Backbeats and Street Corner Symphony at Cerritos: A Million Glorious Notes
By Glen Creason
Last weekend the Performing Arts Center demonstrated a musical epiphany and what looks to be a nice trend in popular music. Two young groups brought a cappella glory to the big hall, demonstrating the amazing capabilities of the human voice when used in harmony with others. It was also refreshing to see an exuberant, young audience bouncing all over the hall and greeting the groups with joyful explosions of admiration. It seems vocal music is making a big comeback and Cerritos is on the cutting edge! Both groups spring from the television show “Sing Off” which unlike some other televised exercises in humiliation encourages old-fashioned, (become new) vocal harmony.
The headliners were the “Street Corner Symphony”; six young men from all over the Southeastern U.S. who sing a cappella jewels of popular songs from all over the musical map. The astounding vocal percussionist Dave Baumgartner who seems to defy the human limits of lungs and vocal chords joined them. They certainly had youth appeal, singing stuff from “the Black Crows,” “Radiohead” and “Coldplay,” with tight harmonies and soaring solos that featured each of the six voices. What was amusing to we old ones were their nostalgic journeys to such ancient music as “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” by Tears for Fears and way back to a crisp medley of Beatles songs: “Eleanor Rigby,” “Help,” and “Hey Jude.” This was all very good natured, including a segment where they allowed the crowd to shout suggestions that elicited impromptu versions of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” and Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’” Yet, showing they are not too hip the group busted out some sweet barbershop harmonies, a little soulful R&B, a rocking Creedence Clearwater “Down On the Corner” and even a perfect reading of the folk song “Shenandoah” that would have pleased anybody of any age. When they encored the old chestnut “Drift Away” with the show opening Backbeats they had the big hall in the palms of their thirty hands.
The electrifying, twenty-something “Backbeats” opened the show and made theirs a truly tough act to follow. With charm, energy and tons of vocal talent the four man, four woman crew made pop music new in their stylish interpretations of pretty modern sounds. Joanna Jones was excellent but every singer in this ensemble is polished and possessing plenty of voice and performing instincts. Even as they were “limited” to less than a dozen songs they seemed more than ready to sing all night. They sang Michael Jackson’s “You Make Me Feel So Young, “ Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” Adele’s “Turning Tables” and even way, way back to a very impressive reading of Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide.” Not only can these kids sing beautifully but their passion for the art of harmony and abundant stage confidence made for some very fine musical moments including a rousing final kick of Stevie Wonder masterpieces: “Superstition,” Signed, Sealed, Delivered,” and “Living for the City” that left the crowd roaring for more. Possibly, the Center could bring the Backbeats back soon, maybe for Sierra Nights.