The Sons of Pitches took the Fringe by storm last year. Performing in the back room of a pub as part of the PBH Free Fringe programme, their unique blend of comedy and close harmony brought a new lease of life to the a cappella scene. A cappella has upped its game this year, with All the King’s Men adopting a radio show format and numerous groups moving towards close miking systems. But how would The Sons fare with their upgrade to a new venue, the Gilded Balloon, as they graduated from a student singing group based in Birmingham to seasoned professionals?
It feels as if the Sons of Pitches have become over polished and, in the process, lost their magic.
Starting the show with a comedy duo seemed a slightly odd choice but one in-keeping with the group’s reputation. However, after 10 minutes, the skit dragged on and I was hoping for some actual singing. In fact, the duo returned for a This Is Your Life segment in the middle of the show that was equally lacklustre and formulaic within what should have been a highly slick one hour set trimmed away of filler.
The group entered the stage to Uptown Funk which, whilst impressively full-sounding for a five-piece group, was a slightly predictable choice with an equally predictable arrangement that just about got by on reputation alone. This formula was continued into the This Is Your Life segment with an improvised piece meant to be in the style of Shakespeare that had no clear reference to that theme and very obviously reverted to a pre-rehearsed segment in 6/8 with some courtly language over the top.
The show was slightly saved by some interesting arrangements of Bang Bang by Jessie J and Ms. Jackson by Outkast. However, it was the beatboxer who stole the show, with a solo breakdown that asked for more bass and delivered a chair rattling response. Even with this show of virtuosity, the overall performance relied far too heavily on technology and the adoring fan base that surrounds a cappella. This over-reliance was revealed at the end where both beatboxer and bassist thanked the crowd for coming, accompanied by a sub bass setting that Daft Punk would be proud of.
The incorporation of an original composition towards the end of the set, Foundations, was promising but also further revealed these technological embellishments. Starting with a more mellow arrangement, the blend between the three upper voices was completely off, and the echo added at the sound desk distracting. By moving onwards and upwards from the Free Fringe circuit, it feels as if the Sons of Pitches have become over polished and, in the process, lost their magic. My ears were ringing as I left the Gilded Balloon which was an odd sensation having just seen an a cappella show. Like many groups this year though, the use of technology in their set resulted in the Sons of Pitches sounding superhuman, but losing most of their charm.