Straight No Chaser, the talented nine-man a cappella group, had the Kahilu Theatre crowd on its feet last Saturday, and the packed house brought them back for two encores. Not only it was it SNC’s Big Island debut performance, but it was also the last show (61st) of their One Shot 2018/2019 tour.
To date, SNC has released seven albums, four in the Top 40, and all charted in the Top 65. Their current album, One Shot, was released last November and features a diverse mix of pop and R&B covers from Percy Sledge’s classic “When a Man Loves a Women,” to Ricky Martin’s 1999 hit “Livin’ La Vida Loca.” Several were included in tonight’s setlist along with many clever mash-ups.
The nine singers were spread out on a three-tier riser, with a rear screen displaying videos, lyrics, annimation, and home movies that further enhanced the music. Occasionally some would step forward to take solos, like second tenor, Jerome Collins. He’s one of the many superstars in the band. Whether he’s channeling his inner Tina Turner on “Proud Mary,” or showing off his dance moves on the Michael Jackson/Bruno Mars mash-up, Collins adds the important soul/funk element to SNC’s sound. Somewhat in the shadows, but still an essential part, is vocal percussionist Tyler Trepp. Trepp offered a brief demonstration during the show, emphasizing a booming bass and other human beatbox sounds. (Read my interview with Trepp here.)
SNC is no stranger to social media. In fact, that’s how they found fame. Their tightly arranged re-take on “The 12 Days of Christmas” was the most viewed music video of 2007, and now has over 25 million YouTube views. Early on in the show, baritone vocalist Charlie Mechling encouraged the packed house to take out their phones and take photos, video, or “even stream the entire show – knock yourself out!,” he said. A far cry from the time when guitarist Peter Frampton once grabbed a fan’s cell phone and threw as far as he could.
SNC did a quick poll of the crowd to see how many had previously been to one of their shows. The majority were first-timers, but the audience was also peppered with loyal fans, or as they call themselves “Chasers.” One Chaser was seated next to me in the front row. A lady and her daughter visiting from Chicago, were more than proud to share numerous cell phone photos from shows they attended over the years in different parts of the mainland. As you can see in this photo of the audience, taken while SNC used them as a backdrop for a social media group selfie, the house was filled with energetic concertgoers, all ages, out for a good time on a Saturday night.
After a brief intermission, SNC returned for the second half of the two-hour show. Even though the holidays have passed, this section was dominated mostly with Christmas tunes. The crowd didn’t seem to mind, and it was probably no surprise for the Chasers in attendance, since SNC have five holiday-themed albums in their catalog. The guys managed to work in “Mele Kalikimaka,” a song made popular by The Andrews Sisters in 1950. Decked out in faux grass skirts, plastic leis, and, what else, coconut-shell bras (à la South Pacific), three members had fun with the Hawaiian-themed Christmas song.
SNC wrapped up with a Bill Withers 1972 classic “Lean on Me,” but the crowd wouldn’t let them go and brought them back twice. For the second encore, SNC turned off their mics and let the crowd hear the group raw, without enhancements, as they sounded at their inception in 1996 at Indiana University. Forming a semi-circle in front of the stage, Collins sang lead on “Mary, Did You Know,” a song made popular by Christian recording artist Michael English in 1991. As I looked around, I could see this touching rendition really impacted the audience.
As the applause faded, there was a bit of a mad dash for the lobby, where fans scooped up posters, CD’s, and other SNC memorabilia to have them autographed during an informal meet and greet.
Motownphilly/This Is How We Do It | Africa | Proud Mary | Go Your Own Way | When A Man Love A Woman | Livin’ La Vida Loca | Homeward Bound | Disney Movie Medley Parody: Aladdin/Beauty and the Beast/Little Mermaid/ The Lion King
Nutcracker | Celebrate | Mele Kalikimaka | Jingle Bells | Hark the Herald Angels Sing | Run, Run, Rudolph | Thriller/Uptown Funk | Lean on Me
The 12 Days of Christmas | Mary, Did You Know
Want to lean more about Straight No Chaser or become a Chaser, check out their official site: http://www.sncmusic.com
Steve Roby is a music journalist, best-selling author, and originally from San Francisco. He’s been featured in the NY Times, Rolling Stone, and Billboard Magazine. Roby is also the Managing Editor of Big Island Music Magazine.
Photos/Video: Steve Roby