Allentown Day 2 - Short Review (DCI Live)

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Last night's show was wonderful.

So if you throw Blue Devils into the mix, speaking top 4 here, we still have 4 corps within .7 of each other going into the Buffalo show tonight and the Massillon (Canton, OH) show on Monday. I know we've had some tightly competitive years, but 4 corps within .7 going into Finals week is amazing.

My general reflections on last night are as follows:

Carolina Crown - Last night I made a call after seeing this show that I feel they will win. Still feel the same this morning. Crown has brought out Mr. Clean and, as I stated last night, put the "spit and polish" on this baby. Amidst the truly exceptional display being given by all the top 4, something hit me last night with Crown and I think this is your 2015 Champion. GE will be the key. Blooo won GE last night. But if Carolina is close in GE and nabs wins in Guard, Visual Ex, and Brass then they win Gold. Their show just "pops" in a way the others do not at this time. Perhaps BD comes the closest to this. That ending....OH MY, that will send the fans into a tizzy in Indianapolis. The slight change to the story, and the addition of Gold at the end, made all the difference for Crown this year. They got a standing ovation from me (jumping off my couch). Get used to the color GOLD.

The Cadets - Been a long-time fan of the Cadets dating back to my childhood years when they seemingly came out of a slump in the late 70s and rose to power and to change the activity. Their uniform has been iconic for decades, so it stands to reason that some are having a tough time with the change. I am one of them, but not because I can't stomach change. I simply feel the all-black hides some of the amazing visual this corps produces. That was a big risk and I applaud them for having the guts to take such a risk. But in so many ways I think it hurt visual. All that aside, BOY did they perform last night. The show is exciting and captivating. It's also jaw dropping. They are getting cleaner and they have visual demand, musicianship, and powerful music. This is clearly a championship caliber corps. Let's see what they do.

Bluecoats - This show has been one of my favorites from day one. At Akron I felt Bloo was giving the activity the most unique and futuristic look of anyone. That remains true to this day. This show will be studied, with elements copied in years to come. This really is the future in so many ways, and I believe their stunning and skillful approach to minimalism, a concept like Kinetic Noise, and to electronics has, in large part, given them a strong general effect presentation. Their GE win should not be surprising to anyone. Everything about the show says "NEW." They play great (brass and percussion), and nobody beats their tubas (WOW). They marched their cleanest show to my eyes last night, and the guard contribution is beautiful. I could easily see this medal on Finals night.

Phantom Regiment - Back in the spring I heard a recording of their park concert from Rockford. I really liked the music, even though some of the arranging was a slight departure from the "Regiment" style. But when I saw the show on DCI Live with visual I was underwhelmed. To me, the visual was too cute with too much jazz running. They've made a TON of changes and it seemed clear to me last night that Rockford is ready to make a charge at the Cavaliers and Blue Knights. Not sure how close they get, but boy did they put out a nice show. Phantom's brass is really really good. They are probably not getting quite the credit they deserve, which often happens with shows that lack in so many other areas. But this show is ready to "POP" and I would not be surprised if they took 6th on Finals night. It's a long shot, but I could see it happening.

Madison Scouts - I am really LOVING this show. This is another show that early season was not grabbing me. They were the opposite for me when compared to Phantom. I felt strongly that they had a much better visual program compared to last year's show, but musically I was underwhelmed with the first half of the show and somewhat enjoyed the second half. Now the entire brass and percussion book is reeling me in from top to bottom. If anything I think the guard contribution and the props are not as strongly integrated. Some of the flag choices are interesting and I wish they had chosen a different look for the guard. Having said that, this is the closest Madison has come to looking like the OLD Scouts from the 90s while trying to be somewhat new and fresh. Would love to see them push higher, but I don't think their show design is as strong as BK or Cavaliers, and Phantom is just out performing them.

Boston Crusaders - I love this show. It's been one of my favs since Bowling Green. They put up a nice score last night and look to be breathing down Madison's back. The music is wonderful and I LOVE their props (the banners and the percussion setup in the middle at the intro). The corps plays and drums well. Guard is great, and the vocalist was wonderful, and has been all season. Their ballad is my favorite this season - even over Bloo and BD. If anything they probably needed better impact from the combination of drill and props. They will be a joy to watch come Finals.

Crossmen - Excellent performance last night. Strong presentations in brass, percussion, and guard. Their marching is good but not as crisp as Colts, who I think should be closer to Crossmen. That aside, their theme is conveyed really well. I don't particularly care for that type of theme, but Crossmen have made it very clear what they are attempting to do. A lot of corps have struggled with that this year. For Crossmen it's just a matter of taking that next step in performance captions. Their ballad is really well done and captivating. We should see them on Finals night.

The Colts - I honestly thought Colts should have been closer to Crossmen in score. Boy can this corps MARCH. Dang. They are cleaning nicely and I really enjoy their show. They are taking that next step when approaching Broadway musicals for field -- incorporating elements of the libretto, acting, staging, and the singing to go along with excellent brass and percussion writing. Years ago this would easily be a top 12 show. I'm kind of pulling for them, but there are so many great corps out there, it's impossible for everyone to make top 12. Hey, it's just one extra night of performing. Don't let it get you down if it doesn't happen, Colts, because your show is just tremendous. I was very impressed by their guard, and the sound of their brass had moments of Blue Devils like sounds. Honestly, I am shocked this is not closer to, or over, Crossmen. Just my take.

Troopers - This is another one of my FAVORITE shows of the year. From day one in Akron I have loved this show. I love the music, love the visual design, the props, and I think this kind of show works so well for Troop. Early on they had a lot of work to do with marching ex. Still think they do, but it's so much better. This show is another example of a show that would be Top 12 on many other years. I would love to see Troop in Finals, but in the long run what matters is entertaining the audience and being great. They are great, entertaining, and they've likely had the summer of a lifetime. In the end that's all that matters.

I will review Oregon Crusaders, Pacific Crest, and Jersey Surf another time. My apologies to them. I was in and out of performances (writing drill for some local bands) with the DCI Live telecast running in one room and working in my studio room.

As an aside, I am sitting here this morning listening to some Michael Buble and thinking to myself that BLUE DEVILS need to do a show featuring some of this music. :)

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Thanks for the great review! I agree with you on so many points - especially the comments about Cadets black uniforms, Phantom's brass line, and Crown in general!

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