Straight No Chaser: THE NEW OLD FASHIONED Tour Mixes Fresh "A Cappella" Cocktails

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Straight No Chaser performing at the Fox Theatre, St. Louis, 11/27/15. Photo Credit: Jeff Ritter

If you’re in the mood for a classic cocktail, you might order up an Old Fashioned—a jigger of bourbon, two dashes of Angostura bitters, a lump of sugar and just a splash of water. It’s a drink that goes back to the 19th century and is something every bartender should know how to mix. “THE NEW OLD FASHIONED,” however, is an entirely different yet no less potent concoction of heartwarming harmonies, familiar aural flavors and inhibition-busting a cappella, served Straight No Chaser, in the Indiana tradition. Welcome to your new addiction. Please tip generously.

In fact, here’s a tip for you: if you have an opportunity to see Straight No Chaser live in your town, you owe it to yourself to do so. They’ll lift your spirits, get your toes a-tappin’, and stay for a solid hour after the show to meet you and sign your CD, t-shirt, and ticket stub, or perhaps even one of your children. You won’t find too many musical acts more accommodating!

For a music critic who has had a pretty heady run this year seeing fantastic concerts at the Fabulous F ox Theatre, including John Fogerty’s face-melting, hard rocking revival of 1969 and Gladys Knight and the O’Jays soulful and timeless Motown party, seeing SNC for a fourth consecutive time might seem less than thrilling. What could Charlie Mechling, Mike Luginbill, Randy Stine, David Roberts, Walter Chase, Don Nottingham, Steve Morgan, Seggie Isho, Tyler Trapp and Jerome Collins do that I haven’t already seen before? Pretty much everything, as it turns out. The current tour features a lot of new material from THE NEW OLD FASHIONED, which has a pretty strong emphasis on the new, featuring a cappella renditions of many modern hits such as Charlie Puth’s “Marvin Gaye,” Hozier’s “Take Me to Church” (which Don Nottingham does a phenomenal job with), “Shut Up and Dance” by Walk the Moon and Meghan Trainor’s megahit from last year, “All About That Bass.” Both the CD and the live show features a few classic gems, including a hauntingly harmonized “Creep” by Radiohead, a rare country crossover of Willie Nelson’s “On the Road Again” mixed with the Zac Brown Band’s “I Play the Road,” and a so-fun-it-might-not-be-legal-north-of-Arkansas mash-up of two of my all-time favorite songs: Otis Redding’s “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay” serving as a gentle, introspective lead-in to Ike and Tina Turner’s incendiary version of John Fogerty’s “Proud Mary,” performed with a liberal shot of verve and vigor by Jerome Collins. You probably just thought I was bragging about seeing those other shows, but there’s a method to my madness. If you’d have told me I’d see “Proud Mary” done by the original artist and by the top a cappella group in the world (says me—prove me wrong!) in the style of Tina Turner within about 6 months of each other, I’d have said, “You’re crazy—but God yes, please let me see that!”

The Hoosier Crooners (I just made that up, but if the Straight No Chaser boys want it, they’re welcome to use it), weren’t just hawking their latest merchandise though. They also performed some of their old favorites too, such as the “I’m Yours/ Somewhere Over The Rainbow” (Jason Mraz/Israel Kamakawiwo’ole) mash-up, a surprising fresh twist of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” with Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars’ “Uptown Funk” that should please their fans who love the Michael Jackson/Bell Biv DeVoe “Billie Jean/Poison” mix (Merald Knight, Gladys’ brother and the last surviving member of the Pips, got uptown-funky on that very same stage just a couple of weeks ago, just to bring everthing full circle), and the always hilarious Twelve Days of Christmas which propelled these Indiana University alumni to superstardom. I’m personally a bit of a Grinch when it comes to the most commercialized holiday of the year, but I was very quietly singing along with the boys as they belted out “Little Saint Nick” by the Beach Boys, with spot-on harmony and infectious enthusiasm. Brian Wilson would be proud of them. I’m proud to have been able to cover Straight No Chaser year after year, and to encourage folks to check out their brand of a cappella music. You won’t be disappointed.

Jeff Ritter and Mindy Ellard, hanging with Straight No Chaser, the nicest guys in show business, after their Nov. 27, 2015 performance at the Fox Theatre.If I had to quibble about anything, it’s that the group only does one show in St. Louis every year! Okay, admittedly, that’s not so much a quibble as it is me just being greedy. I know they have a robust touring schedule, but we pack the Fox Theatre every time they come to town. I think they could successfully add another date, or stop by in the summer sometime as they crisscross the nation. I’d love to hear them do “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” in the 7th inning at Busch Stadium one of these days. Don’t misunderstand, I’m grateful for any appearance they make in St. Louis, and they’re grateful for their fans to the point of staying long after the show to sign autographs and even pose for a group picture or two despite having to be in Milwaukee the very next night. Straight No Chaser was humble and gracious right down to the very last fan. They are some of the nicest people you’ll ever meet, and they got my holiday season started in fine style.

Check out www.SNCMUSIC.com for information on Straight No Chaser, their upcoming tour dates, CDs, t-shirts and more, and visit www.FabulousFox.com to see what’s coming next to St. Louis’ premier stage.  

Grade: 
5.0 / 5.0