves perfectly to Wake Up’s ambitious and impassioned tone, whilst Hannah Macpherson and Jonathan Blake’s tender vocals on Little Talks were executed with perfect subtlety and control.
A draw back on the night’s proceedings was the repeated issue with sound and levels. It would take more than a dodgy mic set up to ruin Emily Craig’s highly talented vocal performances, but poor levelling, coupled with slightly bizarre song choices, did somewhat take the shine off. Maciej Szopa and Jonny Cheung are undoubtedly great bass players, equipped with catchy riffs and nimble fingers, but they more often than not loomed too heavily in the mix. An impressive and refreshingly comedic guitar battle suffered slightly from levels, but each guitarist’s obvious talent more than spoke for itself.
Youtube Session videos, spliced in between a number of the live performances via projector, were of consistently good sound quality, possibly attesting to the sound difficulties of staging live music, particularly with such large ensemble pieces as those being performed. With notable performances from Artemis Ekonomou and Nyima Murry, the Youtube Sessions were masterfully shot and edited, making for a nice bit of variation and intimacy amidst the vast array of big musical numbers.
Rhapsody is not a professional production, and it doesn’t claim to be. Rather it is a great opportunity to allow musicians of varying levels to show what they’ve got on stage and put their musical chops to the test. I was sad not to be able to see last year’s Rhapsody, hearing nothing but good things about its level of energy, the performances and how much fun everyone had. I’m pleased to say that this has only been reiterated by this year’s effort. It had me moving and grooving in my seat, singing and clapping awkwardly along and, honestly, what more could you want from an evening of live music?
✮ ✮ ✮ 1/2
Featured Image Credit: Danté Kim