When Igor Stravinsky first debuted his “Rite of Spring” in 1913, BSO conductor Nicholas Hersh explained at last night’s Pulse performance, “Paris wasn’t ready.” The music was unlike anything the French had ever heard, so alien to them that it incited an actual riot.
Who better, then, to complement the BSO’s all-cello performance of the piece than Tank and the Bangas? The five-piece rose quickly to stardom after winning NPR’s “Tiny Desk Concert” competition in 2017 and shocking the world with their unconventional, over-the-top sound.
In traditional Pulse format, Tank and her crew took the stage after the BSO had finished their set (which also included Villa-Lobos’ Brasileiras No. 1). Stravinsky’s mood served them well; the band’s all-over-the-place aesthetic was imbued with that same chaotic genius. And while the Bangas certainly didn’t incite a riot, they did inspire a good part of the crowd to jump out of their seats and dance in the otherwise-formal venue during hits like “Boxes and Squares” and “Quick.”
The real magic happened, though, when the BSO and the Bangas joined forces. Eight cellos provided stunning symphonic support for Tank’s quirky powerhouse vocals, melding seamlessly with her keyboardist, drummer, bassist and alternate floutist/saxophonist. (Spoken word/vocal performance “Walmart” was particularly touching.)
By the time conductor Nicholas took up his cello for the final song, the entire crowd was on its feet. Though nearly impossible to describe, the sound filled the theater, spanning ages, genres, and expectations with riotous joy.