DCW On-Line: Charlotte Review

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NightBeat showcases top corps before enthusiastic crowd

July 27, 2008 — Charlotte, NC . . . The clash of this season’s drum corps titans continued tonight between three of the current top four DCI World Class corps and a host of other highly competitive units. “Nightbeat”, sponsored by Carolina Crown, has become a local contest with a regional feel. Many thousands of drum corps fans, along with the southern humidity, created a thrilling atmosphere as the tension and urgency rose with only two weeks to go in the season.

Pioneer began the evening steeped in tradition with “Celtic Reflections”. The audience that contained a large contingent of area band students were excited to hear familiar and respected band literature such as Holst’s “Suite in E-Flat” and Grainger’s “Lincolnshire Posy”. The corps played the works with confidence and Pioneer’s statement of tradition and identity was apparent to all. Execution of this collection of difficult works has been steadily improving all year and it should be enjoyable and impressive to listen to this show in its final form in a couple of weeks in Bloomington.

The surging Crossmen were next, giving a unique twist on “The Planets” with their show called “Planet X”. The growth in this corps after their transition to Texas was apparent tonight with a full sound and impressive visual show. The original designs and colors presented by the guard had an impactful presence throughout, with plenty of moments to keep one’s eyes engrossed in the show. The music is a creative and refreshing change from past traditional readings of “The Planets”, using fragments and quotes that are familiar to the audience, but are presented in completely transformed ways. The original and entertaining production has put them in the top 12 for the moment and led to a seventh-place finish tonight.

The Glassmen “circus” rode into the Queen City with a strong sense of communication with the audience. “Kar-ne-val” is an engaging production that also succeeded in connecting with fans through familiar segments of carnival-related music. The visual show is simple and effective, following the adventures of a young girl at the carnival and using boxes that roll and contain occasional surprises. While the show may lack the musical and visual sophistication of the approaches of the current upper echelon of corps, it is a success as an entertaining package.

Glassmen – Toledo, OH
DCW On-Line Photo by Harry Heidelmark

The Boston Crusaders are taking another twist on the space theme with “Neocosmos”. The music ranges from familiar and predictable works by Richard Strauss to some less familiar but intense music from “The Matrix”. It is a musically effective program with plenty of fun moments for the audience in its journey through space and time. This show has been gaining strength all year, especially in its visual and effect presentation, as the corps has been revealing more depth to the show.

It is clear that the corps the Crusaders are gunning for right now is the Blue Knights. The Denver corps took the field following intermission with their a-typical dark approach, which is to say they have established a solid identity within the drum corps activity. “Knight Reign” was performed with very strong execution this evening, taking full advantage of the rapidly-cooling, post-sunset Charlotte temperatures. This show attempts to mix the familiar with the abstract and ties it together with the Knight’s artistic approach that has been greatly refined over the years. This is a very impressive corps in performance, though the show concept proved to be a little over the heads of much of the audience tonight who seemed to already be focused on the other blue corps that was about to take the field.

The excitement in the air of a drum corps show somehow always becomes more palpable once the Blue Devils take the field. Screams of fans began as soon as the corps rounded the gate to take the field, led by an agile guard in eye-popping orange and purple suits. “Constantly Risking Absurdity” has been written about and detailed often this season, but what is truly amazing about this show is the level of energy it exudes and the punishing physical demand the show places on the performers. It has all the earmarks of the intensity the Blue Devils are known for: screaming and loud brass, percussion that is both aggressive and imaginative and a guard with tremendous presence throughout the show.

The imagination presented and moments that are both odd and striking were highly engaging for the audience, with numerous audible gasps and multiple standing ovations. The real questions is for many fans, will the Blue Devils peak too soon or can they carry the tremendous momentum of this show all the way to finals night? The Devils’ undefeated streak of 2008 continued tonight.

Usually after the Blue Devils take the field, the show is over, both figuratively and literally. However, the thrill buzz created by the Devils’ “Absurd” show only continued to grow thanks to the surging Cavaliers. Much has also been written and discussed about this show as well, but the surprise tonight for much of the Charlotte crowd was how well this show communicates live. On a computer screen, a whole dimension of the complexity and beauty of this show is lost.

“Samurai” is one big moment after another, especially with regard to visual and effect. While it may not possess the same musical depth as the Blue Devils usually do, the musical execution is already approaching flawless levels. It has the same engaging effect of the impeccable 2006 “Machine” show that drew you in from the beginning with character and setting and never lets up. Though the Cavies were second tonight, the Devils have much to be worried about with a show as strong as this one.

Carolina Crown – Ft. Mill, SC
DCW On-Line Photo by Richard Wersinger

Not to be outdone, host corps Carolina Crown for the first time finds themselves in the serious hunt for a championship with their “Finis” production. The quality of sound, sheer volume and intensity of this brass line cannot be overstated. Many long-time drum corps fans were whispering the same familiar name to themselves upon hearing the 80-member horn line: Star of Indiana. The musical book is filled with variety, subtlety and intensity that allows the corps to emote and achieve on many levels.

Crown’s drum line continues its tremendous growth they began last season with aggressive yet musical performance and the Crown guard continues to impress and earn its top 3 status each night. While the hometown corps was third tonight, they were only 1.6 behind the first-place Blue Devils, with the brass line second to the Devils by only a tenth and winning the Music Ensemble caption. What this all means is that anything can happen in the last two weeks of this exciting drum corps season!

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Posted by on Thursday, August 7th, 2008. Filed under DCW On-Line.