After moving to the southeast three years ago, I have been able to see Spirit early season all three years. In 2010 I felt I was watching a corps
that was really trying to improve itself. In 2011, that was of course much more evident and I must say I loved the show and felt all three finals week performances were terrific; making finals was clearly deserved. I do have a close friend with a son in the group, but other than that, if I have any real bias,
I do love any comeback story. I took some notes so I could give and remember some facts and my impressions accurately.
The event started without a spoken introduction. The brass played Tara's Theme from Gone With The Wind. It was loud but not over done. It got everyone's attention. Following Tara's Theme, the brass immediately played an extended version of Salvation is Created. The arrangement is clever and exciting. More volume was displayed.
Before getting to the rest of the performance, I want to state that of the four staff members that spoke (board president was one of them), it was clear that these people were intelligent, professional, and clearly passionate about the organization, its history and future, and the young people it serves.
After a brief welcome, the color guard performed. I counted 37 members. They spun in a block with bright pink flags. They did a basics routine that isolated upper body and lower body responsibilities. Though not an expert, it was incredibly clear that this may be the most improved section of the corps. I was further convinced of this when they spun the opening phrases of the show. It was very athletic and very clean! When I saw them spin with the music later, I would add that the work is also dead-on musical.
Time for some show explanation and music.
So a Vegas show, but not your typical approach to this theme.
The opener hits you immediately in the face. Shocking. The main theme to Luck be a Lady is used for the introduction. I don't know if you can get more Vegas appropriate than that. Again, it was great to hear this intro and see the guard perform along with it. Stand-outs of this intro: Very clean beats already, brass volume, and holy mellophones. Wow!
Without pause, the rest of the opener starts with a cool groove based on a bass guitar like sound that totally places you in a cool vibe, or, walking the Vegas strip as their program coordinator later described. The opener has three or four sections that continually build on each other until we get to what I expect is a big park and blow moment as the corps put feet apart and showed us they already have a confident swagger to them. This was the loudest moment thus far. After a huge release. We returned to the bass groove from the start. Percussion and then horns layer in, again, very cool vibe and fun. There is a build to the last punch. Huge crowd reaction. Stand-outs of the opener: front ensemble licks, every section of the brass are featured very successfully, an appropriate Vegas vibe throughout while still sounding modern, and I must say again, holy mellophones. I was already thinking that this is not 2011 Spirit, but a big step forward.
Luck be a Lady was next. The program coordinator set us up well. If you know Sinatra's Live at the Sands version, the arrangement starts and ends that way, with a clever and extremely fun Latin treatment in the middle section that uses some well thought out clave grooves and dead on stylistic brass writing. The performer that plays the trumpet solo at the start of this tune was fantastic. Spot on style and what confidence. I love that the arrangers kept the brass stabs from the original Sands version. LOUD! I was amazed at how relaxed the tune sounded, in the best of ways. Nothing forced, just grooving along. Lots of tasty dynamics already showing up and some very clever battery writing. A bari trio is featured on the melody. The Sinatra ending is slick and after the tune ends, a trumpet held some ungodly high note that ended with a great kiss off release. Again, huge crowd reaction. Stand-outs: the soloist, the attention and effort to being stylistically correct, lead trumpets, and the great battery writing. Can't wait to see this color guard performing to this tune.
I must admit that I was one of many thinking, Lady GaGa as a ballad? Well, to say they nailed the arrangement is an understatement. Simply gorgeous. We were told that the inspiration for this section of the show is the seduction of the city, "the opportunity to fall in love, or at least in lust." Yes, that got a good chuckle from the crowd. A beautiful pit intro followed by a lush brass octet (I think. Maybe a few more players?) leads right into the main melody of Poker Face. A trumpet duet in the middle changes the pace a bit in that it has some appropriate attitude to it, followed by a hit of sorts (the "real" one comes later). Each brass section gets the melody as does the pit. The big hit comes after silence. Very loud but played with great quality. Piano and one trumpet soloist ends the tune quietly. The program coordinator pointed out that the show features a dozen or so different brass players, a display of talent depth. Each was quite excellent. Stand-outs: the brass and pit arranging, the control the horns are already displaying.
To not give too much away, the closer starts with a very familiar segment from the rock/rap genre tune. It caught me by surprise, but as I listened and considered the show theme I thought, perfect. We were told the closer is about going to Vegas to live it up. To go big, expect big return for big plays; the excitement and attitude/philosophy of how a high-roller approaches Vegas. After the short build up and a short brass and battery punch in the face (this one was hugely loud), the tune went into a groove that seemed straight out of any Vegas movie scene where a high roller has pulled up to the casino curb,
stepped out of his expensive car, and walks in ready to be noticed while he plays it cool. I loved the appropriate use of vibraphone here, the quintessential Vegas soundtrack go to. Instruments layer in and layer out, electric sounds add to the slick Vegas attitude, and some awesome battery exposure and great writing connect it all together in very feel-good, logical way. The need to bob your head takes over as the tune quickly builds to a sudden halt immediately followed by a timpani roll (how Vegas of them). It was explained that this moment is the "gag" of the closer. What followed was a loud and creatively arranged recap of the opening of the show based on Luck be a Lady. I was struck with how my ears immediately linked the two together and how my mind immediately thought that in keeping with the show theme, "someone" must have taken a risk and hit it big, thus the timpani roll and recap of Luck be a Lady. A drum corps ending appropriately plays the tune out. Big sound, big confidence, big standing ovation. Stand-outs: the percussion has more than taken a step forward this season and this tune really shows that off (wow bass drums!), cymbal line is scary good, stamina of the brass, attention to show theme detail and making it evident even without the visual component.
Simply put, I was blown away. And, they had only been together three days.
Alumni joined the brass for Salvation is Created and of course Georgia. Having all the members, staff, and alumni sing Salvation was a heartfelt bonus to the event. Great food, a great sense of excitement about where the corps is going, lots of baby blue everywhere, a genuine sense of family and member centered goings on, and many mentions of thanks to the men and women who have sacrificed so much for our country clearly communicated Spirit of Atlanta as a class act. I can't say I have always seen the corps in that light and that makes me feel somewhat guilty.
Thanks for a great performance and a great experience Spirit of Atlanta 2012! Well worth my drive. Ride this wave of forward growth as hard as you can.
Best of luck, can't wait to see this one on the field.
Edited by tigger2, 28 May 2012 - 11:04 AM.