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Music review: 2Cellos at Largo at the Coronet

September 15, 2011 | 12:59 pm

2 Cellos
The power of YouTube has struck again, thrusting an obscure pair of 24-year-old Croatian cellists, Luka Sulic and Stjepan Hauser, into the big time with alarming speed.

Earlier this year, the pair -- who call their act 2Cellos -- posted a zany video of themselves converting Michael Jackson’s “Smooth Criminal” into a high-energy tour de force for two cellos.  The thing caught on, receiving more than 5.6 million hits to date.  Sony Masterworks noticed and released a CD of their rock retoolings in July.  Elton John had them as his opening act over the summer, and they’ll open for him at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas for almost a month starting Sept. 28.

Having seen 2Cellos twice now -- opening for Sergio Mendes outdoors at the Americana in Glendale in August and at Largo at the Coronet Wednesday night -- one gets a clear picture of the originality and limitations of this act.

For one thing, these guys put a lot of genuine, unfeigned rock 'n' roll energy into performing these tunes; you don’t get any sense of slumming.  Their hair flies around, they press so hard on the strings that the horsehair comes off their bows in bunches, they push themselves physically with their skeletal-looking electric cellos about as far as you can go in a seated position. They endear themselves to the crowd with goofy pauses in their stage patter -- and they are flamboyant enough to get people excited.

Their arrangements are pretty clever and not as relentlessly bombastic as they could be.  One plays the tune, the other thrums the rhythm, and the fullness of their sound exploits the fact that the cello is the most self-contained member of the string family.   While they swagger through the likes of “Welcome to the Jungle” and “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” they also isolate unsuspected lyrical content in their hard-rock material -- and yes, they really can play their instruments.

The question is: Where does 2Cellos go from here? Right now, it’s a novelty act, brief in length, and there’s a danger of falling into the trap of repeating the rock covers formula until it goes stale -- which could happen quickly. Enjoy it while it’s fresh and hope that Sulic and Hauser use their musicianship to develop and grow.

 -- Richard S. Ginell

Photo: Cellists Luka Sulic and Stjepan Hauser. Credit: 2cellos.com

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