Eh440, the Toronto-based a cappella group brought a combination of crazy beatboxing, killer harmonies and sassy rapping with a twist of fresh, urban and R&B compositions.
Large amounts of concertgoers, including TRU students and outsiders, huddled behind the back row seats, as the Alumni Theatre in the Clock Tower was filled to the brim. Approximately 150 were in attendance.
The group of five voices and zero instruments stepped on stage in a string of dashes, walking in a straight line like ants as the lights in the theatre dimmed. Beatboxer Luke Stapleton a.k.a. “Human Record” walked out first, followed by lead and back vocalist Mike Celia, also known as “The Bearded Wonder,” and finally Stacey Kay and Janet Turner. Bass vocalist Joe Oliva was the last one to join the team on stage.
Stapleton opened the show with the classic beatbox sound of the kick drum and the hi-hat with his teeth clenched. Celia, stretching the back sections of his tongue, posturing his face with yawn-like sighs, grabbed the crowd’s attention following a long silence. The audience seemed deep in the moment with the soothing singing of blues scales by Kay and Turner. Oliva sustained consistent bass sounds in the background, letting his voice fall into his chest. The medley ended with all five vocalists fading out their different pitches of sound at the same time.
The group brightened the atmosphere of the room with their next number. Kay and Turner took the lead in vocals while Stapleton and Celia came through with the back vocals. Oliva continued to focus on the bass. The group performed “Don’t Run Away,” their much-anticipated new single, featuring Canada’s accomplished musician and songwriter Serena Ryder. Oliva performed Ryder’s chorus.
The audience cheerily applauded with hooting and chants. Some guests stood up from their seats, acknowledging the a cappella masters.
“This is the second greatest show I have attended since Earle Birney in 1971, 44 years ago,” said concertgoer Ron Miles, former department chair of English Literature, back when TRU was the University College of the Cariboo.
“We thought it would be crazy for any band to go on the television show ‘Dragon’s Den,’ as we are an a cappella group. It is a niche market thing but we went on anyway. Our sales pitch was changing the theme song for the show to a song we created,” Oliva said.
“In the middle of it, Kevin O’Leary, the mean guy, was fighting over us. David Chilton and Arlene Dickinson sided on one team and they were intensely bidding.”
Eh440 has performed all over the world including the United States and Germany.
“Kamloops is our last stop in B.C. before we head back home to Toronto,” Kay said.
The group is no doubt an example of a mix of five people from five very different backgrounds coming together to form a great Canadian band.