Hanson at the Warner Theatre
The screams at Warner Theatre on Thursday night were shrill enough for a male strip show. In fact, the event was a rock concert: Hanson, the now mostly-grown-up kids who invented "MmmBop" in 1997, followed that hit with more hooky but repetitious tunes. The largely teenage, female audience, decked out in uniforms of pleated miniskirts and flip-flops, leapt out of their seats the instant the three brothers walked onstage. They remained standing for the whole set, singing along to every word and jumping in place with their arms outstretched above their heads in complete idol worship.
This stance was pretty easy to maintain for Hanson's 100-minute set: Almost every song of the night featured the same bouncy 4/4 rhythm and speedy tempo (there were a few slower songs, to which the crowd didn't react much differently). Their lyrics were rather predictable as well -- almost every song featured the words "love" or "baby" -- but every sappy admission of love sparked another piercing chorus of shrieks.
In the middle of the set, the trio's generic rock took a break when guitarist and oldest brother Isaac crooned a solo song. While his bittersweet lyrics were a little boring ("I'm sorry for being me"), his heartfelt performance gave a welcome change of pace to the otherwise monotonous night. But of course, the crowd filled every possible break in his tender song with their screams -- including the requisite "I love you!"
Opener Maria Mena faltered right from the start with vocals that were off-key and a voice so meek it was overwhelmed by her five-piece backing band. Although she gained a little confidence after an acoustic song, the crowd seemed uninterested, reserving all its energy for the workout that was to come.
-- Catherine P. Lewis
Monumental Brass at Strathmore Hall
The sounds issuing from Strathmore Hall's outdoor "Summer Serenade" on Thursday were reassuringly familiar: birds, buzzing insects, traffic on Rockville Pike, planes roaring overhead and the giggling of toddlers who clearly couldn't fathom why anyone would sit still on a picture-perfect summer evening.
Most reassuring of all was the sound of a brass ensemble playing marches by Sousa and G.W.E. Friedrich, and blues by W.C. Handy -- like the village bands of old -- in a gazebo on Strathmore's gracious, rolling lawn. The five-member Monumental Brass sounded very much at home with this music: all sizzle and swaying hips in the Handy and full of martial swagger in the Sousa. Four songs by Ives (delivered with an engagingly boozy sense of humor) were conspicuous highlights. But then, so was a set of Henry Mancini chart-toppers.
Other classical selections, though, proved a mixed bag of spirited attack and tentative phrasing, virtuosic flourishes and badly played notes. Bach's "Little" Fugue in G Minor was pretty cleanly executed, if metrically dogged, as were Renaissance dances by Anthony Holborne and Tylman Susato. Walton's film music from "Henry V" showed verve early on and strained technique later. Copland's "Simple Gifts" was equal parts warmth and efficient dispatch. Weakest was "Spring" from Vivaldi's "The Four Seasons," where the ensemble sounded over-parted and under-rehearsed.
No matter. Given the gorgeous sunset, the dancing fireflies and a little girl turning perfect cartwheels to the Bach, "picture perfect" easily trumped "note perfect."
-- Joe Banno