If you are not one of the 79 million people to have seen the 2Cellos Thunderstruck video on Youtube, meet the immensely talented and devilishly good looking Croatian cellists Stjepan Hauser and Luka Šulić. Bringing pop, rock and movie music to bear on classical via a technically astounding and brilliantly idiosyncratic way of playing their instruments, the two have developed a formula for a whole new genre unto itself. After wild success with three albums (2015’s Celloverse debuted at number one on classical and crossover charts), 2Cellos have just launched new album Score and an exhaustive world tour with a world class performance at the London Palladium.
Sliding onto the stage packed with the talent of the London Symphony Orchestra in slick suits on the day of a tragic attack in London, they promised to help the audience “forget the worries of the outside world” with their music. And the pair delivered with their collection of stunning movie scores arranged by Robin Smith (who got a shout out as he sat next to us, watching in pride from the stalls) that make up their new album, brought to shine with the illustrious backdrop of the orchestra, including Vangelis’s Titles from Chariots of Fire, Nino Rota’s Love Theme from The Godfather, Moon River from Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Francis Lai’s Love Story theme, a medley from ever-popular Game of Thrones, Hans Zimmer’s Now We Are Free from Gladiator and his theme from Rain Man, James Horner’s My Heart Will Go On from Titanic and For the Love of a Princess from Braveheart. The charm and chatter with the audience was effusive, the pair being quite the double team as instrumentalists and banterous buddies, Stjepan in particular relentless with his wry smiles and twinkling eye, seemingly flirting with the entire audience; Luka joking that donning quilts for the next performance of their Braveheart number might not be advisable given the stance of a cello player…
As they drew to a close on the selection from Score, a costume change signalled what Stjepan stated was “not just for the ladies” as the romantic first half was. All hell (literally at one point via some flashing red horns) broke loose as the duo rocked out on their best pop and rock tracks: AC/DC’s Highway to Hell, and Thunderstruck, Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit and The Rolling Stones’ Satisfaction – vocals provided by the audience. Even the orchestra’s conductor threw all caution to the wind and flung himself into the fray. But it had to be Michael Jackson’s Smooth Criminal (the video of which catapulted the two to fame in 2011) that no doubt stole the show, the performance of which has to be seen live to be believed: the speed, energy and total ownership and reincarnation of the track via electric cello strings a sort of musical miracle. As Stjepan span circles and ran about the stage headbanging with his fellow orchestral string players while still playing his hung from his shoulders, you couldn’t help but think their recent move to a more traditional soundscape is a step away from the genre-bending brilliance that seems their more natural habitat. Overall though, the contrast worked and they had the crowd enraptured from melodic start to wild finish.
During our interview, Stjepan asked he if I had fallen in love with them – ahem – their music yet. I said I was sure I would after seeing them live. Safe to say I did. And I defy anyone who sees them live not to also. These are not just genius cello players but genius musicians. Elton John would tend to agree: “I can’t remember seeing anything as exciting as them since I saw Jimi Hendrix live back in the 60s.”
By Sarah Bradbury. First published on The Upcoming on 24th March 2017.
Photos: Nick Bennett
Watch the video for Gladiator’s Now We Are Free here: