The Piano guys consists of “four dorky Dads from Utah”, who stumbled across fame through YouTube. The story of this group begins with Paul Anderson in a small shop in Utah, who believed that rather than use traditional modes of advertising there was potential to sell pianos for his store - The Piano Guys - through social media. Despite their unique attempt at advertising, the store is now closed however the four guys behind the videos - Jon Schmidt (pianist), Steven Sharp Nelson (cellist), Paul Anderson (videographer) and Al van der Been (music producer) continue on.
The concert begins with ‘Batman Evolution’, a mashup of the various themes present across the films and TV series for this franchise in the last 50 years. This is played live while the original video is pictured on a screen behind and their execution is so flawless that it feels like the video has been brought to life here on the stage.
As a musical nerd, I went into this concert with high expectations, and these were met every step of the way. In addition to their sheer talent for music, The Piano Guys have a fantastic way of combining old with new through mashups such as Let It Go from Disney’s ‘Frozen’ combined with Winter from Vivaldi’s ‘Four Seasons’. However this wasn’t just a concert for the music nerds. Jon and Steven have a brilliant stage presence strengthened by their self acclaimed friendship which makes the concert feel like a comedy through a thinly veiled rivalry between pianists and cellists. Their friendship quickly includes the audience as Jon considers how a cello got to be a part of The Piano Guys, only to decide it must be because of their linked ancestry: the tree.
While Jon and Steven are the two frontmen for the group, Al and Paul each get a chance to be on stage. Al showed off his vocal talents, singing lead for It’s Gonna Be Okay, which is dedicated to all the kids in the audience who are struggling to learn an instrument. Paul is added to the stage alongside the other three as they all rush around in a flurry switching between the microphone, piano and two cellos to bring the music to life in their mashup of Ants Marching and Ode to Joy. Additionally, Steven’s wife, Julie Nelson, makes an appearance on behalf of all the supportive wives behind the men in the team, to play violin for Rewrite The Stars. A video collaboration ensued for I Want You Back, as the screen showcased the harpsichord and cello, while Steven continued playing the piano and Jon had fun with a Talk Box to get some funky vocal sound effects with his Chinese cello named ‘Bruce Lee’.
Their second last song, a mashup of Fight Song and Amazing Grace, was filled with power and emotion as Jon dedicated it to the every day superheroes in our lives, telling the story of his own superhero: his Dad, who despite what life throws at him, continues to fight faithfully, and rely on grace bring him through the struggles.As the entire audience at the Sydney Opera house seems to leap out of their chairs and applaud the group, all four members walk back on stage for an encore to finish off the evening with the vibrancy which has coursed through the entire performance. Each member crowds around the piano as they perform their hit rendition of What Makes You Beautiful. Hitting the keys, tapping and bowing the strings, using the edges to create percussive rhythm, or using the vocals to add to the layers of carefully crafted performance brings the show to a brilliant end as the audience appreciates the immense talent The Piano Guys have shared on stage tonight.