DC at Night

DC at Night

Saturday, December 1, 2012

The Tone Rangers

Imagine you're at a concert at the Kennedy Center where a group promises to survey 900 years of Western music. And the 8-man group is A Cappella. And they promise to make the entire 900-year journey in one song. And the song, which begins as a Gregorian chant and concludes with a basso profundo solo rap, is "Wild Thing," the British invasion frat rock classic from the Troggs which was forever immortalized in rock history with Jimi Hendrix's incendiary 1967 guitar performance at Monterey Pop.

Well that would give you an idea of the Tone Rangers show on the Millennium Stage last night, a performance that mixed rearranged rock songs, originals, and Christmas favorites and left the crowd  clapping for the stellar vocal performances and chuckling at the witty repartee delivered during, before, and after the songs.

To say that the Tone Rangers, with their incredibly tight harmonies, unleash a fresh approach to contemporary A Cappella music is an understatement. It would be almost impossible to find a performance that delivers more fun than that provided by this D.C -based group, which is celebrating its 25th year together this year and have been selected 4 times as Washington's best A Capella group.

First, a few words about the range of the rock selections, which also mixed in snippets of commercials and familiar TV themes. The selections ranged from an Elvis Presley tune to a trio of Herman Hermits' hits to their opening number, a reworked Paul Simon song from the 70s. One of the highlights of the night was a haunting version of the Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young anti-war anthem "Find the Cost of Freedom" which segued into the CSN favorite "Southern Cross."

In a word, the originals were unique. For example, when is the last time you heard a doo-wop tune based on a tale of a Helen of Troy who was homely?

Of course, being December 1st, the Christmas selections provided some of the most spirited responses from the crowd. The group's arrangement of the bluesy "Merry Christmas, Baby," was intriguing. But the seasonal standout of the night was "The 12 Days of Christmas" which somehow managed to deliberately and hilariously mangle the counts and include parts of several holiday hits including my personal favorite "Carol of the Bells."

Tales, Tips, and Tidbits
One of the best things about a Millennium Stage show (which are offered for free at 6 p.m. all 365 days of  years) is that you can relive them in their entirety since they are posted on the Kennedy Center web site. As soon as the performance is released, we will post a link here so you can enjoy the musical and comedic talents of The Tone Rangers for yourself. Until then, you can get a feel for their Monty Pythonesque silliness by viewing this faux documentary entitled Tone Rangers: The First 10,000 Years. To see the 6-minute short, just click here.

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