Well-Strung (Crazy Coqs, Live at Zedel)

Well-Strung (Crazy Coqs, Live at Zedel)

A furious fusion of classical and pop music performed by a hunky string quartet provided a sizzling cabaret evening at the always eclectic Crazy Coqs Live at the Zedel venue in London.

With the highly talented New York foursome Well-Strung, you are not quite sure whether to sit open-mouthed at the amazing mash-ups, appreciate the dexterity of performance, tap your feet to the twisted tunes, or just wolf whistle at the musicians’ muscles.  One suspects any of the above would be acceptable.

This is top quality cabaret entertainment at its finger-plucking best. Incredibly the string quartet gives a great account of itself in the classical pieces – certainly enough to please the purists – but also manages to thrill in the more contemporary songs which are whipped so lovingly into them. The musical synthesis is a masterpiece.

Consisting of Edmund Bagnell (first violin), Christopher Marchant (second violin, occasional guitarist and co-founder of the group), Daniel Shevlin (cello) and Trevor Wadleigh (viola) the show offers a rich blend of everything from Britney Spears (Toxic) to the prelude to Bach’s Cello Suite No. 1.

Although there are occasional “straight” performances of hits – including an atmospheric rendition of Henry Mancini’s Moon River with beautiful close harmony singing, a bright and breezy interpretation of The Beatles Here Comes the Sun,  and a mischievous treatment of Part of Your World from Disney’s The Little Mermaid – it is the amalgamation of classics and pop that make Well-Strung a cut above the average.

The show’s opening – a mash-up of Mozart’s Eine Kleine Nachtmusik and Kelly Clarkson’s Since U Been Gone – sets the electrifying tone, followed swiftly by a union of one of Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos with Carle Rae Jepson’s Call Me Maybe. You never quite know what’s coming next, even if you’re familiar with the quartet through their internet appearances. Throughout the evening, each musician has the chance to show off musical abilities on their instruments and vocally and not a single offering disappoints. Even being invited to join in a jaunty version of Do-Re-Mi fails to dampen the audience’s spirits.

There is a diversity of choice even in the modern numbers, ranging from The Ronettes’ 1960s hit Be My Baby (played alongside Puccini’s O Mio Babbino Caro, which leads the group to rename it “Be My Baby Daddy”) to Ed Sheeran’s Perfect (mixed with Bach’s Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring) and Lady Gaga’s Paparazzi (accompanied by Vivaldi’s Winter from The Four Seasons).

The guys explain there is nothing new in mash-ups : Gounod artfully tweaked Bach’s 1722 work The Well-Tempered Clavier to create Ave Maria 130 years later. “Today we call it copyright infringement” they jested, before taking the same tune and singing Radiohead’s Creep alongside it.

Somehow, and perhaps surprisingly, all the concoctions work. In some cases you would be forgiven for thinking that the mashed up tunes weren’t actually written to be performed together. This is particularly evident in the likes of Massenet’s Meditation from Thais given a bluegrass feel when performed alongside Landslide by Fleetwood Mac,  Aaron Copland’s Rodeo accompanying Taylor Swift’s Mean and Karl Jenkins’ Palladio set beside Lorde’s Royals.

The guys have been playing together for seven years and have three albums to their credit as well as a keen following on YouTube. As they sing their final pieces – Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody followed by an encore of the William Tell Overture blended with Don’t Stop Me Now – it isn’t hard to see why the quartet has become so popular across the world, establishing a fanbase well beyond natural gay boundaries.

Additionally the accomplished four enjoy plenty of light-hearted banter between songs and on a few occasions – thanks to a broken violin string needing to be replaced and subsequently misbehaving – we even got some bad jokes to groan at. Suffice it to say one of the punchlines involved a busty crustacean!

Personable and hugely professional, Well-Strung ensured the evening was breathtaking, barely breaking into a sweat as they played with extraordinary energy. A two-night stint at the Zedel  wasn’t enough – we really must hope for a longer visit and longer shows next time.

David Guest

A version of this review originally appeared on The Reviews Hub http://www.thereviewshub.com/

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