Material: Conspiracy of Beards is unlike any cover band you have ever experienced. The concept? What if a men’s choir were to sing all of Leonard Cohen’s songs? The result? Nothing short of a heavenly experience. Many Leonard Cohen songs feature female backup vocalists, so this all-male choir is a unique approach. The group makes “Tower Of Song” their own with a fun doo wop spin, while “Waiting For The Miracle” becomes an improvisational rant by Rebar about the freeway and Facebook.
Musicianship: Given this a cappella group, musicianship is sparse. The question from the audience is: how are they going to fit everyone up there? Four risers spread across the stage to successfully arrange the 21 members. Some debate occurs regarding microphone placement and monitor levels, but this attention to detail results in a well-rounded sound; not a lot of feedback and just the right touch of reverb. The one instrument is Whitehead on a jangly guitar for the rockin’ arrangement of “The Gypsy's Wife,” a highlight of the night.
Performance: The group began the show by entering from outside The Mint to surround the perimeter of the interior before bowing their heads, clapping their hands and tipping their hats for, “The Rain Falls Down On Last Year's Man.” By the time the group reached “Who By Fire” the audience was hushed. The set was further differentiated by barbershop quartet performances for songs like “Why Don't You Try.” “Tonight Will Be Fine” featured the tenor and bass combination of Xiques and Warren, while tenors Smith and Christiansen took the lead solos for “Is This What You Wanted” and “So Long, Marianne.” The audience participation reached a peak at “The Gypsy's Wife” with plenty of hand clapping and stomping of feet.
Summary: Conspiracy of Beards has been a functioning 501c-3 non-profit organization for the past 15 years. Overall the set took off running from the start with Cohen staples, but it may help the overall show to sprinkle those more familiar songs throughout the set to keep the pace going rather than placing them nearly back to back. Want to become a member? Annual dues are on a sliding scale ranging between $150-$200.
The Players: vocalists: John Burger, Mark Christiansen, Bobby Coleman, Joshu DeLeon, Jeff Fitzsimmons, Ken Greenstein, Neil Hébert, Daryl Henline, Sloan Looney, Christopher Pepper, Rusty Rebar, Anthony Ryan, Mike Scalisi, Christophe Silvey, Clay Eugene Smith, Rich Stone, Scot Velardo, Josh Warren, Robert Williams, Chris Xiques, Sylvie Simmons, Peter Whitehead, guitar.
Photo by Manny Dominguez
Conspiracy of Beards - "Chelsea Hotel"
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