I’ve used the Piano Guy YouTube videos in hundreds of my music lessons. They make classical music more accessible to the kids, so I used them a lot to illustrate a specific point or technique, but also as a way of getting pupils into the classroom fast and sat down listening before the register, because they seemed to find them almost hypnotic! So I know a lot of their videos in great detail! When my husband bought us tickets for my birthday at the Royal Albert Hall, I was really excited!
I really enjoyed the concert. Jon and Steven were the ones on stage most of the time, joined by Al and Paul for a couple of pieces. They have a typical ‘dad’ sense of humour, but also talked a lot about how music had influenced them in their lives and some of the stories behind their arrangements. They’re clearly musicians rather than a gimmick, you can tell by the way they perform the socks off even simple melodies.
The musical snob in me instantly worked out that they weren’t playing all of the parts we could hear, because physically they couldn’t be. But then they didn’t keep that a ‘secret’- Steven explained about his different cellos and the loop pedals he used in the first half and in the second half he talked about how they use technology to give them the multi tracks alongside their live performance. However, for a while I felt a bit outraged that they weren’t playing all of it live. Which is really stupid! Clearly they can play all of the parts, they’re incredible musicians, so it’s not their talent which I was questioning. The only conclusion I could come up with was the fact that in my head classical music/piano and cello music ‘should’ be played live. If I’d gone to watch a pop singer I wouldn’t be remotely bothered if they sang live to a backing track.
Then I started looking at the performance in an even more different way. Actually, these guys are bloody geniuses. They combine live music and technology to create their sound. They’ve got loop pedals attached to a cello and they use all elements of the piano when they perform. That takes incredible imagination and their arrangements are so creative and clever if you pull them apart. And they played all of it with passion and commitment, which you don’t always see. There’s no way you could accuse them of being stuffy classical musicians trying too hard to be cool by mixing in pop songs, they’re actually trying to make classical music accessible to the masses and get people excited about it.
Which I guess I knew when I was teaching, otherwise I wouldn’t have used their videos in every lesson for years. But for some reason I lost sight of this to start with when I saw them live. I was enjoying the concert until I corrected my perception by the third song, but after that I was totally absorbed and loved every minute of it. I kind of wish I was still teaching because I could think of so much material to use!
I loved all of it but favourites of mine were the Taylor Swift Coldplay medley of Love Story/VivaLa Vida, I want you Bach (Jackson Five and Bach) and Fight Song/Amazing Grace. We had their version of Love Story playing as I walked down the aisle at our wedding so that was a particular highlight for me seeing it live. The encore was One Direction What Makes You Beautiful with all four of the guys on stage, which was amazing. That video was one of the kids’ favourites so got played multiple times (per lesson usually), so I know every second of that in detail and it was the exact same live as on the video- incredible!
It was a brilliant concert and well worth seeing if you get the chance. I already have some Piano Guys albums but I’m very tempted to download more now!