Naturally 7

Naturally 7

QPAC Concert Hall

22nd May 2012

Reviewed by Michelle Bull

1992. I was ten years old. Singing in choirs, into hairbrushes and holding mini concerts in our garage for anyone who would come and watch for the high price of 50 cents a ticket. Obsessed with Boys II Men’s hit song End of the Road, I would sing along with each harmony, often adding my own into the mix…an odd little thing in tacky 90’s jumpers, scrunchie in my ponytail and rolled-down ankle socks…getting my first appreciation of vocal harmony…

On Tuesday I relived the above memory as I ventured to QPAC to experience Naturally 7 as they descended upon Brisbane as part of their VOCALPLAY tour. Hailing from New York, this acapella, beat boxing, gospel, Motown, hip-hop vocal group perform a unique style aptly known as Vocal Play. Offering so much more than your average harmony group, Naturally 7 took the jam-packed Concert Hall on a journey through funky originals, mashed-up pop favorites and moving acoustic medleys using nothing but their velvety toned voices to cause the entire Concert Hall to dance in the aisles.

Before Naturally 7 took to the stage, warming the crowd was Brisbane’s own beat boxing champion Tom Thum. Taking the audience on a round the world trip with his charismatic vocal pyrotechnics, this 20-something Brissie-boy is no ordinary beat boxer. Awe-inspiring and funny to boot, I first discovered Tom at the Adelaide Fringe Festival, and have been a huge fan ever since. Tom’s ability to vocally reproduce every instrument in the orchestra as well as those not yet invented…is only matched by his endless repertoire of vocal percussion…throw in a loop pedal and a dash of cheeky boyish charm and Tom gives our homegrown talent serious cred!

Then as Tom left the stage to a cheering crowd, it was time for Naturally 7.

One by one the members of the band took to the stage layering tones, beats and bass and building to an all-encompassing sound so legit I could feel it in the pit of my stomach.

Uninitiated to the musical -world of Naturally 7, I wasn’t familiar with their original music (Keep the Customer Satisfied, Life Goes On) but killer arrangements and sensitive musicality made this irrelevant. Scooping up the uninitiated with familiar pop rock mash ups (Burt Bacharach’s What the World Needs Now, Mr. Mister’s Broken Wings, Phil Collins’ Feel It In the Air Tonight) sung and orchestrated with freakishly impeccable tuning and musicality made me a instant fan of this lively group.

Arrangements by musical director Roger Thomas utilised harmonic and rhythmic devices from classical, jazz, world and even early music; culminating in a place where hip-hop met harmony through songs that served as perfect vehicles for the groups extensive vocal orchestra. Their world class beat boxing skills stood side by side with their vocal reproductions of sounds that stretched from double bass, electric guitar and clarinet to harmonica, scratching and percussion. The overall effect was absolutely unbelievable and a true demonstration of what human voices are capable of.

With natural camaraderie and solid sense of ensemble, Naturally 7 balance heart-felt emotion with playfulness, rounding it all off with obligatory boy-band-esque choreography that only their cheeky stage personas let them get away with. It seems ridiculous to highlight any one voice amongst seven incredible sets of cords but I found myself unexplainably excited when Bass singer ‘Hops’ Hutton stepped forward for a solo (there’s just something about Basses…what can I say!). That being said, each singer brought something unique to the group, which was evident in each performer’s solo moments that found me finding a new favourite singer with every song.

Personal highlights were the moments where all the production was stripped away, showcasing the seven legitimate voices as they filled the acoustic that is the Concert Hall wall to wall. A Simon and Garfunkel medley was completely soul stirring as was the encore performance of Amazing Grace.

Naturally 7 are what great singing is all about. While I am not as much of a fan of R&B and hip-hop as I once was back in my jumper wearing, scrunchie styling days, I AM a fan of good musicians, great vocalists and kick-ass performers and Naturally 7 are all of the above. With a talent that surpasses simply great singing, the musical bar is raised…now how on earth do I “reverse dry-kick” while sustaining a high C? Hmmm….


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