2CELLOS: Shepherds Bush Empire, W12

TAKE A COUPLE OF tousled-haired, classically trained Croatians; mix in Michael Jackson, AC/DC and a dash of Il Divo’s cheesy charm; simmer on YouTube. The result? 2CELLOS, an Elton John-endorsed classical crossover act who clearly adore being in front of their fans.

Four years ago, Luka Sulic and Stjepan Hauser had an internet hit with a raucous, instrumental cover of Michael Jackson’s ‘Smooth Criminal’, played only on electric cellos. So impressed was John that he took them on tour. In the United States they made the talkshow circuit and performed on the TV show Glee. In Japan their second album topped the charts. Last year, when their gimmick should have been wearing thin, a video of the pair in baroque costumes performing AC/DC’s ‘Thunderstruck’ became another huge viral hit, reigniting their career.

At their first British headline show, disappointingly dressed down in black, 2CELLOS were an entertaining double act even in between songs. “Come on stage and flirt with Stjepan,” Sulic told the females screaming at his handsome bandmate, “but only if you’re guys.” Hauser pointedly ignored him, pretended to be sniffy about some of their source material and kept the screams coming with sleazy chat about romance.

Up close their frantic, strings-shredding playing was astonishing and their performance pure rock’n’roll. Both were out of their seats headbanging long before a drummer appeared to accompany them on neatly rearranged Nirvana and Guns N’ Roses classics as well as a thunderous ‘Thunderstruck’, by the end of which Hauser was lying on his back, attacking his custom-built cello aloft.

Fans playing name that tune recognised Coldplay’s ‘Viva La Vida’, U2’s ‘With or Without You’ and Sting’s ‘Fields of Gold’. The highlight, however, was a pizzicato cover of Jackson’s ‘Human Nature’, for which 2CELLOS took turns in recreating the beats and melody. Their gimmick has some way to go before it runs out of steam.

© Lisa VerricoThe Times, 19 February 2015

Leave a Comment