When Stjepan Hauser, one of the 2Cellos, calmly picked the microphone between songs at the groups sold out show in Portland and flatly stated “Wow, that was fantastic! Sometimes you can’t believe the talent you have,” it could’ve come across as a bit arrogant. It was the sort of comment you might expect to haphazardly fall out of Kanye West’s mouth, not a young, cello-toting Croatian playing instrumental adaptations in a rock club. Yet, a mere split second after his bombastic self-praise, the crowd erupted in cheers and applause, confirming the legitimacy of Hauser’s insight. Indeed, 2Cellos were utterly fantastic. They knew it and the crowd confirmed.
For nearly 90 minutes, 2Cellos turned the tiny Aladdin Theater on Portland’s East side into the hottest spot in the rain-soaked city. The show was equal parts virtuosic musicianship and disciplined showmanship with a dash borderline stand-up comedy, with the duo taking turns interacting, joking and flirting with the crowd between songs.
With no opening act on the docket, the show opened on a traditional note, with Luka Šulić emerging first, grabbing his gleaming white electric cello and beginning the set with a gorgeous rendition of both “Gabriel’s Oboe” and “Oblivion.”Hauser joined his partner for the second half of the songs, but it would be the only selections of the set that came from a classical background as the duo launched into a jaw-dropping adaptation of U2’s 1987 hit “Where the Streets Have No Name.” The frantic pace of Šulić’s bow hand holding the harmony of the track was a sight to behold, causing Hauser to playfully remark at the songs end, “Did you see his right hand? He’s been exercising it a lot. Since he was 12. Looks like it paid off.”
Double entendre’s aside, the show continued, gaining momentum with each passing song. When they announced that they would be playing a Michael Jackson song, the crowd lost it, many assuming that the duo would perform their electric version of “Smooth Criminal” only to have the energy dialed back with a gentle version of Jackson’s hit “Human Nature” before finally launching into the aforementioned song that most expected to hear in the first place. It was a supremely sly move from the duo, one that brought the energy of the crowd to a fever pitch that wouldn’t subside for the remainder of the set.
But just when it didn’t seem possible for the room to get higher, the duo turned into a threesome with the addition of drummer Dušan Kranjc, who was stunning on his own merits, providing flashes of brilliance and a solid back beat on rocking adaptations of songs from Nirvana and AC/DC. The trio ended with a rollicking version of “Satisfaction,” originally made famous by the Rolling Stones. At the end of the song, Hauser approached the lip of the stage, his shredded bow in hand, tearing off strands and throwing them into the audience like Keith Richards would do with his guitar picks. At that moment, and possibly for the first time in history, the cello became just as cool as the guitar and in the hands of a skilled player it became increasingly difficult to differentiate between a Stradivarius and a Stratocaster.
The band triumphantly left the stage, only to be beckoned back for an encore by a ravenous crowd that would not be denied more. Opening with “The Trooper (Overture)” from their most recent album Celloverse, the duo sparred back and forth, exchanging the lead with one another, not dissimilar from the dual guitar assault found in the original Iron Maiden hit. It was a truly stunning sight to witness the two cellists playing off one another, their astounding technicality unmatched, with one seemingly trying to outdo the other in terms of astonishing their audience. They wrapped up the evening with an enchanting version of Sting’s “Fields of Gold” which bade the crowd farewell as they stumbled out into the damp Portland air, clamoring to make sense of what they just witnessed.
Šulić promised the crowd that they would return next year and if this performance was any indication of what’s to come for 2Cellos, you may want to keep an eye out for dates because it’s sure to be one of the hottest tickets of the year.
Oblivion (Astor Piazzolla cover)
Gabriel’s Oboe (Ennio Morricone cover)
Where the Streets Have No Name (U2 cover)
Viva La Vida (Coldplay cover)
Shape of My Heart (Sting cover)
The Book of Love (The Magnetic Fields cover)
With or Without You (U2 cover)
Human Nature (Michael Jackson cover)
Smooth Criminal (Michael Jackson cover)
Welcome to the Jungle (Guns N’ Roses cover)
Thunderstruck (AC/DC cover)
Smells Like Teen Spirit (Nirvana cover)
You Shook Me (AC/DC cover)
Highway to Hell (AC/DC cover)
Satisfaction (Rolling Stones cover)
The Trooper (Iron Maiden cover)
Back In Black (AC/DC cover)
Fields of Gold (Sting cover)
All photos taken and provided by Theo Goetzfried.