26 February 2016

2Concert Reviews: Star Trek: The Ultimate Voyage and 2Cellos

Over the past couple weeks, I've had the pleasure of going to two different concerts. I always imagine my adult life would be filled with cultural events for my edification and entertainment; the realities of graduate school and living in the middle of nowhere have meant this hasn't happened as often as I'd've liked. However, I've recently been to two different concerts.

I've previously written about the dominance of soundtrack music in my listening, and Star Trek soundtracks are probably the most dominant of all-- certainly they're the ones I've been listening to the longest (right now the track "Target Practice" from the deluxe edition of the Star Trek V: The Final Frontier is playing in my iTunes, in fact) and when I was a kid, we often went to excellent concerts of Star Trek music put on by the Cincinnati Pops, conducted by the late Erick Kunzel. It's been a long time since I've seen one, though, and I was adamant that my wife and I go see Star Trek: The Ultimate Voyage, a 50th-anniversary concert tour.

It was good. It was a "CineConcert," which apparently means that there's narration between musical bits, and the music is all played over video montages. Both the music and the clips really favored the original series films and The Next Generation episodes. The best of these was probably setting the lovely Jay Chattaway "The Inner Light" suite to clips about family, both literal (Picard and his brother, Wesley and his father) and emotional (Kirk with Spock and McCoy, Picard sitting down to play poker in "All Good Things..."). Jerry Goldsmith's "Klingon Battle" was of course set to clips of Klingons in battle, and this was excellent, too. Some concert performance of "Klingon Battle" are limp due to the lack of the unusual percussion and electronic instrumentation Goldsmith used, but they made it work. My favorite montage was probably the one set to the full version of Alexander Courage's original theme (I think of it as the concert suite, but I don't know if that's true or not), a fun and uplifting set of behind-the-scenes and before-the-camera clips from all fifty years of Star Trek. It was an excellent way to end the concert.

The only thing I didn't like was the occasional mismatch between music and image. Though I think they got away with using Jerry Goldsmith's theme for the anti-technological Ba'ku with a montage of Spock and Data moments, it was jarring to have Goldsmith's original Enterprise theme from Star Trek: The Motion Picture used with a montage about humanity's journey of exploration, from sailing ships to the Phoenix to the NX-01. Weirdest of all was using the main themes of Deep Space Nine and Voyager for franchise-spanning montages: Dennis McCarthy's Deep Space Nine theme was used, for example, for a montage about the various captains, which just seemed weird.

I did really enjoy when they took scenes from the television programs and played them in full, except that the music was provided live. They did two scenes from each series, I think: of course the iconic Gerald Fried fight music from "Amok Time" for the original, as well as the "Risk is Our Business" speech from "Return to Tomorrow" (music by George Duning). The use of the final scene of "In the Pale Moonlight" (music by David Bell) for Deep Space Nine was great, but I did question the use of one of Jay Chattaway's incredibly generic action motifs (from "The Changing Face of Evil") for the second Deep Space Nine episode. I would much rather have had one of the beautiful scenes from McCarthy's score for "The Visitor"! And the music from Enterprise reinforced just how forgettable that series was, in the musical sense as well as every other; it was painful watching Scott Bakula and Anthony Montgomery in a scene from "Horizon" (music by Mark McKenzie).

But overall, it was a great time that left me humming Courage's original theme. I need to build a playlist of what we heard; it would be fun!

Just the other day we went to see a performance by 2Cellos, who mostly do cello covers of pop and rock; my wife is a pretty big cello aficionado, and their debut album gets pretty frequent play on my iPod. My dismal musical knowledge means I actually don't know most of the songs they're riffing on, but I enjoy their energetic playing nonetheless.

At one point, one of the two guys advised us that this was "not a classical music concert," and that was very much true: there were lots of flashing lights and lots of noise, and it was a lot of fun. The two of them are nowhere near as serious as their promotional photographs indicate; there was a lot of stage patter about how their music was beautiful and they were beautiful.

The only thing I have to complain about is that the video monitors often overlaid images of them with other graphics, which made it hard to actually see them-- and as we were literally in the very last row, I very much needed the power of those video monitors. And I don't know why one of the music video featured a clip of an old man playing what was apparently atomic chess again and again, but it was so absurd it became sublime.

I apparently don't have as much to say about 2Cellos as I do Star Trek (no surprise there), but I really enjoyed this concert, and even though I probably knew over 50% of what they played from their debut album, the live renditions of the songs were different and very dynamic, and occasionally the audience sang along which was nice.

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