Aliza Chasan   [A–      JMS]

Professor Saslow

Music Analysis

On a very cold and rainy Thursday night in October, I attended a concert in Nokia Theater featuring performances by the bands Sherwood, Steel Train, HelloGoodbye, and Hanson. Surprisingly, despite the atrocious weather, there was an extremely large turnout and the line to get inside wrapped around more than three blocks. The concertgoers were almost all female, ranging in age from late teens to late twenties, with a few middle age women and some younger men thrown into the mix. After finally making it into the building, I noticed that the concert hall was rather different from what I was used to. There were three tiers to enjoy the concert from. The first tier was completely filled with people who did nothing but bob their heads up and down to the music the middle tier was filled with my kind of people: the dancers. The final tier in the back of the room was filled with bleacher style seats.  Despite the modernity of the venue, there were two chandeliers hanging over the front section. This contrasted quite a bit with the two televisions onto which the bands performing were projected hanging over the second tier.

The opening band was Sherwood, an upbeat pop rock band that utilized bass, drums, a lead guitar, a rhythm guitar, and a keyboard. Their songs were highly melodic yet rhythmic enough that I, who had never before heard their music, found myself wanting to dance along and being able to do so quite easily. Despite the pop nature to their music, it was easy to hear classical rock influence in their music. Their music was all in the major key and has a very sweet and bubbly sound, which is typical of small bands hoping to make it large. Despite the light nature of the music, the lyrics all covered meaningful topics like self-identity and responsibility.  The band members were all dressed somewhat formally. However, their demeanor on stage did not match their garb: they were all doing awkward dance movements as they played and were very into riling up the crowd for the performances to come.

After their performance, Steel Train, an indie folk rock band, came out to play the next set. Unlike Sherwood, they were dressed in a very disheveled manner complete with holey clothes and missing shoes.  Their songs were played with guitar, piano, drums, bass, and a Wurlitzer.  Interestingly, the lead vocalist played quite a number of intense electrical guitar riffs in the midst of their songs, which, though good, were not on the recorded versions of the songs. He was also very theatrical on stage, occasionally acting out lyrics from the songs. Their songs were much less poppy than Sherwood’s and their lyrics were more meaningful.  The music that they played sounded somewhat like a post-punk version of Beatles music. Their set contained songs in both the major and minor key although the majority was in the major because they wanted to pump the crowd up as was evident in their performance onstage.  The band was very energetic onstage and bantered playfully with the audience throughout their set. At one point, they even covered Mamma Mia, a popular Abba song, and asked for the audience to sing the chorus along with them.

The next band to come on stage had significantly more fame than the previous two. This was HelloGoodbye, a power pop band that gave one of the most energetic and fun performances I have ever seen. Audience banter was essential to their set. They even went as far as to have audience members come on stage to dance. One memorable person did the worm onstage. Their instruments were the most interesting and among the usual guitars, drums, keyboard, and bass, there was a ukulele, mandolin, melodica, and trombone.  Their music had strong melodies, catchy lyrics, and some synthesized sound. One cannot help but dance to their catchy and energetic music.

The performance of the headlining band was shocking to me. The final band to play was Hanson, a boy band from the 90’s comprised of three brothers who I thought of as a simple one hit wonder.  However, after they came out on stage, the audience came alive. It became quite obvious that not everyone gave up on them after their one famed hit. Throughout the performance, the audience sang along with every single song while performing dance moves that were clearly set to follow the lyrics of the songs. For me, this performance was much less exciting than the previous three. Hanson’s music was much more polished then the other three bands, which took away the excitement of a live performance. The three brothers played drums, piano, and guitar. They also had two back up people playing bass and guitar. Their attire was also more formal and they all wore either all black or all white.

Although the rest of the audience was extraordinarily familiar with each song from their repertoire, I chose to focus on the one that made them famous: Mmmbop. Mmmbop is a piece of program music in song form. The lyrics are about the unstable nature of relationships and how important it is to hold on to your friends because they can disappear in an “mmmbop.” The song is a very upbeat pop song in a major key with a rather repetitive melody. However the tune is so catchy, that it would be difficult to get sick of it. The melody is set to a tempo which is relatively fast. The song is structured as follows: verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, chorus, verse, chorus. It has a 1-4-5 chord progression and its texture is homophonic. There was no counterpoint because there was just one melody line which made the song very simplistic.

As a whole, the entire concert comprised of program music in song style.  There was very little use of counterpoint and the majority of the music was in a major key. I personally enjoyed the music because almost any given song was either fun or meaningful because of the lyrics. Also, I found it very interesting that four very different bands chose to go on tour together. I appreciated this because I happen to enjoy three of the four genres that were played; yet clearly, most people were there for the final pop performance by Hanson. Personally, this was disappointing because to me, Hanson has no originality and is incapable of producing anything with real depth. Despite what my disgruntlement over the last performance, the musical evening as a whole was very enjoyable.