When 2CELLOS emerged in front of intergalactic visuals on a giant screen behind them, it was as if the musically telepathic duo teleported to Smart Financial Centre directly from the Celloverse. Where they come from, Rock and Roll and Classical genres are of the same musical lineage. Concerts there eclipsed the rigid, strict, elitist tradition of earthly recitals lightyears ago. The shows out there have flashing lights, drummers, sing-a-longs with thousands of fans, and cellos have evolved into electric monsters.
After a solemn, atmospheric opening performance of Karl Jenkins' "Benedictus," the classically trained Croatian cellists segued into a driving take of U2's "Where the Streets Have No Name." While one translated The Edge's guitar riff into a one-man cello rhythm section, the other soloed over it, taking Bono's stadium sized melody to soaring heights.
"I don’t know what you expected when you came here. But, you can do anything you want at our shows okay?" said Luka Šulic, greeting the house for the first time of the night.
"You can get up and dance. You can come onstage and breakdance. You can flirt with my assistant. Give it up for my assistant, Stjepan Hauser," Šulic added. The audience swooned.
Hauser later teased the crowd with an extended intro of Muse's "Resistance." Diehard fans in the house enthusiastically approved of the melody's first occurrence, but that didn't stop the duo from repeating the motive, wading in low tides before plunging into the song's oceanic depths. Near its end, they flipped on a distortion pedal; suddenly, Jimi Hendrix (hypothetically) met Yo-Yo Ma with an exhilaratingly dangerous high voltage.
Though they first shot to fame in 2011 with a viral music video of Michael Jackson's "Smooth Criminal," the duo captured Jackson's essence with their spontaneous, bubbly take of "Human Nature," finessing the melody with Jackson's distinct vocal inflections. Throughout the song, Hauser flirted with the audience through the screen salaciously begging the question: "Why? Why?"
Almost midway through their 90-minute set, Šulic and Hauser welcomed a drummer to the stage and ramped up the pace with AC/DC's "Thunderstruck," Survivor's "Eye of the Tiger," and set highlight "Pirates of the Caribbean." During the invigorating Hans Zimmer film score staple, the duo's relentless athleticism was on full display, as were their stray bow hairs.
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They shredded their way through a string of more AC/DC cuts including "You Shook Me All Night Long" and "Back in Black." With his wireless cello strapped on like a jet pack, Hauser donned a pair of light-up devil horns and slinked through the aisles during "Highway to Hell." Finding a second home for AC/DC songs on the electric cello may not have been their initial goal while studying Beethoven and Mozart, but it might be safe to say the guys gave in to the temptation of a more wicked musical spirit animal long ago.
The set hit its emotional apex during a reverent encore performance of Nine Inch Nails' "Hurt." Their synergistic communication lured the audience into their musical bond, if not brotherhood, intimately holding the crowd there like they too were soulmates in the matter. When Šulic reached out to Hauser, plucking away at the chorus' draining, droning pulse, you could almost hear them asking each other "What have I become, my sweetest friend?"
Or as Šulic might put it: my assistant.
Where the Streets Have No Name
Viva La Vida
Shape of My Heart
With or Without You
Eye of the Tiger
Pirates of the Caribbean
Seven Nation Army
Smells Like Teen Spirit
Shook Me All Night Long
Highway to Hell
(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction
Back in Black
Welcome to the Jungle
Wake Me Up