Mannheim Steamroller

I snagged some last-minute tickets to the Dec. 20 Mannheim Steamroller concert in Stephens Auditorium in Ames, and I was expecting to love this show. It’s not the kind of music I would normally listen to — I guess it’s considered New Age — but it’s great at the holidays. Kind of like Christmas carols on crack.

But I was terribly disappointed in the concert, especially the first half. To start with, right after the opening number, the band’s leader gave a rather lengthy commercial for purchasing the group’s CDs, which put me off. And about half of the first section of songs reminded me of the music played at the Madrigal Feast I used to go to every year. Not exactly rousing numbers. Lots of sleepy, creepy recorder solos, if you get what I’m saying.

But I could live with that. What I really couldn’t stand were the visual effects. During most of the songs, cheesy videos ran on a large screen behind the band. I think Mannheim Steamroller celebrated its 25th anniversary last year, and I would say some of these videos were with them at the beginning. At least they looked like the 1980s. They were so distracting that I had to close my eyes.

As I was sitting there, I was thinking, holy cow, we’re in this beautiful auditorium and we can SEE the band performing and HEAR the band performing, and they have a light show going on, and — oh, what the heck, let’s show a movie at the same time. Do our senses need to be totally assaulted? I think I would have been distracted and annoyed even if the visuals were better quality. Do they think we all have attention deficit disorder?

Well, it really ruined the concert for me. That and the kid behind me who talked through the WHOLE THING.

The second part of the show was considerably more upbeat, starting with a rousing version of God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen and ending with the wonderful Carol of the Bells. After a standing ovation (during which I grumpily remained seated) they came back to play two more numbers, including Deck the Halls (on crack — gotta love it). But even then, they ruined it for me by showing a nasty-looking montage of self-serving media clips and album covers.

I closed my eyes.


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