Vivid Live: Hypnotic Brass Ensemble – Sydney Opera House Theatre (04.06.11)

With Dom finishing earlier than expected, I was able to make my next performance – Chicago’s Hypnotic Brass Ensemble at the Sydney Opera House Theatre – with plenty of time to kill. So, I grabbed a glass of wine, took my seat, and proceeded to enjoy an amazing hour and a half or so of hypnotic brass excellence.

With seven brass instruments (there are usually eight… I’m guessing one didn’t make it over) and one drum kit, and often no lyrics, you might think this band would be limited in what they could produce. Indeed, your mind often travels to a football field at a college somewhere in the United States, watching the marching band show their support for their team. But while this is one side of their style, they dabble in Jazz, Rock and Roll, Hip Hop, Soul, R&B… just about anything they can get their hands on. And for these sons of jazz icon Phil Cohran, blurring the genres that surround them is a task they make look easy, as they perform with precision and style.

By the end of the show, the entire sold out crowd at the Sydney Opera House Theatre were clapping and cheering, standing on their feet, doing just about anything the group asked of them. Winning over a Vivid crowd is not an easy task, but doing so is just another day in the office for the group.

The catchy “Balicky Bon” came early, while “Indigo” saw their ‘little bit of everything’ style shine through. “War” saw the crowd rise to attention, which was followed by the standard hip-hop side versus side routine ‘I think THIS side is the more excited side! LET ME HEAR YOU!’… done to death, but still always seems to work. I HATE THE OTHER SIDE THE OTHER SIDE SUCKS. Oh, I’m sorry. I’m easily excitable.

“Kryptonite” definitely held the most hip-hop flavour of the night, as the group began to take their shirts off and we were invited into the Hypnotic Party House (as opposed to the Sydney Opera House…). “First Class” was another energetic number. The lights came down for “Mars”, while the audience threw their mobile phones in the air. A great moment. “Gypsy Spell” off their red album, closed out the show in the encore.

Influenced by the jazz music of their father, it’s no surprise they asked us to give some of the classics they grew up with a spin. Here’s hoping they opened up a few eyes and ears in the crowd to a new world of music. I wouldn’t doubt it! It was a predictable routine, though set in the constraints of music that you definitely don’t get to hear everyday – live or otherwise – it was a highly enjoyable one.

Larry Heath

Founding Editor and Publisher of the AU review. Currently based in Toronto, Canada. You can follow him on Twitter @larry_heath or on Instagram @larryheath.