GENTLEMEN’S RULE Is True Vocal Talent

REVIEWED BY RUSSELL GOELTENBODT:

Before the beginning of the millennium the music industry has been filled with computerized enhancements. American Idol-esque vocal acrobatics, and techno music that is repetitive and annoying, have really blurred and corrupted true vocal talent and ability.  After seeing a 20 something singing group perform at The Royal George Theater, I have to admit I was a little nervous and I was prepared to be disappointed and annoyed. To my surprise, Gentleman’s Rule was not what I expected. They were young, they were fresh, they were serious about their performance, and had voices that used their true vocal ability, without any technics, or annoying American Idol or Star Search vocal acrobatics. Gentleman’s Rule did not disappoint!   It was truly an enjoyable and entertaining evening.

The members of Gentleman’s Rule are: TJ Breen (Tenor 2); Corey Frye (Tenor 1), Drew Kipfer (Bass), Will Lockhart (Baritone), Brent Mann (Tenor 2), Luke Mechling (Bass), Andrew Morstein (Tenor 1), Holland Nightenhelser (Tenor 2), Jasper Smith (Baritone) and Jesse Townes (Tenor 1). Being a musical ensemble of 10 (20 something) men, all of them were featured individually and all of them worked very well together to blend and to perform musical magic. Aside from that, they were all very comfortable performing on stage and were able to make the audience comfortable by being themselves with great patter and speaking directly to the audience. The audience felt they knew these gentlemen. Even though, I believe that many of these men never performed together prior to the creation of “Gentleman’s Rule”, they seemed as though they are best friends or brothers by their playful interaction with each other. This made the show interesting and enjoyable.   In fact, during the concert we learned that eight of these men live in the same house together.

Being a singer for over 45 years, I have sung with many groups, choirs, and ensembles, as well as singing solo.  To perform a cappella where the other singers are providing the rhythm and accompaniment is no easy task. Gentleman’s Rule sung as a team and definitely had each other’s back while performing.  There was no mugging for attention, no divas, and they performed and acted as a group. These are some of the key elements that made this concert and the Gentleman’s Rule performance a success. They sung well as a group and blended beautifully with each other to make beautiful music together. Additionally, the group matched their music with fabulous choreography and groupings. I had previewed this group during the week viewing them on a local news program. I was disappointed when I saw they were too stiff on stage and was worried that the entire concert would bring this as well. However, after seeing their dance moves using the entire stage, my worries were immediately put to rest. Thankfully, their stiffness was most probably limited to space at the television studio.

Many of the songs during the concert include music made popular by David Guetta, Bob Marley, Nelly, Stevie Wonder, Bruno Mars, B.o.B., Gavin DeGraw, Wild Cherry, One Republic, Peter Gabriel, Jake Owen, The Script, Outkast, plus 2 original songs. My personal favorites were “In Your Eyes” by Peter Gabriel featuring TJ Breen, and “Without Love”, by the Doobie Brothers.

Many of the vocal arrangements were interesting. One arrangement was blending Pachebel’s Cannon with R&B’s  “Ride With Me” to a song titled Pachebelli Cannon. Another song was”I Think I Want to Marry You”. A young lady was brought to the stage from the audience and each singer sang to her, sometimes bringing flowers and gifts in attempt to woo her. The young lady, who was married, was probably ready to commit polygamy with all of the attention she was receiving from these young men. Other highlights of the evening were an 80’s medley which included:  Huey Lewis’, ‘The Power of Love”,  Talking in Your Sleep”, Won’t you See About Me”, “Land Down Under”, “Everybody Wants to Rule the World”, “I Know This Much is True”, and “Walking On Sunshine”. They also performed “Miss You” by the Rolling Stones. Again all the songs were combined with superb vocal blending, staging, and great choreography. One of the final songs of the evening was an original song titled “I’m Coming Home” that is dedicated to all of the military service members. It was very beautiful and heart-felt and moving.

Gentleman’s Rule is produced by WGN reporter/anchor, Dan Ponce and show business veteran, and Charlie Blum. Dan Ponce was a former member of a hit band named “Straight No Chaser” He and Deke Sharon composed and arranged many of SNC’s most popular songs. Dan had spent the last year writing new repertoire for Gentleman’s Rule. Charlie Blum holds many titles in the music industry: manager, promoter, and current president CEO of Indiana’s Star Plaza Theater. Charlie also is executive producer and manages the new hit vocal group, “Under the Streetlamp”. Looking at the musical and production experience of these two gentlemen, you can see that Gentleman’s Rule is in very good and capable hands. If you remember, my review for Nathan Pacheco earlier in the week, I named all of the components that are necessary for a good concert. Just to review: they include vocal talent, stage presence, a repertoire, a connection to the music that is being performed, a venue, talented musicians, a great music director, a good coach to help the singer properly stage the songs, a receptive audience, proper lighting, great sound, and a connection to the audience. I am very happy to say that Gentleman’s Rule and their producers successfully met all of these components. I had also mentioned that good lighting was necessary. The lighting at the Royal George was fabulous, and provided the perfect mood for each song. If the lighting was not there, this performance would not be as moving or effective.

I kept thinking during the Gentleman’s Rule performance, what else could be done to make this concert more interesting? The only things I would have liked to have seen were to sometimes reduce this group into smaller groups for some of their musical selections. Perhaps with duets or quartets to bring a additional variety to the concert. I would have also liked to have heard a holiday song or two,  to see more of their versatility and to introduce the audience into the mood of the season.  But that is just me. That being said, every element of the Gentleman’s Rule concert was flawless and is a definite must see. (Editor’s Note: Showbiz Chicago has been informed that Gentlemen’s Rule will begin including holiday songs into the concert after the Thanksgiving holiday.  You can also catch Gentlemen’s Rule perform at the McDonald’s Thanksgiving Day Parade as well as the lighting of the Christmas Tree at Daley Plaza on Tuesday, November 20th).  

I am certain that Gentleman’s Rule is on their way to bigger and better things.  Whatever, Dan Ponce and Charlie Blum are doing in producing Gentleman’s Rule, they are doing it right. I am just hoping these producers are able to keep them grounded in doing what they are doing so well, without someone trying to improve their sound by technology or mechanics. This a cappella group is just perfect the way they are and these Gentlemen Certainly Rule!  

Gentlemen’s Rule runs through November 25, 2012 at the Royal George Theatre.  For tickets click here.  For more information visit the Gentlemen’s Rule page on www.theatreinchicago.com