Midway through its sold-out performance at the Birchmere on Sunday night, Da Vinci's Notebook offered a master class in how to construct and choreograph the quintessential boy-band ballad. Moving nearly in sync with 'N Sync, the Washington a cappella quartet torqued the pop drama until baritone Greg DiCostanzo began telegraphing his final moves: "Drop to my knees to elicit crowd response / Pray to my chosen deity / Modulation, and I hold a high note." Works every time.
Now approaching its 10th anniversary, DVN has composed enough clever material to deliver an almost lull-proof performance. Its vocal influences -- the Bobs, the Nylons and Rockapella, among others -- are clearly evident at times, but its songwriting is often fresh, funny and, when it comes to skewering Meat Loaf or other pop culture personalities, spot on. Actress Heather Graham, however, was the subject of an unabashedly lusty homage, and another song concerning outsize genitalia was inspired merely by one man's pride of ownership.
Robust and neatly tailored vocal harmonies surfaced throughout the show, with DiCostanzo, bass Bernie Muller-Thym and tenors Richard Hsu and Paul Sabourin trading lead vocals. Not every song was played for laughs, though. Sabourin, for example, faithfully rendered "16 Candles" during the show's "Request-o-Rama" interlude, and Muller-Thym sang at least part of Joe Jackson's "Is She Really Going Out With Him?" as if he were still searching for an answer.
After opening the show with a complementary set, GrooveLily, a pop-funk trio featuring the gifted singer-violinist Valerie Vigoda, briefly returned to help orchestrate a few of DVN's offbeat musings.
-- Mike Joyce