Usually when I go to a concert I expect live music.
That wasn’t the case when the Piano Guys came to town last weekend. The duo, pianist Jon Schmidt and cellist Steven Sharp Nelson, sold out both nights in a row. Unfortunately for audiences, only one-half of the group showed up: Schmidt.
I may be a terrible person for complaining, since Nelson’s absence was due to his wife going into labor, but I couldn’t help walking out of the show feeling gypped.
In an attempt to remedy the change of plans, the group played their videos behind Schmidt as he played along on the piano. The set list included the mash-ups “Love Story Meets Viva la Vida,” “Michael Meets Mozart,” “Over the Rainbow/Simple Gifts” and “Code Name Vivaldi.” As I’d paid a significant chunk of change in college student currency to attend, I was irritated I had paid to see videos I could have watched at home for free.
Schmidt also performed his original piano pieces “Waterfall” and “Dumb Song,” both well-known favorites. Schmidt is a beautiful and fun piano player, but the added zest Nelson brings with his cello and innovative techniques is why I listen to the Piano Guys.
My favorite portion of the show was when Schmidt invited an audience member to play an impromptu jazz duet. Schmidt gave scout’s honor he didn’t know or practice with the audience member. I’ve decided to believe him, if only because the resulting magic of the spontaneous performance was the only part of the night that took my breath away.
Schmidt’s a hammy performer, and his cheesiness put me off initially. By the end of the show, though, he managed to bring a slight grin to my curmudgeonly face with his performance stunts like playing the piano upside down or putting on a red wig that looked as if it had been made out of mop heads.
However, I seemed to be the only grump in the audience as everyone else laughed and cheered at extreme volumes throughout the concert. Schmidt by himself may have made me sleepy, but I appreciate the strong fan base he as a local performer has built, and he actually makes me the teensiest bit proud to be from Utah.
The Piano Guys will be back in southern Utah on Dec. 8 at Tuacahn.