There is no one straw that stirs the drink here.
HYANNIS – The best thing about seeing a cappella group Straight No Chaser live is that the lack of any instruments on stage allows you to drink in the whole scene: the gorgeous melodies, the intricately layered vocals, the chummy interactions among the singers as they move around the stage ... and the sight of a distressingly large number of middle-aged men twerking to Beyonce.
So, about those melodies ...
In all seriousness, the Cape Cod Melody Tent crowd raised the roof Sunday night for the nine members of this gleeful and not-so-serious all-male gang, which has raised the bar for other vocal-only groups, going from college shows at Indiana University in 1996 to viral online sensations years later, and finally transitioning to successful recording artists. To date, these singers have performed with legends like Elton John, Stevie Wonder ... and even Rob Thomas, they told the audience, before apologizing for mocking the Matchbox Twenty frontman’s name in such broadly esteemed company.
It’s the self-aware and not-so-self-effacing charm of these veteran performers that makes their set go down so easy. When they weren’t cleverly mashing up peppy versions of Jason Mraz’s “I’m Yours” and Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds,” using the full power of their collective voices to turn Radiohead’s “Creep” into a hauntingly immersive performance, or making the audience lose their minds by doubling down with insanely entertaining versions of Beyonce’s “Crazy in Love” and “All the Single Ladies” on Sunday, they were playfully but also skillfully showing off the talents of each singer. There is no one straw that stirs the drink here, despite the bass and baritone singers frequently feigning jealousy over the tenor section, who have almost all the solos.
The spotlight stayed busy throughout the night, giving individual performers of all vocal ranges and storytelling abilities the chance to flash some personality for the Facebook Live videos and shares that they encouraged fans to record or garner at the top of the show, as well as with a photo break right smack in the middle of it (remember your roots, kids!). From baritone Charlie Mechling mock-reluctantly taking lead on a sped-up version of Johnny Cash’s “I’ve Been Everywhere” (covering 90 cities where the band has toured) to tenor and vocal percussionist Tyler Trepp performing a beatboxing solo, to tenor Steve Morgan hamming it up on Louis Prima’s “Just a Gigolo/I Ain’t Got Nobody,” there was no lack of diversity.
Well, there was that one moment when Jerome Collins, the group’s sole black vocalist, jokingly called out the impending start of Marvin Gaye’s “I Heard it Through the Grapevine” as “the African-American portion of the show.”
But this was one show where fans of all backgrounds and ages could connect with at least one song they knew, as the group reached across genres from doo-wop to pop, soul to country. They even simultaneously captured the hearts of both the younger and slightly older set through a hilariously acted and sung Disney medley, which changed the lyrics of hit songs from “Aladdin,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “The Little Mermaid” and “The Lion King” to call out the crazy basis of each film’s plot.
“You’re easily impressed,” said Mechling early on in the night, when the crowd cheered the group’s hokey choreography on Sam Cooke’s “Twistin’ the Night Away.” But a twist of twerking and Motown-style synchronization, mixed with a shot of instrument mimicry and vocal gymnastics, made for one killer performance cocktail that would knock any fan off their feet.
By Kay Keough / Contributing writer