Live Radio Performance Shows The Collective’s Diversity
- Article by: Jamie McCormick
- Posted: 11/17/2011
Fresh from the national television spotlight, The Collective, a nine-voice-strong a cappella group of Nashville artists made their first non-televised appearance as a group last weekend on the stage at 3rd & Lindsley. The group, which was formed specifically to compete on NBC's The Sing-Off, was headlining Lightning 100's acclaimed radio program, Nashville Sunday Night.
Eight of the nine group members — Isaac Hayden is currently on tour in Europe — showcased their widely varied talents in this unusual installment of the program. Each artist performed just two songs, supported by a rotating roster of background vocalists and musicians. Both halves of the performance began and ended with the group's now signature acrobatic a cappella arrangements.
All eight members were onstage for the first number, the R&B chestnut “Hold On, I'm Coming.” They launched enthusiastically into the alto- and tenor-heavy tune, and aside from an occasional wobble on their harmonies, the tone was as rich and full as you would hear from a church choir. They carried the momentum from the opener into a soaring, jazzy rendition of “Rocketeer,” with Rachael Lampa and Ruby Amanfu taking the lead.
The first solo performance came from Jonathan Lister, the percussionist in the a cappella portion who traded in his beat boxing for an easily lilting folk tempo and an acoustic guitar. Sam Brooker took the mic next and slowed the tempo down. His own acoustic strumming and Daniel Ellsworth’s organ parts crawled behind Brooker's delicate voice. Insistent though soft, the notes resounded through the quiet room. Brooker then bounded into a brand new song — “I Picked a Real Bad Time to Fall in Love” — an old-style country tune full of playful humor and swagger. Lampa, who was up next, switched modes from lighthearted to insightful and she shined, coupling deep, folky songwriting with a powerful voice full of texture and richness of tone. Kaleb Jones, frontman of The Young International, accompanied on guitar, providing just enough backup to allow Lampa's heartfelt though somewhat depressing lyrics, sung beautifully and hauntingly, to speak clearly. Next, Ellsworth, likened by the rest of the group to Peanuts' Schroeder – a musical genius, stepped out of the supporting role and onto center stage, joined by his band The Great Lakes. They promptly changed the mood, bounding into a sunshine fueled pop-rock romp that filled the stage with eleven people stomping and swaying to the catchy beat led by Ellsworth, who was flying back and forth across the keyboard.
After a short break for radio commercials, the whole group returned for a sultry a cappella rendition of Adele's “Rolling in the Deep,” featuring Amanfu's raspy growl over a dark, jazzy arrangement of the pop hit. Meshing completely, the eight voices spanned the full spectrum of harmonies. On top of Lister’s spectacular and engrossing beatboxing, the slower tempo brought the character of each voice into the forefront, showcasing a multiplicity of tones, especially in the lower registers.
The group then ceded the stage to Jones and The Young International, a four-man rock unit whose song “Ruckus” sported an unusual blend of house beats, electro-synth highlights and pop melodies. Up next, David Jennings flipped the atmosphere upside-down, sitting on a stool in the center of the stage, just a man and his guitar, boasting a huge smile, and singing his heart out. Perrin Lamb continued the easy-going groove when he claimed the mic next, keeping the acoustic feel. His full-toned vocals slid through the air as he rollicked his way through “Let it Linger.” Bringing up the rear, Amanfu began with a heartfelt moment of fan appreciation which she referred to as “vomiting emotion,” before easing into a slow, stripped-down ballad featuring gritty, stabbing vocals. Her voice sliced through the completely silent room with only the occasional supportive chord from Ellsworth behind it.
Then Amanfu grabbed a guitar, brought the rest of the group onstage, and sung a snarky response “to all of the mean people” who had posted negative comments on The Sing-Off's page. A catchy R&B rhythm kept it playful, and the group clearly enjoyed themselves until the final note, throwing in a few choo-choo motions and plenty of flair.
Closing the evening with a cappella panache, The Collective rendered Gloria Gaynor's “I Will Survive” with the tightest and most cohesive harmonies of the night and featuring a face-off of competing vocals. They plunged next into an R&B-meets-barbershop-quartet version of Bob Dylan’s “Knockin' on Heaven's Door,” then finished, bounding, cheering and clapping, on the energetic, yet delicate “Heaven.” Though the show as a whole was somewhat disjointed given the nature of the group and their diverse individual styles, each section held its own, providing a glimpse into the uniques talents each artist contributes to The Collective’s overall sound.