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Story and photos by Andy ArgyrakisWith over 500 million YouTube views spanning more than 50 self-made videos, The Piano Guys are a perfect example of the internet being the bedrock on which modern day musicians can launch a full-blown career. Now four albums into a deal with Sony Masterworks, the viral rage also translated tangibly to sold out status at the stunning Chicago Theatre where the unconventional ensemble channeled pop, indie rock and EDM (alongside the occasional original and Broadway tune) all through ingenious classical arrangements that were nothing short of masterful.
Opening with the sounds of the "Frozen" soundtrack found pianist Jon Schmidt and cellist Steven Sharp Nelson creating a massive wall of symphonic structuring that made the already entrancing atmosphere come alive all of the more. The same could be said about material as diverse as a mash-up of Taylor Swift's "Love Story" with Coldplay's "Viva La Vida," U2's "With Or Without You," David Guetta and Sia's "Titanium" or Christina Perri's "A Thousand Years," suggesting there's no angle of modern music that's off limits for these innovative interpreters.
Though all of the above framed The Piano Guys in a pop culture portrait, classical enthusiasts would have been particularly pleased with "Bourne Vivaldi," the Chopin-laced "Kung Fu Piano," the Bach-themed "The Cello Song" and "Rockelbel's Canon (Pachelbel Canon in D)," all of which put riveting twists on familiar compositions. In fact, by blending the traditional with the contemporary of so many styles, the group was able to appeal to an audience of virtually every age without ever loosing sight of the prodigious musicianship that continues to light the web on fire.
Perhaps the best example of The Piano Guys' bridge building came on during a finale cover of One Direction's "What Makes You Beautiful," a disposable bubblegum pop song in its radio format that came alive with surprising depth and a musical aptitude eons beyond the boy band who first made it famous. And assuming this seemingly out of the blue success story continues in that pattern, there's an infinite amount of interpretations waiting to be discovered, which coupled with equally tasteful orchestral pop originals, puts these extremely talented players in a class all their own.
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