Callbacks Sterling

April 7, 2011
If there were one word to describe the Callbacks’ 25th Anniversary “Sterling” Jam, it would be “cool.” The show, interspersed with touching speeches honoring their seniors, performances from over 60 alumni, and a look at the surprising and varied roots of the Callbacks’ founding, demonstrated the immense enthusiasm and emotion all the members feel towards their “Callbacks family.” Filled with their trademark creative and interesting arrangements and lively stage presence, Sterling was yet another successful a cappella show to grace the stage of Sanders Theatre this year.
The opening number, “Celebration” by Kool and The Gang, was a great choice for the Callbacks, embodying the group’s contagious energy and their excellence at performing soulful music. Although the mikes seemed to dull the usually full sound of the group, creative choreography and smiling faces helped to make up for the slight lack of energy in the music itself. Next came “Black and Gold” by Sam Sparro, an incredibly impressive and well-tuned block performance with a soulful, captivating solo from Mike McLaughlin ’11. The arrangement was also simply stunning, complete with a “Womanizer” overlay, and a “cool” ending, in which the block completely dropped out in order to let McLaughlin finish the last line alone. The following song, “Rolling in the Deep” by Adele, featured Rachel Gladstone ’14 as the soloist. The unique brassiness of her voice echoed Adele’s fantastic performance of the song in the verses, but was a bit hoarse on the big notes in the chorus. Although an interesting interpretation, the overall performance lacked the epic intensity of the original song.
Tom McCarthy ’11 also stood out on his solo, “Secret” by Maroon 5, which at times had issues with balance between the solo and block. However, his soft, high voice fit well with the general emotion of the song. The last song in the first act, “Firework” by Katy Perry, had some tuning issues and was not the best song of the night. At this point in the show, the Callbacks stepped off to allow their alumni to perform some old favorites. The alumni’s performances revealed a huge range of repertoire, from jazz to The Eagles to even the infamous “Where the Party At.” It provided an interesting look at the development of the group from their earlier years, and perfectly set up the current group to take the stage yet again.
The second act, encouraged by a lively and vocal audience, featured several solid blocks with excellent, if slightly less than memorable, solo performances. Senior Byron Lichtenstein stood out on an expressive performance of The Smiths’ “Stop Me If You Think You’ve Heard This One Before” with his resonant, rich tone that remained consistent even on the higher notes. Later, the group’s interpretation of Frou Frou’s fast paced electro-pop song “Let Go” was a refreshing look at the Callbacks’ creativity and originality. Daniela Dekhtyar ’11 fit the song perfectly, with her pure, clear voice floating above the intricate block behind her. Alex McCue ’14 also offered a commendable solo performance on “Chariot” by Gavin DeGraw through his charm and enthusiasm, despite straining to hit some of the higher notes, which may have been slightly out of his bass range. The Callbacks ended the concert on a festive note, with an encore of a Rihanna medley, including the songs “All of the Lights” by Kanye West featuring Rihanna, “Only Girl,” and “Umbrella.” An excellent arrangement with smooth transitions between songs, the song only had some minor tuning issues.
Overall, the Callbacks gave their audience an exciting, energetic night of performances as they showed off exactly what it means to be a Callback, then and now. It was refreshing to see the group expand their repertoire beyond their typical R & B typecast. They managed to celebrate their tight-knit group while still connecting with the rest of the audience through their incredible honesty and passion as performers. Displaying immense versatility of songs and genres, all performed with great confidence, the Callbacks show the promise for having many more anniversary jams in the future.
The Harvard Art Review Music Board

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