A couple of the judges on “America’s Got Talent” admitted they had never seen or heard anything like it, the hard-rocking strains of bows raking cellos to the tune of Jimi Hendrix’s “Purple Haze,”and that included Judge Mel B, who was once in the world-famous pop singing group Spice Girls. For many viewers, there is little doubt that they were right alongside Mel B in experiencing hard rock being played on a cello for the first time. Still, it’s about time…
Jessica Iannetta at the Star-Ledger wrote in her recap on June 22 that she didn’t particularly care for “Show-Stopping Sunday” on “America’s Got Talent,” finding it a bit overpromoted, over-hyped, and underwhelming. But that’s not how she saw — or heard the cellos.
“If you had told me before the show that my favorite act of the night would involve cellos,” Iannetta wrote, “I would have said you were crazy. But when brothers Emil and Dariel walked out on stage and proceeded to play Hendrix’s ‘Purple Haze’ on their cellos, I was sold and so were the judges.”
And she’s right. Emil and Dariel were taught to play cello by their grandfather, a Russian immigrant who made his living by playing the cello. And when they walked out on stage, they looked just like two nerds with old souls, dressed alike and ready to bore everyone to tears with some string concierto or something. But that’s not what happened.
The two guys pounced on the strings and would soon destroy their bows (the fine hair of the cello bows breaking under the friction) as they gave the audience a resounding and exuberant performance of the Jimi Hendrix classic “Purple Haze.” They soon had the audience roaring with approval and on their feet.
The judges were up on their feet in a standing ovation by song’s end as well.
During the critiques of Emil and Dariel, Judge Heidi Klum led off saying that she was expecting something “old school” or “old fashioned.” “I mean, wow,” she said, “I’ve never heard or seen anything like this. It was awesome.”
Judge Howard Stern noted that the two didn’t look at all like Jimi Hendrix fans but they quickly became the “coolest kids on the block.” He added, “Great job.”
Judge Mel B said they were “incredible.” “I’ve never heard anything like this before. I’ve never seen anything like this before.”
Judge Howie Mandel said they made “something old new again and were an inspiration. “Young guys are going to be standing in the corner at parties playing air cello,” he said, comically mimicking a guy sawing on a cello.
Still, rocking the cellos isn’t a new thing. 2Cellos, the Croatian duo of Luka Šulić and Stjepan Hauser, have been doing it for some time. The pair became famous for their rendition of Michael Jackson’s “Smooth Criminal,” the official YouTube video of which has garnered over 4 million views. The original video, though, was posted in 2011. The duo also appeared on the third season of “Glee” and performed “Smooth Criminal.”
But the most famous rock cellists to date are the virtuoso quartet Apocalyptica, the four-cello Finnish act that became famous for the first album, a set of Metallica covers. Although they’ve scored most of their success in Finland and Germany, they have sold four million albums worldwide. Apocalyptica pulled down three top ten songs on Billboard’s Mainstream Rock Songs chart, one (“I Don’t Care,” featuring the vocals of Three Days Grace’s Adam Grontier) reaching No. 1 in the U. S., off their “Worlds Collide” album in 2007 and 2008.
Needless to say, Emil and Dariel will be the next famous cello rockers. (As much as these guys are to be admired, it is still difficult watching them without having flashbacks to famed Hollywood director Woody Allen in his movie “Take The Money And Run,” where he plays a cello in a marching band… with rather nonproductive, albeit hilarious, results.) And they will get at least one more shot at getting their names out there as they advance to the second round. The judges gave the duo four “yeses,” of course.
“America’s Got Talent” airs on Tuesdays at 8 p.m. (EST) on NBC Television.