Concert Review | Hanson with Columbus Symphony

By | July 15, 2018

Columbus Dispatch

Back in 1997, three adolescent brothers known as Hanson burned up pop charts with their hit single “MmmBop,” then nearly faded into obscurity.

Mention the name of a one-hit wonder, and the question always is the same: “Whatever happened to them?” In Hanson’s case, they’re now in their 30s; they’re still a band, and they’re still achieving new goals.

To celebrate Hanson’s 25-year anniversary, the brothers had an ambitious idea: String Theory, a 90-minute “musical manifesto” from their repertoire, arranged for their band and symphony orchestra. String Theory had its world premiere with the Columbus Symphony Orchestra at last night’s Picnic with the Pops.

Along their journey, the brothers traded stardom for business sense, developing a loyal fan base – many of whom were at the Columbus Commons for last night’s concert – and releasing 7 more full-length albums over the past 20 years. Not a chronological retrospective, String Theory is a nod to the relativity of space and time, a spirited walk through the brothers’ history from the dreams of childhood to the achievements of adulthood.

Beginning with “Reaching for the Sky,” the work progressed through ambitions (including “Where’s the Love,” “Chasing Down My Dreams”) to adolescence and relationships (“Yearbook Song,” “Tragic Symphony,” and “Me, Myself and I”), to doubt (“This Time Around”), and finally to achievement of those childhood dreams (“You Can’t Stop Us,” “No Rest for the Weary”). Hardly surprising, the culmination of String Theory is “I Was Born,” itself a manifesto of self-assurance.

In this setting, their trademark hit “MmmBop” took on some of its original, more searching character, focusing more on orchestra and acoustic guitar than rhythm and spunk.

The legendary arranger David Campbell developed the orchestrations, and they were much more substantial than the usual pop-orchestra chords and figures. Although the trio usually overpowered the orchestra, the more scaled-back songs revealed rich strings and clear winds.

Sometimes the songs venture toward edgier rock. Sometimes the brothers switch instruments. No matter what, String Theory is fully polished and professional. Even better, Hanson’s music is as polished and catchy as it ever was, and last night’s audience was thrilled.

Principal Pops Conductor Stuart Chafetz also led the orchestra in a set of popular music from films. In particular, music from the Lord of the Rings movies was stirring, with intensity from the brass matched with depth from the strings. The real draw last night, though, was that one-hit wonder band who proved they truly are much more.

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