Straight No Chaser brought its exceptional voices and fun choreography to Athens for the first time on its Sleighin’ It tour Wednesday night. All nine members of the male a cappella group gave a passionate performance on stage at Templeton-Blackburn Alumni Memorial Auditorium to popular tunes and holiday hits. The show began at 7:30 p.m. and all tickets were $35.
Straight No Chaser is comprised of Walter Chase, Jerome Collins, Seggie Isho, Michael Luginbill, Steve Morgan, Jasper Smith, Randy Stine, Tyler Trepp and Freedom Young. The group formed at Indiana University in 1996 and in 2006, had a video of its famous “The 12 Days of Christmas” medley go viral on YouTube, beginning its road to stardom. The video now has over 25 million views.
Frances Stott, an Athens resident, has seen Straight No Chaser twice, in Cincinnati and Toledo. She had purchased season tickets so that she could see them another time.
“It's more about just the harmony and the music and the fun,” she said. “They're fun.”
The group got things started with an upbeat mashup of “Dance the Night” by Dua Lipa, “Just Dance” by Lady Gaga and “I Wanna Dance with Somebody” by Whitney Houston. All members of the group performed engaging choreography while harmonizing with each other. Straight No Chaser introduced itself and threw a bit of comedy between every few songs.
Some of the most memorable vocal talent was showcased in a mashup of “Poison” by Bell Biv Devoe and “Billie Jean” by Michael Jackson. Collins entered the stage with choreography similar to Jackson's, complete with an impressive moonwalk, earning a wave of applause from the audience. The group also wanted to bring “a popular ongoing tour to Athens” and followed up with a mashup of some of Taylor Swift’s greatest hits like “Love Story” and “Cruel Summer.”
The mood slowly dimmed as the outlines of each member could be seen with a faint yellow light and the illusion of rolling clouds through the use of fog. The group closed the first act with a chilling cover of “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” by Elton John, leaving the room in silence with its incredible harmonies.
Sebastian Yobe-Vowen, an Athens resident, gave his thoughts on the production and lighting throughout the act.
“I felt like it was just the right amount of lighting and projections,” he said. “At first, when the show started, I was like, ‘Oh, it's just going to be distracting,’ but it never took my attention away from the music and the performance.”
The second act began the holiday portion of the concert, and as the group stated before the act began, its road to fame started with holiday music and it is mostly known as a holiday group. Straight No Chaser has several holiday albums and EPs, with its latest being its EP “Stocking Stuffer.” However, the group also has many non-holiday albums, the latest being “Yacht on the Rocks,” featuring yacht rock hits.
The atmosphere was full of Christmas spirit after a beautifully sung mashup of “Feliz Navidad” and “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” and the group’s rendition of “The Little Drummer Boy,” switching up the style of music like jazz and disco with each chorus.
A memorable moment from the second act showcased the vocal talents of Collins during the song “The Happiest Christmas Tree.” As he continued singing, his fellow group members decorated him with tinsel and lights to resemble a Christmas tree and he had to be carried offstage after the song because he was so tangled in decorations. Following this, Straight No Chaser engaged the audience and asked them to sing a part of its song, “What Christmas Sounds Like.”
After returning to the stage following a standing ovation from the crowd, Straight No Chaser performed its “12 Days of Christmas” medley for the audience. The famous medley had several audience members singing along and laughing with comedic moments sprinkled throughout.
The group closed the show by returning to its roots, putting down microphones and standing in a semicircle on stage with no choreography. Straight No Chaser proceeded to perform its rendition of “O Holy Night” in front of an astounded and hushed audience. The group took its final bow in front of another standing ovation from the audience.
Alexandra Yobe-Vowen gave her thoughts after the show had concluded, expressing how impressed she was by the songs performed and the group itself.
“I didn't go into this thinking it was going to be a Christmas show,” she said. “I was pleasantly surprised that it wasn't all Christmas because they did such a good job in the first half. But then I really enjoyed the second half and now I'm ready for December to roll around.”
Sebastian Yobe-Vowen agreed and said the variety of song choices made for an all-around better experience.
“There was actually a ton of different styles of music, which made it really fun because you never knew what was going to happen next,” he said. “And that was both in the first and second act.”
The vocal talent of Straight No Chaser left Athens in a state of awe, showcasing the extraordinary power music with only voices can have.
“They’re just a really great group,” Stott said. “Any chance you get, go see them. They're just great.”